Worlds That Werent Mass Market Paperback – Jul 5 2005
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Alternate history is the branch of speculative fiction that explores what might have happened if history had taken a different turn. The obvious changes, like the Nazis winning World War II, have filled innumerable novels. Fortunately, the anthology Worlds That Weren't avoids the obvious with its four fine new novellas from four superior authors: Harry Turtledove, S.M. Stirling, Mary Gentle, and Walter Jon Williams.
The collection opens with "The Daimon," written by Harry Turtledove, AH's best-known practitioner. In Turtledove's turning point, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates chooses to accompany General Alkibiades to war instead of remaining in Athens, and sets Alkibiades on a triumphant, terrible new course.
Set in the British India-dominated alternate history of The Peshawar Lancers, S.M. Stirling's novella is a rousing old-fashioned adventure. "Shikari in Galveston" follows a hunting safari through a regressed American frontier that might have given even Daniel Boone pause.
A prequel to her Book of Ash tetralogy, Mary Gentle's novella "The Logistics of Carthage" concerns Christian warriors serving pagan Turks in a North Africa conquered by Visigoths instead of Vandals, and is the strongest story in Worlds That Weren't.
The collection concludes with "The Last Ride of German Freddie," in which Nebula Award winner Walter Jon Williams considers what might have happened if the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had taken himself and his superman theories to the Wild West. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
What if, in any single moment, history had taken a different turn? In the engaging Worlds That Weren't, bestselling author Harry Turtledove imagines a different fate for Socrates (which he spells Sokrates); S.M. Stirling envisions life "in the wilds of a re-barbarized Texas" after asteroids strike the earth in the 19th century; Sidewise winner Mary Gentle contributes "a piece of flotsam" from her epic Ash a story of love (and pigs) set in the mid-15th century, as European mercenaries prepare to sack a Gothic Carthage; and Nebula nominee Walter Jon Williams pens the tale of Nietzsche intervening in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
But not for the reasons you might imagine. It really stands out worlds apart (pun intended) from the other three 'alternative history' fantasy stories. Yes, I'm familiar with Greek history, and the catastrophic invasion of Syracuse. When Mark Twain was asked what was the turning point in his life he quipped "When Caesar crossed the Rubicon. "
He was right, of course, it changed Western Civilisation! Had he wanted to risk being a bit more obscure he could have gone further back in time and replied " When Alcibiades was arrested on the way to Syracuse. " If he hadn't, the expedition probably would have succeeded and it would have been The Athenian, not The Roman Empire that conquered the known world. However Harry Turtledove's handling of the story is lame, not because he has--as one reviwer noted--Socrates as an unlikely character aiding Alcibiades (Socrates did in fact fight as an Athenian hoplite, though not at Syracuse) but because the story never gets off the ground. It just doesn't deliver the goods.
Worse still are S.M Stirling and Mary Gentle's offerings. Were they in a hurry?
Ok, so it's er...light summer reading.Read more ›
The piece about Alkibiades becoming an earlier Alexander of Macedon shows Harry Turtledove at his best: a good idea, credible story but still solid history and (unusual bonus for this author) short.
S. M. Stirling's story about a hunting party in an America after the fall described in his "Peshawar Lancers" universe is a somewhat odd mixture of post-nuclear expedition a la "The Postman", a western revenge movie and gothic horror-story. A good summer read.
Mary Gentle's story is the low point of the book: it gives the distinct impression of something put together from earlier, discarded material just to meet a deadline. It is unclear to the end what the story really is about and as a teaser or introduction into the "Ash" universe it fails miserably.
But the book as a whole is saved by its last piece: William's story about Nietsche in Tombstone is a rare gem. Crazy and funny (imagine: Nietsche as a gunman and gambler!), but still accurate. Just great.
My opinion about the book: the stories have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are all taking place in alternate histories. That wouldn't be a problem in a bigger anthology or in a magazine, but for a hardcover with just four stories it adds up to too expensive. So read it, but don't buy.
While I'm a big fan of Turtledove, I found it difficult to appreciate the Turtledove novella as I'm not as familiar with ancient Athens and Sparta as he is. I was unfamiliar with Alicibiades and thus his story wasn't as compelling as some of the others.
Stirling's novella takes place in a very different Texas from ours, where a rain of comets destroyed Western civilization. I wasn't clear where the cannibal tribes came from, and there weren't enough hints (that I could fathom) to figure it out, nor was I clear on whether the "Seven Tribes" were all Native American or if they included some European settlers (it appeared they did). The story was well-told and there were compelling characters who stayed after the story ended, especially Sonya Head-on-fire.
Same problem with Gentle's world, I wasn't clear where history had shifted but also a well-layered story. The backstory of this tale is the role of the woman soldier (disguised as a man). I'm not sure the future-flashes, which this 14th century woman saw as a vision, were necessary to the plot, but her ruminations on being remembered after death were poignant. I'm looking forward to reading both their novels in hope it will fill some of this in.
Williams' take on Tombstone was a real hoot putting Nietzsche in the middle of the dynamics. His afterward is fascinating, showing how the cinema version of the OK Corral shootout cut out the context of cowboys versus lawmen, and that the Clanton vs Earp battle wasn't an end but a beginning of an end.
A good time, and in the tradition of good alternate history, it got me thinking of how things really happened.
Most recent customer reviews
Science fiction fans of alternate history settings will want to place Harry Turtledove, et.al.'s Worlds That Weren't anthology high on their reading lists: it provides four... Read morePublished on Oct. 8 2003 by Midwest Book Review
Harry Turtledove, et.al.'s Worlds That Weren't provides a host of alternative history stories: new novellas which range in setting from ancient Athens to a very different Turkish... Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2002 by Midwest Book Review