It's quite plausible, but I didn't find it terribly interesting. The Enola Gay and its crew are destroyed in an accident, and it is replaced by the Lucky Strike for the delivery of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The new bombardier hesitates at the last moment, sparing Hiroshima from destruction. Personally I think genocide is pretty much the worst possible outcome. It ends with Charlemagne professing Islam; not begins, ends. We never see any of the consequences of that.
It turns the tables on the British Empire, imagining what might have happened if India had conquered Britain instead of the other way around. The domination of the abacus over the calculating engine, and the stagnation of technology that would result, is all too plausible, frankly. It focuses a little too much on telling the story of the transition to the Second Republic and not enough on telling us what the world of a future Rome is like.
Apparently we've invented artificially-intelligent mechs by now which isn't too implausible, given the loss of technology in the Dark Ages , but we're still stupid enough to think that war is fun and makes you feel alive. It's really a brilliant choice of protagonist as well: Our hero is the Mongolian ambassador to the Iroquois. The final story, "Darwin Anathema", is a cautionary tale about theocracy that, while heavy-handed, is an anvil that needed to be dropped.
We stand even now on a precipice quite close to this horrific outcome, and we must remain vigilant lest we tumble over it. But my favorite is the penultimate story, "Waiting for the Olympians". It's the third and best story of Rome still standing, and it does a very good job of showing both the enormous benefits and the enormous harms to the point where one is left agonizingly ambivalent.
It tells a compelling story in its own right, fitted into a rich and realistic world that is nonetheless radically different from our own. This passage particularly struck me, because it is completely true of myself: "You see, my family has a claim to fame. Genealogists say we are descended from the line of Julius Caesar himself. I mention that claim myself, sometimes, though usually only when I've been drinking. It isn't a serious matter. After all, Julius Caesar died more than two thousand years ago. There have been sixty or seventy generations since then, not to mention the fact that, although Ancestor Julius certainly left a lot of children behind him, none of them happened to be born to a woman he happened to be married to.
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I don't even look very Roman. There must have been a Northman or two in the line, because I'm tall and fair-haired, which no respectable Roman ever was. Also, the character is a science fiction author, though that I can attribute to the fact that the author is a science fiction author Frederick Pohl perhaps taking "write what you know" a little too literally. In fact, the character is in an alternate history writing an alternate history that turns out to be much like our own It also picks a crux event that almost anyone would have to agree upon and a literal crux at that : Jeshua of Nazareth is pardoned, and his radical Judean sect collapses for lack of a martyr.
Would that really save Rome? It might. Would our improved technology allow us to contact aliens? It might! I am fed up with this cluttering up my currently reading shelf. The 15 stories that I did read, average out at three stars. It's not a bad collection, but it's not really interesting either.
The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories
I doubt I will pick it up again, but you never know. Excellent, can I have that as a novel, please. If I didn't know first-hand already that Robinson is a great writer, this would have convinced me. Ian R. Can see myself picking up something else by this author. Keith Roberts, Weihnachtsabend Nazi Gemany and The British Empire form a pact - the spelling and grammar mistakes of the German sentences were annyoing.
The story was a bit odd. Not interested, mostly skimmed. Judith Carr, Roncesvalles Spain, Middle Ages - felt old-fashioned, talkative, with an overload of details. Lost interest, before anything of consequence happened. Jan 25, Roddy Williams rated it liked it Shelves: alternate-history , science-fiction. Alternate histories - in which some aspect of our past history has been changed, leading to minor or major changes in subsequent timelines - have formed a large subgenre of SF since at least the early sixties, although there may be earlier works. The earliest piece in this volume Keith Roberts' excellent 'Weihnachtabend' is from This is a varied and high quality collection, showcasing some of the diversity of work in this most malleable of subgenres.
The Raft of the Titanic - James Morro Alternate histories - in which some aspect of our past history has been changed, leading to minor or major changes in subsequent timelines - have formed a large subgenre of SF since at least the early sixties, although there may be earlier works. I'm glad it does since this is an wonderful piece, speculating that had the passengers and crew of the Titanic pooled their resources and cannibalised the ship to make a raft, all the passengers and dogs could be saved. Morrow goes further, and suggests that the passengers, having become accustomed to their odd new life once the real cannibalism was over with would not wish to abandon it.
They are divided into two factions, The Improvers, who wish to optimise every possible world, and The Conservers. In a world where a Socialist Scotland extends to the middle of London, an Improver is being pursued by a Conserver. Brian Stableford A somewhat disappointing tale which suffers from the ill-suited combination of alternate histories and the supernatural.
The Jew who stamped on Christ when he was on his way to the cross, is cursed by The Son of God that he will not die until Christ returns. One wonders why Christ would bother returning. Charles G. Waugh, Martin H. The war was extended far longer than it should have been with appalling consequences to both sides. Gregory Benford, Martin H.
Alfred went on to defeat the Danes and reclaim England. Harrison and Shippey consider what the situation might have been if the letter had been received. Such a Deal - Esther M.
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The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories
From this union came an electric battery that fuelled all transport needs and made Germany a leading economic power, obviating the need for fossil fuels. But where would leave this leave Adolf Hitler? McAuley Interzone, July The British steal the secrets of V2 and V3 engines before the Germans can make use of them and inaugurate the space race early. McAuley here provides a review of a book exhaustively covering man's expansion into the Solar System, placing us with bases on The Moon, Mars and the moons of Jupiter by the beginning of the 21st Century. Turing, in this reality, is toying with growing human cells and manages to use his new and somewhat improbable techniques to his own advantage when his lover is poisoned by the security services.
Martin is a trusted aide to the Minister and is invited to his country house for Christmas talking along a young Aryan lady with him. This is a device often used on TV and film but is not often seen in literature.
In this story it is also entirely appropriate since this is a view of an alternate history. The reader soon gets the idea of what is going on, but Roberts is careful not to flood the piece with historical information. The setting is important but is secondary to the story which is about motivation and manipulation. Just who is pulling the strings? Terry Carr The original pilot of the Enola Gay, scheduled to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, crashes the plane in a test flight and is killed.
His replacement has more of a conscience.
The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories by Ian Watson
There's a lovely period feel to this story. Very atmospheric. His Powder'd Wig, His Crown of Thornes - Marc Laidlaw Omni, September A rather strange tale of an America where Washington was arrested and crucified, but now has become a religious symbol among the Native American population and the disaffected. Charlemagne's forces, while travelling through the pass of Roncesvalles, are ambushed, Charlemagne having been betrayed by one of his Counts.
Traditionally, Charlemagne was ambushed by Saracens, i. Charlemagne subsequently proclaims himself a Muslim. The English Mutiny - Ian R.
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