Archive for the ‘Alternate History’ Category

Iron Gray Sea: Destroyermen-Taylor Anderson

July 3, 2012

Iron Gray Sea: Destroyermen

Taylor Anderson

Roc, Jul 3 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780451464545

 

The Human-Lemurians alliance invades Saa-lon and Indiaa to take the war to the Grik at a time when the eastern front against the Holy Dominion remains perilous especially the air assault on New Britain.  However, the alliance is unprepared for the strength of the feral Grik who with the help of Kurokawa prepared for two years for a different fight as they deploy surprising operational strategy and modern technology trapping the enemy military. 

 

In the Empire of New Britain Isles, treachery and assassination shakes up the confidence of the people in their leadership.  At sea, recently married Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy leads his USS Walker crew to search to destroy the much larger rogue Japanese destroyer Hidoiame that has devastated Allied ships in the north. 

 

The latest Destroyermen alternate military thriller (see Firestorm and Rising Tides) is an action-packed tale as the Alliance faces a tri-front war.  The key to this entry and the entire series is not everything goes well for the allies who are in trouble against the Grik at sea and on land; against the Dominion in the air; and against the Hidoiame at sea.  With a superb shocking twist and a cast of seemingly quadrillion (scorecard included), fans will enjoy the world war on another earth.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Coldest War-Ian Tregillis

June 28, 2012

The Coldest War

Ian Tregillis

Tor, Jul 17 2012, $25.99

ISBN 9780765321510

 

The Soviet Union is winning the Cold War against Great Britain.  By 1963, only the warlocks keep the Soviets from annexing the British Isles; however it is just a matter of time before the superpower crosses the Channel as each time a British wizard dies, the power balance shifts in favor of the Soviets. 

 

Meanwhile, twins Gretel and Klaus were once Nazi experiments who became Soviet research specimens.  Now with Gretel using her precognitive skills, to guide them while Klaus uses his super strength to break impenetrable barriers, they escape.  Their destination is British secret agent Raybould Marsh as she has visions of him.  Marsh and mage Will Beauclerk are caught in Milkwood while the Eidolons threaten both sides in the Coldest War.

 

Though this ends up as a middle book with no conclusion, readers will appreciate this strong alternate historical fantasy.  Ian Tregillis cleverly captures the Cold War paranoia and anything goes attitude including collateral damage (that Neocons apparently still cling too like a comforting blanket) with Marsh beginning to question whether the end ever justifies the means.  Gretel makes the storyline work as her twisting plot deploys.  Readers will enjoy the second Milkweed Triptych (see Bitter Seeds) as the world spins on its axis or does it.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln-Stephen L. Carter

June 23, 2012

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

Stephen L. Carter

Knopf, Jul 10 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307272638

 

In 1865, John Wilkes Booth, supported by several co-conspirators, enters the Ford Theater to kill President Lincoln.  The assassin fails to murder Lincoln; though Vice President Andrew Johnson dies and Secretary of States William Seward is so severely injured he is unable to carry out his duty.  Booth and his team are executed before they can be properly interrogated to determine who else was involved in their nefarious assassination plot.

 

Over the next couple of years, Lincoln pushes a Reconstruction agenda that faces strong opposition in Congress who prefers punishing the losers rather than bringing them back into the Union.  In 1867, the House of Representatives led by Radical Republicans pass a bill of impeachment against Lincoln.  The US Senate will try the President.  He hires Dennard & McShane law firm to defend him.  They, in turn, employ Abigail Canner, a young “dark nation” graduate of Oberlin College allegedly as a clerk but actually as image confection.  She refuses to be an idle symbol so she begins her own inquiry in Washington City to uncover the identity of the rest of the Booth team.

 

This is an entertaining alternate history based on Lincoln not Johnson surviving and being impeached.   The storyline captures the essence of Post-Civil War society through a strong cast especially the middle class heroine, and the politics of the era as his own party fails to heed his words of “A house divided against itself cannot stand” when the Republicans prefer punishment over Lincoln’s reconciliation; they use his war powers as the rationale to impeach.  The thriller starts fast with the assassination attempt, but slows down for a while before reengaging the reader with the trial and with Canner’s investigation.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Technologists-Matthew Pearl

February 6, 2012

The Technologists

Matthew Pearl

Random House, Feb 21 2012, $26.00

ISBN 9781400066575

 

In 1868 Boston, recently established Massachusetts Institute of Technology sets its missions as using science to benefit mankind and accept any student who meets the difficult entrance criteria.  As the first class of fifteen will soon graduate, in the harbor, ships collide when their instruments spin out of control while an unusual deep fog blankets the area.  In the city center, glass liquefies leaving mass deaths and horrific injuries to those working in the business district. 

 

The city police are baffled with the events, which may not even be criminal as it could be Mother Nature reacting to technology.  They ask Harvard for help.  Meanwhile MIT charity scholar student Marcus Mansfield and his friends (Beacon Hill Brahmin Robert Richards, genius Edwin Hoyt, and lone female Ellen Swallow) form a secret club to investigate the seemingly inexplicable tragedies using the scientific method.

 

Using real history anchored by the upstart insane MIT Today and an anti-technology fervor; fans obtain a strong Post Civil War alternate history thriller.  The storyline showcases the beginning of the age of science and technology in which many groups prefer the status quo and oppose such concepts as Darwinism, chemistry teaching, and other innovations that we take for granted (or do we with challenges to Darwinism by supporters of Creationism as a science instead of a belief).  Although perspective changes too frequently even if that adds depth to looking at 1868, the heroes are brave and amusing with Swallow being a real MIT student (and environmental scientist) as they set out to save Boston from natural or man-made disasters.

 

Harriet Klausner

The War That Came Early: The Big Switch-Harry Turtledove

June 6, 2011

The War That Came Early: The Big Switch

Harry Turtledove

Del Rey, Jul 12 2011, $27.00

ISBN 9780345491862

 

In 1938 Great Britain Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain rejects Fuhrer Adolf Hitler’s claim to annexing more land.  Irate, the raging Hitler sends his troops west vowing Paris will burn before the year ends.  By 1941 Germany and their ally Poland pound the Soviet Union from the west and Japan from the east.  On the western front trench warfare reminiscent of WWI but nastier is devastating the French countryside.  Spain is engulfed in a nasty civil war with the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the fight against the Fascists.

 

Americans are divided over entering the war though support they the allies.  However, people like Peggy Druce try to get her country to fight the Nazis over there as she insists they will one day cross the Atlantic to fight us here.  At the same time as Hitler works on his Final Solution and survives a coup, pacifists in France and Britain make their voices heard.  Japan and the Soviet Union sign an armistice while the former attacks American Pacific territories following up on their brutal success in China.  Winston Churchill suddenly dies bringing despair to his side and euphoria to the Nazis.

 

The latest in The War That Came Early WWII alternate history (see Hitler’s War and West and East) has another pivotal event occur with the death of the rallying cry for Britain.  The death of the face of the allies has devastated the morale more so than Hitler’s war machine as France and Great Britain wonder if the cost is worth the fight while the Axis has issues too.  Although with so much to cover around the globe, the deep story line at times slows down; Harry Turtledove continues his path of altering key events in his insightful revision of the Great War.

 

Harriet Klausner


The Sins of Viscount Sutherland-Samantha James

May 19, 2011

The Sins of Viscount Sutherland

Samantha James

Avon, May 31 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780061765544

Viscount Grayson Sutherland mourns the death of his wife and child as he plans suicide by duel.  Instead, he lives while his opponent lies dead.  His remorse and guilt on top of his grief makes him a nasty drunk.

The sister of Sutherland’s victim Claire Ashcroft is raging at Sutherland for the death of her brother.  Seeking revenge she plans to break the womanizing sop.  Thus, she comes to London pretending to be a widow though she has never been married.  Her plan is to seduce Sutherland until he falls in love with her; and then leave.  However, he seduces the virgin but she becomes pregnant and they agree to marry, which gives her a close look at the darkened soul of a man who can only redeem himself with love. 

This engaging historical romance stars two fascinating beloved enemies whose matchmaker is the man Gray shot dead, her brother.  The story line focuses on the relationship between the lead couple although the plot has a Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day feel as the pair fight over nothings, make love, fight again and make love again, etc. as the deaths that haunt them fade into the background.  Still fans will enjoy the redemption of Viscount Sutherland who believes he has so many sins he deserves hell not the heaven offered by Claire.

Harriet Klausner

Much Fall of Blood-Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer

December 29, 2010

Much Fall of Blood

Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer

Baen, Jan 25 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9781439134160

The Byzantine Empire shuts down the trading route between the Mediterranean and the east by closing the Dardanelles.  Golden Horde leader Jagiellon invites the western states to use a Roman land route.  Accepting the invitation, Prince Manfred with his bodyguard Eric of Iceland leads diplomats from the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian city-state to meet the Golden Horde leader.  On the trip they encounter exiled Khan Mongol and his warrior sister Bortai.

Countess Elizabeth Bathody pretends to befriend Prince Vlad of Valhalia after liberating him from his incarceration by King Emeric of Hungary.  However, when the opportunity is right, she plans to use his blood to enhance her already vigorous demonic power and as bait to capture the inhuman beasts lurking nearby.  Instead these werewolves enable Vlad to escape from the malevolent female who he rejects as evil.  Vlad and his dragoons unite with Manfred and his Knights of the Holy Trinity, and Bortai and her Mongol horde to fight Jagiellon and his Golden Horde; while immoral Hungarian King Emeric and his magical forces wait to take out the winner.  The demon god Chernobog encourages deadly chaos with the only hope for Manfred and his allies rests with blood magic that Vlad fears though is enticed. 

The third Heirs of Alexandria alternate historical fantasy (see The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic) is a terrific entry as humor and romance enhance the magic and military prime themes.  The story line is fast-paced with multiple subplots that deftly come together over the course of the tale although to much good luck happenchance on the hero’s side as the continent seems very small detracts from an overall fine entry in a wonderful saga.

Harriet Klausner

The War That Came Early: West and East-Harry Turtledove

June 25, 2010

The War That Came Early: West and East

Harry Turtledove

Del Rey, Jul 27 2010, $27.00

ISBN 9780345491848

Following Chamberlain’s rejection of appeasement, Hitler’s War continues on three fronts.  He attacks France planning to take Paris soonest.  His troops head east towards Soviet Russia and the oil fields.  Finally his military machine heads north to Scandinavia starting with Denmark.

However, the three German fronts don’t go as well as planned.  In Czechoslovakia, the tank blitzkrieg runs into some opposition from freedom fighter using antitank rifles.  In France, his forces are behind schedule in his demand that Paris is burning.  Finally only in the northern front are things going somewhat smoothly.  In the Pacific, the Japanese are rolling all over Asia uncontested.

The second entry in the alternate history of The War That Came Early series continues to extrapolate events based on Chamberlain taking a stand in 1938.  The story line is exciting and fast-paced but is at its best when Harry Turtledove takes his audience to the real fronts where those who will never make it into the history texts star.  When the plot seeks the big picture of a world at war it loses some of its in depth and the personal horrors of what happens in war even at the home front away from the battlefield.  Fans will root for the everyday person on both sides of the conflict as Mr. Turtledove takes his readers to the Atlantic and Pacific, to Singapore, Japan, Siberia and all over Europe as even the maniac Hitler shows some soul when he enables an American to escape Germany.

Harriet Klausner

Red Inferno: 1945-Robert Conroy

January 21, 2010

Red Inferno: 1945

Robert Conroy

Ballantine, Feb 23 2010, $15.00

ISBN 9780345506061

In 1945, the Allied forces prepare for victory over the Third Reich by jockeying for position in accordance with the Yalta agreement.  However neither President Truman nor Prime Minister Stalin trust one another; while British head of state Churchill fears an Iron Curtain coming down across Europe if the west fails to act so he is pushing the new American leader to take action.

Truman is concerned that Churchill is right about Stalin.  He sends two divisions across the Elbe River towards Berlin to counter the Soviet’s control of Eastern Europe though that violates Yalta and General Eisenhower’s advice.  Stalin is outraged by the affront even as Truman claims it is for peace.  Instead Stalin orders the Red Army to attack its former allies.

Red Inferno: 1945 is a super alternate historical thriller based on the premise that Truman crosses the Elbe extending the war in Europe.  Ironically, though a WWII thriller, the super cast (military and civilian) on both sides of the continuing confrontation do their assigned jobs, but all especially the soldiers make it clear they prefer to give peace a chance; everyone wants to go home but not in a body bag.  Fast-paced and loaded with action, Robert Conroy explores what if Truman sent units across the Elbe in 1945 as the war with Germany was all but over.

Harriet Klausner

Whisper of the Seventh Thunder- Larry Brooks

January 21, 2010

Whisper of the Seventh Thunder

Larry Brooks

Sons of Liberty, Mar 1 2010, $17.00

Nashua, NH 03062

ISBN: 9780982403532

Over two thousand years ago on the Island of Patmos where John the Divine was exiled, the Angel of the Seven Thunders showed him visions that he was unable to write down.  In the present, Gabriel Stone stood in the cave where John saw the angelic vision and he knows what the Jesus disciple saw.  In that cave, he meets his wife and upon her death, Gabriel writes down the vision.

Writing the book in nine weeks, Gabriel feels as if someone putting the words in his brain.   He takes his book to an agent who sells it to a publisher, but before it can be published, the agent and the publisher are dead.  Two groups who do not want his book released because they believe the theme is not for public consumption; they go after Gabriel.  In Israel, a supercomputer with cryptology software breaks down the vision, which involves people and events leading to the rise of the Antichrist.  Gabriel’s name is on the list of key players, but regardless of God’s master plan and his role or any sect’s religious dogma, his goal is to prevent the slaughter of the innocent.

This is a fascinating enthralling apocalyptic thriller that deftly blends Brown, Clancy and LaHaye-Jenkins.  The hero is a courageous person mindful of Moses in his belief that a nonentity like him who rested from his first day on earth until he entered the cave could not be a key player in the Lord’s plan, but like the Exodus leader does his best to do the mission and overcome his doubts.  However, it is the fundamentalist Brethren group who grip the reader as these devout believers need the Antichrist to take his throne as they insist that is God’s plan and if millions die in support of their belief; so be it as long as the end of days begins.

Harriet Klausner