At one point or another, we've all dreamed of what could have happened...perhaps what should have happened. The two words that instantly spark the imagination: what if? In Alt. History 102, twelve authors expand upon those words and take us into alternate words, histories and futures alike, changed by perhaps one word or one action.
Jennifer Ellis' "The Most Beautiful Woman" starts us out with a story of Hedy Lamarr and Hitler. What if someone had actually recognized Hedy's genius and put her in a place where her actions could alter a war? The struggle to be recognized for who we are, rather than taken at face-value, is something that deeply resonated with me.
"Requiem" by Will Swardstorm takes us into another war, this one starring Mozart and Marie Antoinette. This was probably one of my favorite stories in the collection because in the midst of death and despair, the altered actions of Mozart actually bring hope to some who might otherwise be no one.
"Diablo Del Mar" by Artie Cabrera was...strange. Honestly, I enjoyed this story but I'm not sure why. It's a mixture of myths and beliefs, taking history as we know it and pulling it into the mystical. Perhaps the fact that I still have no idea what really happened, or what will happen, is what draws me to this story.
Rysa Walker's "Whack Job" reminds me that I really need to read the CHRONOS series. This story provides enough background that it can be read as a standalone, but the two other short stories that I have read in this series make me want to immerse myself into the whole adventure. "Whack Job" shows us that you can travel back into time and change the world...but should you?
"Drought" by J.E. Mac is an alternate history of water rights in California. Since my husband is from California and I get to hear his complaints about Southern CA "stealing" the water from Northern CA, and with the current drought conditions experiences throughout the entire state, this story rings true on so many levels. I found the politics and characterizations fascinating.
Asha Badron takes us into an alternate history where Hannibal destroyed Rome and Carthage survived. With two aliens stranded, playing the part of gods, "The Elissiad" leads us through the story to one left behind.
"The Tesla Gate" takes us into the mind of Nikola Tesla as he frantically tries to complete a time travel machine. With Samuel Clemens guest starring in the tale, Drew Avera really manages to make the readers feel the desperation and hopelessness of two men fighting against time. The twist at the end was fascinating, making me hope that the author will continue the story of Alokin.
With the increase of online colleges and the rising cost of student loans, it isn't too far of a stretch to imagine a world where all schooling is done through corporations. Adam Venezia's "The Black Network" shows us what could happen if that future comes to pass and students have to indenture themselves to get an education. Can one man stand against them all and make the internet free again?
Hank Garner's "The Visitation" was another favorite. He takes the story of the mystic, the soothsayer, and the truthteller and portrays him as a drunk, someone just trying to get by in a world where no one believes his story. Behind eyes blurred by drink and nerves shot, the truth waits: what happens when a powerful race grows tired of watching history repeat itself?
In the quest for a cure, a scientist is searching for someone with perfect skin in the hope to find the genetic code to unlock immunity. In this alternate world where Europeans were the ones almost decimated by smallpox, "The Finest Mask" by J.J. Brown is flat-out creepy if you think too hard on the mask Sir William Potter's wife is wearing.
"The Blackbird Sings" by Therin Knite takes us into an alternate present where the Cold War turned hot, leading to ruin. Thirty years after the nuclear assault, the FBI is on a mission to hunt down a terrorist determined to bring the world back to the brink of collapse.
Alex Roddie ends the collection with "The Locked Web," showing us what the world might be if the World Wide Web and microcomputers were never created, leaving the internet in the hands of a controlling government. It's hard to believe that in some places, censorship as shown in this story actually does exist today, making this story even more frightening, fueling the imagination with the thought of being locked up for daring to communicate thoughts and ideas.
Alt. History 102 is the second alternate history collection released by Samuel Peralta, and like all of his collections it's an introduction to a wonderful group of authors. While each story is a complete tale in itself, showing us what the world could be if a person or detail were changed, it also opens the reader up to so many other worlds out there, brought to life by the minds of the authors featured in this collection.
4 1/2 Stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.