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review 2018-04-07 15:48
As entertaining as its predecessors
Alternate Generals III - Harry Turtledove

The dustjacket cover is a piece of irrelevant silliness; there are no stories in this volume involving Lee and Grant as Roman commanders.  What it does contain is thirteen original short stories premised in a variety of different histories.  The stories are:


“A Key to the Illuminated Heretic” by A. M. Dellamonica – Joan of Arc fails to recant, and instead survives to lead a sect of Christian dissidents fighting for their survival.


“The Road to Endless Sleep” by Jim Fiscus – A Roman centurion loyal to Marc Antony finds himself the commander of Cleopatra’s bodyguard after their triumph over Octavian.


“Not Fade Away” by William Sanders – General Douglas MacArthur does not escape from the Philippines in 1942 but instead ends up a prisoner of the Japanese.


“I Shall Return” by John Mina – Having been assigned to the Philippines, Dwight Eisenhower and his subordinates George Patton and Jimmy Doolittle mount a much more successful defense of the islands from Japanese invasion.


“Shock and Awe” by Harry Turtledove – Instead of a religious following, Jesus inspires a military uprising against the Romans.


“A Good Bag” by Brad Linaweaver – During a 1910 seance, General Francis Younghusband receives a message from the past that warns of the necessity of war between Britain and Germany.


“The Burning Spear at Twilight” by Mike Resnick – Jomo Kenyatta devises a very modern campaign to drive the British from Kenya.


“‘It Isn’t Every Day of the Week’” by Roland J. Green – A daring naval decision by Captain Stephen Decatur leads to a very different War of 1812.


“Measureless to Man” by Judith Tarr – Genghis Khan’s conversion to Judaism creates a much different Mongol Empire – and spawns a doctrinal conflict with their counterparts in Europe.


“Over the Sea from the Skye” by Lillian Stewart Carl – The Duke of Cumberland’s defeat at the hands of Bonnie Prince Charlie creates a difficult situation for a young woman.


“First, Catch Your Elephant” by Esther M. Friesner – Hannibal’s pachyderm-equipped invasion of Italy faces difficulty when his men run out of food in the Alps.


“East of Appomattox” by Lee Allred – Robert E. Lee is sent on a diplomatic mission to London for a victorious Confederacy facing difficulties.


“Murdering Uncle Ho” by Chris Bunch – In a North Vietnam occupied by invading American forces, an American commando mission is sent on a mission to eliminate the surviving Communist leadership.


Like any short story collection, individual readers will have their own favorites from among the offerings, but the range of tales offers something for just about any fan of alternate history.  Overall, this is a good entry to a solid series, one that offers intriguing tales into worlds that might have been.

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review 2018-04-07 15:42
An enjoyable collection of alternate history short stories
Alternate Generals II - Harry Turtledove

While Harry Turtledove’s name is featured prominently on the cover, he authors just one of the thirteen short stories in this collection of alternate history tales.  Though the settings range from ancient Egypt (in Noreen Doyle’s “Horizon”) to twentieth-century Istanbul (the setting of James Fiscus’s “American Mandate”), the theme uniting them all is the different paths events might have taken should the people, choices, and settings have been any different.  Like most collections, the stories are a mixed bag in terms of quality, with some working better than others.  Readers will undoubtedly differ as to which stories these are, but just about any fan of the alternate history genre will find something to enjoy within the pages of this book.

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review 2018-04-07 00:56
A groovy post-apocalyptic adventure
The Valley-Westside War - Harry Turtledove

As a longtime fan of Harry Turtledove, I’ve read many of his works, but his “Crosstime Traffic” series is among his best. The premise – a world in the late 21st century that has discovered the ability to travel between alternate timelines – is one that he has used to create some imaginative divergences and the civilizations they have spawned. The timeline in this book is typical of this creativeness; an atomic war in 1967 had left a Southern California at a pre-industrial level of technology, splintered into squabbling domains.


His plot is just as engaging: the Mendozas, a family researching the origins of the war in the remnants of the UCLA library, find themselves in the middle of a war between the kingdom of the Valley and the Westside. Their neighborhood is quickly conquered, and teenaged Liz Mendoza draws the unwanted attentions of Dan, a young soldier in the Valley army. As the war drags on, the Mendozas come under suspicion, and they soon find themselves having to navigate both sides of the war while struggling to complete their project.


Turtledove succeeds in creating an entertaining tale for readers. Though the characters are somewhat underdeveloped, his alternative Los Angeles is well-visualized, with people living in the ruins of 1960s America, using the leftover artifacts as best they can and adopting the slang of the era as their everyday language. Readers should not be put off by the “juvenile fiction” label; this is a novel that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

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review 2018-04-03 17:30
A disappointingly conventional sci-fi novel
A World of Difference - Harry Turtledove

This was a book that I read both because of its author and its premise.  With dozens of alternate history novels, novellas, and short stories to his credit, Harry Turtledove is the acknowledged master of the genre, and I have enjoyed many of his works.  The description of the story also had much to offer, moving away from the standard Civil War/World War II setting of far too many alternate histories to pose a much more refreshing one – what if the fourth planet from our sun was capable of sustaining life?


Much of what Turtledove does with this is imaginative.  No longer the “red planet” we know, he bestows upon it a different name – “Minerva” rather than Mars.  To make it habitable, then planet is larger, though its distance from the sun means that it is still a cold place.  He also devises an ecology based around entirely different premises, imagining evolution producing radial rather than symmetrical species with their own cycles and habits.  After this life is discovered by an American probe in 1976, the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union race to send manned missions to Minerva to explore it for themselves, with the story itself being a tale of the two missions’ simultaneous arrival on the planet.


Yet as I read this book, I was struck by how conventional it was.  Once the premise is outlined, the plot quickly develops along the lines of the American-versus-Soviet space contests typical of many sci-fi novels produced during the Cold War.  Propping up the story with an alternate-history setting allows Turtledove to get away with this, but it gives the entire book a prematurely dated feel.  Moreover, too many of the characters are underdeveloped, sometimes leaving them indistinguishable from one another.  The “Minervans” suffer from similar flaws, with only a few of them clearly defined in any way and none of them ever coming across as truly alien.


As a result, the book might disappoint readers familiar with Turtledove's later work.  While not a bad novel, it lacks the distinctive characters and immersion into detailed alternate Earths that are hallmarks of many of the author's subsequent writings.  Fans of Turtledove's other novels will find the absence of such elements leaving them wanting more, as it fails to provide what they have come to expect from this notable author.

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review 2017-03-16 18:57
Hitler's War - Harry Turtledove

Life's too short to read a book that is dragging you down. Normally I like history and historical fiction, but this book and I were not going well together.

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