Book Review: A Clash of Eagles (Clash of Eagles #1) by Alan Smale
“Heading west in as straight a line as they could manage. Which, being Romans, was pretty d—d straight.”
Excellent alternate history. Imperial Rome invades thirteenth-century North America in search of gold. Smale drops the reader into the story and supplies details as the Romans march west. Good character and plot development.
“Even when you were younger. Would you have spoiled her?” “You don’t have daughters, do you?” “No.” “Ask me again when you do.”
Lacks a believable antagonist after the opening scenes. Marcellinus is his own worst enemy, of course, but someone to butt heads with would add to the fun. Sintikala is that and more, but Continue reading
Book Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
“Friends don’t keep score.”
Well-developed steampunk with engaging characters. It’s as much parallel universe as alternate timeline, but it mostly works. Good weaving of historic and imagined elements. Good storytelling.
“Don’t tell me I’m better off for being an orphan.” “No more so that I’m better off for having been a slave.”
Most of the primary characters are social outcast for no reason of their own. Their bonding works, if a bit idyllic.
“These feelings ain’t nohow sensible. They just is.”
The narrator and main character has twisted syntax in order to contrast her native wit with Continue reading
Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
“I want to comprehend. I have to. But he knew he never would. Just be glad and keep moving.”
An early alternative history, it is among the best. Dick not only alters history and politics, but also culture and scientific achievement, consistent with what precedes his story. The result in an incredibly rich, engaging tale of what might have been. Manages to include major philosophic and religious issues. Very close telling of internal conflicts and aspirations.
“Nobody was hurt … until the day of reckoning and then everyone, equally, would be ruined.”
I can’t believe this was written in 1962. Dick displays a depth of understanding which many lacked. I can’t believe I missed it then.
“He should have that cold but enthusiastic look, as if Continue reading
Book Review: A Different Flesh by Harry Turtledove
Four Stars out of Five
Outstanding alternate history. In short stories Turtledove creates an alternative history populated by believable characters and events which also examine historic and current practices in our culture. The titular characters are Homo Erectus-like subhumans who inhabit the New World instead of the native humans actually found there. The altered natural and cultural impacts are explored.
Samuel Pepys is so well drawn that he was recognized, by one who’d read his diary, before revealed. His development of the transformational theory of life exemplifies ideas and technologies accelerated by the different conditions found in North America than in our timeline.
The reader is challenged (in a good way) to unravel Turtledove’s alternate names for North America cities and governmental titles. (Example, the Federated Commonwealths adopted Roman forms of governance and naming, resulting in Via LXVI.)
Having all critical plot points fall favorably gives the book a Mary Sue or Gary Stu quality. The short stories repeat much information because most were first published independently.
A more serious critique might be lodged against his uneven accelerated technology. For example, steam locomotives Continue reading