In celebration of Ekaterina Sedia’s birthday this past weekend and the starred PW review of Heart of Iron (in bookstores July 26th!), I’m giving away a copy.
Sedia (The Alchemy of Stone) superbly blends novel of manners, alternate history, and le Carré–style espionage with a dash of superheroes and steampunk… Sedia assembles a nice list of supporting characters–the forceful Eugenia, the Russian soldiers and Chinese fur traders Sasha befriends, sinister spymaster Florence Nightingale–and Sasha’s often frustrated but always practical narrative voice smoothly carries the novel to its satisfying conclusion.
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
To enter: Post a comment on this blog entry describing a point of change in an alternate history timeline (hint: in Heart of Iron, the Decembrists’ rebellion was successful and the Trans-Siberian railroad was completed before 1854) or tell me about your favorite published alternate history novel.
On behalf of the winner, I will also donate a copy of Ekaterina Sedia’s House of Discarded Dreams to the public library of their choice.
Only one entry per person. Contest begins now and runs until Friday, July 15th, 5pm Eastern Time.
An alternate history timeline point of divergence?
In The Wheels of If, by L Sprague De Camp, a British King, Oswiu of Northumbria, adopted the Celtic church rather than the Roman church. At the time the Celtic church was a real competitor with the Roman church and in our world, it faded away. In the Wheels of If, it grows and spreads, especially as further changes down the line further twist and change the timeline, such as the Moors conquering France, and the Celts and Vikings discovering and colonizing America a few centuries later…
I’m currently writing a novel where Napoleon was not banished to Elba but escaped into exile to American Louisiana. The state then secedes, and he sets to reclaiming the Louisiana Purchase as “New France.”
Joseph – coincidentally, I’m working on developing a novel in which the Louisiana Purchase never happens and the US is then threatened by French interests in the west, but I’m still working in both directions on why Napoleon would have done that and what the ramifications would be.
As for my favorite alternate history novel, I like Mary Gentle’s _Ash: A Secret History_ a lot–though I suppose I should say I’ve only read three quarters of it. I found the first three books, one at a time, in the used bookstore at Pike Place Market in Seattle over a period of a few years, and I’m convinced that if I keep going I’ll eventually find the fourth one waiting for me too.
In which an African child slave employed as a milkmaid in Hispaniola discovers how to use the cowpox virus to vaccinate against smallpox. She shares the vaccine with her older brother and the two survive despite a raging epidemic. The brother is drafted into Cortes’ army and watches the defeat of the Aztec, who are devastated by the smallpox. He runs away from the Spaniards and rescues his sister. Together, they escape to South America and share the secret of the vaccine with the Incans. Our now teenaged heroine takes the King’s son as her lover and confidante. The disease reaches the Incans in advance of Pizarro’s men, but they do not succumb thanks to the vaccine. The Spaniards kidnap King Atahualpa through trickery. With her brother by his side and the knowledge of the Spanish given by his lover, the prince rescues his father and the Inca rout their enemies.
Apologies. This is way too long, but I had such fun with it, I might really write this.
As part of the post above: And the alternate history that I’ve enjoyed is Kazuo Ishiguro’s NEVER LET ME GO. The recent movie sticks closely to the book and doesn’t have the beautiful prose to leaven the depressing theme, so I recommend just reading it.
My favourite published Alternate Histories are mostly shorter works by Howard Waldrop, notably ‘The Ugly Chickens’ where Dodos survive into depression-era Mississippi, and You Could Go Home Again with Thomas Wolfe taking an airship trip home from the 1940 Tokyo Olympics.
My favorite alternate history novel is THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which the Black Plague kills out 90% of Europe and Islamic and Asian cultures become the biggest forces in colonizing the world and making contact with America. Everything in history changes from that point forward. The story follows a small group who keep reincarnating, so the story stretches from the Black Plague all the way up to the present. The worldbuilding is realistic and it’s interesting to compare some of the big accomplishments in Robinson’s timeline vs. reality.
Anne Boleyn is not beheaded, but is instead sent to a prison, from which she escapes, and tries to use her daughter Elizabeth against Henry VIII
Where the preventing of the assassination of John Lennon (and ensuring Reagan died) led to him becoming a senator, legalizing pot, and averts the Challenger shuttle disaster.
Not so much a literary reference as Chrononauts, a card game by Looney Labs.
It’s a favorite among my friends.
I don’t think there are any books written about this, but I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the Spanish Armada had succeeded. ^_^
There is a great list of alternate history novels over at Amazon, including one where the Spanish Armada succeeds by Harry Turtledove – http://www.amazon.com/Great-Novels-of-Alternate-History/lm/1871P6ZAC1HPA
I’m currently reading A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede, which sets magic in Regency England.
Oh, neat! I’ll have to check that out that Turtledove book.
I’ve been thinking the Alaskan Purchase could have been an interesting turning point. Had the Russian’s held on to Alaska (and defended it from the British), they would have discovered gold in the late 1800s, and oil in the 20th century. The cold war might have been a whole lot hotter or if the wealth were actually shared, the whole USSR experiment might have been avoided.
Either way, I’d love to read Heart of Iron.
In which Germany successfully unifies in after the 1848 revolutions. In real life the king refused to take a “crown from the gutter” ie be a constitutional monarch, but if he’d been a little more sensible… Long-range consequences are potentially huge (would the World Wars have happened if they’d unified with a liberal government rather than with Bismarck?) but the short term consequences are also quite interesting. Would it have been enough to keep the momentum going for revolutions going on at the same time across Europe? (This is suddenly a lot more interesting with the events in the Middle East this year). The U.S. would also be affected demographically, as in our timeline a wave of German refugees immigrated to America, who would not have in this alternate timeline. Oh, and if I ever write this I get to use Bismarck as an antagonist…same genius plotting and coopting everyone in sight, but in a totally different situation.
1862 was one of the best alternate reality books I’ve ever read. With the idea of the British siding with the South in the Civil War. Many don’t realize that the book was complete fiction, but at one point the British did almost enter the war. With climatic battles and a cast of unforgettable characters, 1862 showed a fictional war that might have been a reality. If the British had entered the war with their vast navy and massive army, the North would not have succeeded.
I’m a fan of the “Ring of Fire” books. In the original series, the Americans who arrive from the future prevent Gustavus Adolphus from dying at the battle of Lützen in 1632, which changes the outcomes of the Thirty Years War and the 17th c. balance of power in Europe.
The first book I choose would be Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro, though I wonder if the dragon series by Novak would count as well?
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