Favorite alternate histories

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsWith all this talk about the effects that SOPA/PIPA would have on the internet, it got me thinking. Throughout history there are key moments that, had they happened differently, would have changed the future. As a history buff, I find alternate history fiction to be appealing. I’ve read a few of them and The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is probably my favorite.

In Dick’s novel, the Allies lost World War II and Japan and Germany occupy the United States. The story focuses on a few characters who struggle to live in an oppressive society. It’s a short book with a very powerful message about freedom and individual expression. Nothing works better to help you consider and appreciate the present than being shown how it could have been much worse.

Tell us about your favorite alternate history novel.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. I don’t think I have a particular favourite when it comes to alternate history, but I also think that’s mostly because I haven’t read much alternate history. Steampunk stuff counts, I know, but my literary diet has been sorely lacking in that too.

    The best I can think of is Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’s “Phoenix Rising.” Steampunk adventure/humour at its best!

  2. Dean Bryant /

    I have two favorites, both of which are alternate “mysteries”):

    1. Robert Harris’s “Fatherland”
    2. Brenda DuBois’s “Resurrection Day”

    Both highly recommended.

  3. I’m a big fan of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books, which are set basically in our world but with some big changes to religion, sexual mores, and political history (e.g. Rome never conquered Britain) and with magic added. It’s really interesting to see what she does with each locale in her alternate version.

    I read one recently that I liked, Lady Lazarus by Michele Lang, which is about a magical version of Europe on the verge of WWII. At first you think the magic is going to just be in the background of the history we know, but at the end of the first book, you realize it’s made at least one huge change in terms of alliances.

    An old favorite is Paula Volsky’s Illusion, which is set in a fictional country with magic but has enough parallels to Revolutionary France that it almost might as well be alternate history. I also like Jo Graham’s books about the ancient world.

  4. steven /

    I would have to say that my favorite is the Timeline-191 series by Harry Turtledove. I could not pick just one of out of the series, as they all tell one much larger story about the various wars between the Northern and Southern States. An excellent series.

  5. SandyG265 /

    I haven’t read much alternate history but one I enjoyed was Thunder and Blood by Stacey Voss, set in an alternate Canada which is ruled by vampires.

  6. Steven mentioned Harry Turtledove, and I really enjoyed Guns of the South. It isn’t “true” alternate history because time travel is involved. Good book though.

  7. My favorite would be the Lord Darcy Investigates series by Randall Garrett. A good blend of magic and technology with some fun mysteries to solve. Today it would probably be labelled steampunk.

  8. The Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton starting with Farthing are my favorite. Amazing alternate history where Germany maintains control of Europe after WWII.

  9. Paul C. /

    “The Children’s War” and “A Change of Regime” by J. N. Stroyar are very good. The premise is “Germany wins World War II” (with the US not intervening), which is common enough, but with realistic characters who suffer realistic consequences for their actions.

  10. Randall Garrett and Philip K. Dick are big favourites; and then there’s the oldie but goodie, Ward Moore’s “Bring the Jubilee”. And I suspect a case could be made for “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”. Or the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Or Elizabeth’s Bear’s New Amsterdam books — just love this genre!


  11. Dean Bryant, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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