REVIEW SUMMARY: An enjoyable blend of alternate history stories that offer a wide range of topics and styles.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of 11 alternate history stories.
PROS: Lucius Shepard’s excellent story, occupying 30% of the book, was the anthology’s centerpiece; Robert Charles Wilson’s story was also excellent; six other worthwhile stories.
CONS: Three stories were mediocre or worse – two of which were more literary experiment than fiction.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable assortment of alternate history stories.
Alternate history is a sub-genre that continues to intrigue and surprise me. Long-feared because of the natural association with history – and the painful reminder of boring, force-fed history classes – it wasn’t until I started reading alternate history short fiction that I came to realize this need not be the case. What I found was that, in some cases, the fictional accounts of real-life events actually prompted research on a topic – quite the opposite reaction I had in school.
Other Earths edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake is an anthology of short fiction that presents 11 diverse alternate history stories. The diversity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the reader is exposed to various authors and styles that broaden reading horizons; on the other there are likely to be some stories that are your cup of tea.
That is a truism for most anthologies, and so it is here. Of the three stories that worked the least, one was hindered by writing style and the other two felt like literary experiments. That said, two other stories were quite excellent: Robert Charles Wilson’s “This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beacher Stowe” and “Dog-Earred Paperback of My Life” by Lucius Shepard. The latter of these is a novella occupying thirty percent of the entire anthology. This weighed heavily of the overall enjoyment of the anthology, which offered 6 other worthwhile stories.
Individual story reviews follow…
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