This book was published in 2001 and I have to confess that it has been sitting at the bottom of one of my reading piles for a long time (well it's a large-format book, therefore its natural position is at the bottom for obvious stability reasons!). Following one of my sporadic attempts to tidy-up my room it came to my attention again so I thought it was about time I read it.
Its 400+ pages contain fourteen stories, plus an interesting introduction by Harry Turtledove which summarises the history of alternate fiction, going back to Livy some two thousand years ago. The stories are a very mixed bunch, as follows:
The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson. I have to admit that I am not a KSR fan, but this powerful story is brilliant. It assumes that the first nuclear bombing raid on Hiroshima was carried out by a different crew, and focuses on the moral dilemma of the bomb-aimer.
The Winterberry by Nicholas A. DiChario. This was rather mysterious on first reading, written from the viewpoint of a man who has the mind of a child with learning difficulties, who for some unexplained reason is permanently kept inside a huge mansion. It wasn't until after I had finished the story that light dawned as to who the man was, but Americans may get there faster than a Brit.
Islands in the Sea by Harry Turtledove. Set in an eighth century in which Muslim forces were even more successful, conquering Constantinople and ending the Byzantine Empire. Now the Muslims and Christians are competing to convert the pagan Bulgars, and delegations from each faith argue their cases before the khan of the Bulgars, with the main viewpoint being the Muslim representative. Interesting and amusing, as the practically-minded khan tries to balance the pros and cons of having to give up alcohol and pork in return for being allowed more wives plus a hedonistic afterlife.
Suppose They Gave a Peace by Susan Shwartz. Another one where it's initially difficult to work out what's going on. A war veteran reflects on the past and the uncomfortable present in the early 1970s, when McGovern rather than Nixon wins the Presidential election and the accelerated withdrawal from Vietnam has personal consequences.
All The Myriad Ways by Larry Niven. A brief but fascinating exploration of the possible psychological consequences of knowing that there are indeed countless parallel worlds containing slightly different versions of yourself.
Through Road No Whither by Greg Bear. Two Germans, a courier and an SS officer, get lost when travelling through occupied France and ask the way from a strange old woman who claims to have maps of time.
To be continued