Alternative histories are a sub-set of the science fiction/fantasy genre. According to the Library of Congress’ Genre definitions, alternative histories are, “fiction in which the plot or setting assumes an alternative outcome of an historical event.” Today, you’ll get a little taste of new alternative histories available at the Peter White Public Library.
The Shards of Heaven, by Michael Livingston
Set in Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar, The Shards of Heaven explores how the glory of Rome will remain without a ruthless leader. As Octavian Caesar, the nephew and adopted son of the great Caesar, and Marc Anthony and Cleopatra vie for control, the empire falls into a civil war. However, as the war wages on from Rome to Alexandria, Caesar’s two sons set forth on a quest to find mystical artifacts, with a link to God, known as the Shards of Heaven, to end the civil war. Michael Livingston, a professor of English and Medieval studies at the Citadel in South Carolina provides vivid scenery and historically accurate accounts in his debut novel. For those looking for alternative histories rooted deeply in historical truths, “The Shards of Heaven” is sure to please.
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valentine
Described as a “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own,” Radiance is for the adventurous reader. In a universe where Hollywood found its home on Earth’s moon and Thomas Edison refuses to release his patents for talking films, director Percival Unck is the king of the silent film and documents his entire life on film. Severin, his daughter of mysterious origins, grows into the film world as an actress and filmmaker in her own right. However, when the filming of her documentary about the disappearance of the Venusian city Adonis goes awry, many have questions and few have answers. Told as scripts, film reviews, interviews, and narrative, “Radiance” is a galactic tale about one woman’s struggles with family, love, and film.
Straits of Hell, by Taylor AndersonFans of Taylor Anderson will already be familiar with the Destroyermen series, a set of books dedicated to the adventures of the USS Walker and the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi during World War II. After being transported to a world where humans never evolved, the two predominant life forms are the Lemurians, evolved lemurs from Madagascar, and the Grik said to be descendants of dinosaurs. Straits of Hell is the tenth book of the Destryermen series and follows Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reedy of the USS Walker and the growing alliance he builds with the Lemurians as the civil war between them and the Grik’s continues on over the ancestral land of Madagascar. Anderson’s command of history is apparent; along with being an author, he is a gun maker and forensic ballistic archeologist.
Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove has been named “The Master of Alternative History” by Publisher’s Weekly, a literary review magazine. Turtledove’s books are often rooted in military and wartime history, focusing on World War II and the American Civil War. In Bombs Away the first of his new Hot War series, Turtledove focuses on the Korean War in 1951 when President Truman agrees with General MacArthur’s request to use nuclear bombs in Northeastern China. In response, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin launches a nuclear attack in many western European cities. While the powers that be decide who gets bombed, “Bombs Away” focuses on the bystanders, barmaids, and veterans, and how different the world will be after the dust has settled.
Manners & Mutiny, by Gail Carriger
The fourth book in Gail Carriger’s “Finishing School” series, Manners & Mutiny follows the students aboard a finishing school in a dirigible, otherwise known as “Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality”. Young girls, like fourteen-year old Sophronia, attend the school to learn to dance, dress, engage in conversation and have impeccable etiquette while also learning more deadly arts like deceit, diversion, and modern weapons. In Manners & Mutiny Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, trusty canine robot Soap, and Lord Felix Mersey work to return their friend to her werewolf pack in Scotland. If you’re looking for a straight forward steampunk alternative history, all of Gail Carriger’s series are a great choice.
by Tracy Boehm, Technical Services Librarian