the Little Red Reviewer

That Alternate History Thing

Posted on: February 20, 2016

One of my favorite things about being involved with SFSignal is I get to coordinate Mind Melds. I come up with a fun question, and then ask a bunch of people who I hope will have an interesting response.   Most recently, I asked about Alternate   History.  Why we like it, what we like about it, and how to do it right.  Click on the words to visit the post, there is some great stuff there! (Actually, don’t click the links. they will explode your list of books you want to read!)


I’ve always enjoyed Tim Powers, but his books are technically more Secret History than anything else.  Right now I’m about half way through Ian Tregillis’s The Coldest War which is a sort of if World War II was won not by the military, but by secret sorcerers working with Deep Ones vs X-Men type people. In the 2nd book in the series, we’re up to the 1960s, and it’s the Cold War. But this is worse, because there is a psychic, and someone who can be invisible, and we know they didn’t just wake up one day with superpowers, they had to be, erm, is “convinced” the right word? Now that’s some alternate history!   So far, The Coldest War isn’t quite as good as the first book in the series, Bitter Seeds, but I’m still enjoying it. I have some sneaky suspicions as to what the third book might bring, and I want to know if I guessed right!


So, what are some of your favorite alternate history books?



5 Responses to "That Alternate History Thing"

I’m not much for alternate history, but I did notice that many, if not most of the respondents to the Mind Meld question answered with genre mashing examples rather than straight changed history (without aliens, fantasy elements, etc.), just, for instance, if the U.S. hadn’t entered the war and Germany had conquered and kept Europe. To me, alternate history is real history with a different outcome, not SFF, a separate genre niche. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be Phillip K. Dick’s MAN IN THE HIGH TOWER.


you’re right, i should have made mention of that split in alt-history, that there is just straight up alt-history fiction sans spec-fic elements, and then alt-history that has spec-fic elements like alien tech and fantasy elements. I’ve enjoyed both kinds, but they are very different types of books, probably with different fan-bases too.

any other titles you recommend of either SFF based alt-history, or alt-history with no SFF elements?


Can’t think of any offhand. I know Harry Turtledove has written a lot of it, but I haven’t read any, so I’m not sure where it comes on the scale of no SFF to lots of SFF, nor do I know how good it might be.


What you seem to call alt-history without SFF: The Plot Against America. I’ve reviewed this previously. Funnily enough, at times the period details make it read a bit like PK Dick.


One of my favorite books of all-time is 11/22/63 by Stephen King. It is a sci-fi book, but because of a certain sci-fi element in the story, it turns it – in my opinion – into what could be categories as an alternate-history book. And I LOVED the ending; could not fight off the tears.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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