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Worlds That Weren't
Roc, 304 pages

Worlds That Weren't
Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. In 1977, he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson which he continued to use until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, to become a full-time author. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Colonization: Aftershocks
SF Site Review: Walk in Hell
SF Site Review: Darkness Descending
SF Site Review: American Front
SF Site Review: Household Gods with Judith Tarr
SF Site Review: Colonization: Second Contact
SF Site Review: Into the Darkness
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Sokrates and Alkibiades are the two main characters of Harry Turtledove's "The Daimon," about a world in which Alkibiades refuses to allow himself to be recalled to Athens, instead continuing the sack of Syracuse and turning his attention to Sparta before returning, triumphantly, to Athens. The story stands up well, even if readers don't necessarily know what actions had actually been taken, although Turtledove does provide an explanation in the Afterword. While Sokrates and Alkibiades are both portrayed well, Turtledove only provides quick sketches of his supernumeraries, even those such as Kritias and Platon who are based on historical figures. Where the story falls down is at the beginning, when Turtledove does not give the reader a clear understanding of the crime Alkibiades is accused of, and at the end, when Turtledove fails to provide an extrapolation of the change, although a weakening, if not outright slaughter, of democracy seems likely.

S.M. Stirling's "Shikari in Galveston" is set in the same timeline as his novel The Peshawar Lancers, but while that book takes place in Kashmir, the center of the world's civilization, this novel takes place in the wild western frontier of North America, more than a century after the fall of a comet has destroyed the United States. Eric King, relative of the main characters in The Peshawar Lancers has come to the Texas region to go on a safari. In the process, he sees the remnants of English civilization which has changed the language and the culture to a mixture of Native American and European society. As with much of Stirling's writing, the characters in "Shikari in Galveston" take second place to fleshing out the details of the world, which makes his setting seem more realistic than the people who inhabit it. In his note, Stirling comments that "Shikari in Galveston," as well as The Peshawar Lancers, is his attempt to use alternate history to tell adventure stories in the vein of H. Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and A. Merritt. In this, Stirling has succeeded in writing an adventure tale of a strange world filled with unknown beasts and exotic (but not necessarily noble) savages.

Although set in the same world as Mary Gentle's Sidewise Award-winning Ash: A Secret History, "The Logistics of Carthage" follows a different set of characters as Yolande Vaudin, a crossbowwoman, is given a vision of the future. This vision gives Gentle the opportunity to play with historiographical themes again, in this case and archaeologist looking for proof that woman, like Yolande or Ash, could be soldiers. At the same time, Yolande must deal with her own time period's very different misogyny as she, and her comrades, wait for the monks to bury the corpse of a female company member who lies dead in the chapel. As Yolande's visions of the future continue, the reader asks, as do Yolande and Guillaume Arnisout, what the point of the visions are. However, even when Yolande doesn't understand the visions, they do give her a sense of hope for the future. Whether the visions really are of the modern world or merely her personal future, she sees that things are not always as bleak as they are in the monastery in which her company is holed up. In the end, she looks to provide life to someone, as she had been unable to do for her own son.

In the early 1990s, there was an episode of the television show Northern Exposure, in which Franz Kafka visited a frontier Alaskan town. I can't help but think of that episode when I read Walter Jon Williams's account of Friedrich Nietzsche's western adventure in "The Last Ride of German Freddie." Williams portrays the philosopher as a gambler who is trying to apply his philosophical conclusions to the situations in which he finds himself in. The setting for Nietzsche's adventures is Tombstone in 1881 and Nietszche finds himself involved in the legal and gun battles of the Earps and the Clantons. By placing Nietzsche more on the side of the Clantons, Williams plays against the stereotype of the Earps as good guys. At the same time, he imbues the entire proceedings with more complexities than are generally found retellings of the story of the OK Corral.

Copyright © 2002 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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