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Cookie

Suggestions for Alternate History Books

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Apologies if there is already a thread but I had a quick look and couldn't find one.

 

I'm not really fussy about any particular historical event but I'm fascinated by the whole What If? thing. Like what if Jesus hadn't been sentenced to death? What if the Nazi's won? What if Henry 8th's first wife had had a son?

 

All suggestions welcome :)

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Have you read Fatherland by Robert Harris? It's a 'what if the Nazi's had won' story. Quite well written, but it has been a few years since I read it.

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If you like a slightly supernatural bent, then both Abraham Lincoln; Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith and Queen Victoria; Demon Hunter by A E Moorat are good reads - a lot of fun!

 

On a more realistic front, there's The Separation by Christopher Priest, which is the same alternative history told in two different ways by twin brothers; one of whom enlists to fight in WWII, the other is a pacifist. Imperfect memory plays a large role so there are inconsistencies in their stories. It's an excellent read too.

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Stephen Baxter's Voyage is a personal fave - it's about what would have happened to America's space programme if JFK hadn't been assassinated.

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Most people would tend to think of alternative history as being more non-fiction, ao I must admit that when I first read this I was a little bit confused. As someone whose own work tends to fall into this category, this is certainly how I think of this style of writing, although I can see that it could also be fiction, indeed when certain publishers realised that my work included references to lost continents, they claimed that it was fantasy - obviously not doing their own research then - imo !

 

As such then my own recommendations are more non fiction and rather than recommending particular books, I will recommend particular authors - Andew Collins for example, Graham Phillips (I love his style of writing and research and he is really passionate about what he does if you ever get the chance to meet him), David Rohl for the Egyptian stuff, Zecharia Sitchin of course (sadly now deceased) for Mesoopotamia and the missing 12th Planet theory, Graham Hancock, and of course no collection would be complete without Michael Cremo or David Hatcher Childress.

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On my to read list is Temeraire by Naomi Novak. The story is set during an alternate history version of the Napoleonic Wars, in which dragons not only exist but are used as a staple of aerial warfare in Asia and Europe.

 

might be a bit out there.. but you did post in the sci-fi/fantasy sections...

 

jj

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For want of a nail is an interesting read, it is an history of the world from the premise that Burgoyne won at Saratoga and that Britain won the American Revolution. Also of course if you are talking What ifs then you have to look at Harry Turtledove, Edited by Vladd

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I could recommend " The man in the high castle" by Philip K. Dick. This has the alternative history of the Axis powers winning world war 2. It's a little bit dated now, but good nonetheless, with a killer ending!

 

Ian

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Wasn't there a book written that was a story about what happened were the Nazis to win WWII? I haven't read it, but such a story may be very interesting.

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Have you tried any of Guy Gavriel Kay's novels, Cookie? Practically all of them are re-imaginings of regions and time-periods:

 

Tigana - Medieval Italy

The Last Light of the Sun - the Vikings

Under Heaven - Tang Dynasty China

The Lions of Al-Rassan - Medieval Spain

The Sarantine Mosaic - Byzantium

A Song for Arbonne - Medieval France

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Wasn't there a book written that was a story about what happened were the Nazis to win WWII? I haven't read it, but such a story may be very interesting.

There are one or two books out there that cover that idea

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Bring the Jubilee, by Ward Moore (what if The South had won the US civil war?) and Pavane, by Keith Roberts (what would 1960's England have been like if Elizabeth I had been assassinated and the UK had become Catholic?) are both very good!

 

 

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I could recommend " The man in the high castle" by Philip K. Dick. This has the alternative history of the Axis powers winning world war 2. It's a little bit dated now, but good nonetheless, with a killer ending!

 

Ian

I'll second this - I'm reading it at the moment and it's brill :D

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I don't know if you want "hard" or "soft" alt-fiction, as in, whether you want real-world what-ifs, or fantasy that happens to take place in an alternate historical version of our world.

 

If it's the latter you're after, I recommend Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. It's set in England, before, during and after the Napoleonic wars, and deals with an England that used to have magic and magicians and fairy-servants and a magician-king, but one day magic disappeared and is now merely studied in a historical context. Then Mr Norrell is brought to the attention of The Learned Society of York Magicians (historians, who can't use magic). They discover he is able to use magic and encourage him to bring it to the public, and the story then deals with how he and magic fit in to the period's upper-class social lifestyle, the politics of the era, and its military applications.

 

Once the man takes on an apprentice (for the good of the nation) the story becomes more about their different outlooks - Mr Norrell sees magic as dangerous, to be hoarded only for the trustworthy and wise to use (by which he means him), and Jonathan Strange has a wilder streak, seeks out ancient magic that Mr Norrell has suppressed, and so on.

 

Between the story of the magicians, there's an interwoven story of Stephen Black, a negro valet to Sir Walter Pole, who is discovered by a powerful fairy-king; a fairy of the "fair folk" sort, not the Tinkerbell sort. The carpicious, whimsical, decadent, mad and extremely powerful kind. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the fairy takes a liking to Stephen Black, doing him all sorts of favours and kindnesses, including "inviting" (summoning) him to the fairy realm of Lost-Hope, a dismal mansion full of gory trophies and horrifying history, each and every night, to participate in endless balls, processions and rituals. For most of the book Stephen's role appears to be to act as a viewpoint character for us to be aware of the fairy-king and his role in the protagonists' struggles, but becomes important later, though not in the way the book very, very cleverly sets you up to believe.

 

The book is written extremely cleverly, in the style of Dickens or Austen, which really draws one into the mentality of a novel set in the period. It's full of extremely in-depth footnotes that may not have any relevance to the story, but build up an extremely rich history of Britain and the world in which magic played a part, with history, anecdotes, fairy tales, excerpts from in-universe scholarly works, correspondence between or about characters in the book and even excerpts from the characters' own books, written while the story takes place.

 

It's an absolutely unique fantasy, and the historical side of it is extremely cleverly done, well researched, and amusing in its style. The fantasy side is so unobtrusive and fits so well into the era that the synergy of the two makes it read like a genuinely classical book.

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Have you tried any of Guy Gavriel Kay's novels, Cookie? Practically all of them are re-imaginings of regions and time-periods:

 

Tigana - Medieval Italy

The Last Light of the Sun - the Vikings

Under Heaven - Tang Dynasty China

The Lions of Al-Rassan - Medieval Spain

The Sarantine Mosaic - Byzantium

A Song for Arbonne - Medieval France

 

Yes, I agree 100%.

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I can't believe as of yet only one person has mentioned Harry Turtledove, the recognized master of alternate history. His writing style is a bit choppy but it's easy to follow, and all his books are very thought-provoking. Also, Roth's "The Plot Against America" is fantastic, probably the best alt. history book I could name, and written by one arguably one of the top 5 best authors alive today, can't beat that!

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I loved Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers. It incorporates a mix of true events and fiction into the story of late Britany history. The best thing about this novel is that the facts are so well researched and the fiction woven so well into the original history that its almost seamless. While the backstory is a central focus the compelling characters keep it from becoming overwhelming. It was an outstanding read.

(The second book Dark Triumph was even better than the first!)

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