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Worlds That Weren't [Kindle Edition]

Walter Jon Williams , Harry Turtledove , S. M. Stirling , Mary Gentle
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alternate history is the branch of speculative fiction that explores what might have happened if history had taken a different turn. The obvious changes, like the Nazis winning World War II, have filled innumerable novels. Fortunately, the anthology Worlds That Weren't avoids the obvious with its four fine new novellas from four superior authors: Harry Turtledove, S.M. Stirling, Mary Gentle, and Walter Jon Williams.

The collection opens with "The Daimon," written by Harry Turtledove, AH's best-known practitioner. In Turtledove's turning point, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates chooses to accompany General Alkibiades to war instead of remaining in Athens, and sets Alkibiades on a triumphant, terrible new course.

Set in the British India-dominated alternate history of The Peshawar Lancers, S.M. Stirling's novella is a rousing old-fashioned adventure. "Shikari in Galveston" follows a hunting safari through a regressed American frontier that might have given even Daniel Boone pause.

A prequel to her Book of Ash tetralogy, Mary Gentle's novella "The Logistics of Carthage" concerns Christian warriors serving pagan Turks in a North Africa conquered by Visigoths instead of Vandals, and is the strongest story in Worlds That Weren't.

The collection concludes with "The Last Ride of German Freddie," in which Nebula Award winner Walter Jon Williams considers what might have happened if the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had taken himself and his superman theories to the Wild West. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

What if, in any single moment, history had taken a different turn? In the engaging Worlds That Weren't, bestselling author Harry Turtledove imagines a different fate for Socrates (which he spells Sokrates); S.M. Stirling envisions life "in the wilds of a re-barbarized Texas" after asteroids strike the earth in the 19th century; Sidewise winner Mary Gentle contributes "a piece of flotsam" from her epic Ash a story of love (and pigs) set in the mid-15th century, as European mercenaries prepare to sack a Gothic Carthage; and Nebula nominee Walter Jon Williams pens the tale of Nietzsche intervening in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 519 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (July 5, 2005)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000PC0S32
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,148 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
(14)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
When I first picked up "Worlds That Weren't", I was expecting an alternate-history version of "Legends", the 1998 fantasy anthology in which prominent fantasy authors wrote novellas based in worlds that they were best known for in the fantasy genre. My guess was partly right.
Two of the stories - S.M. Stirling's "Shikari in Galveston" and Mary Gentle's "The Logistics of Carthage" do in fact take place in universes the authors have previously explored. Each about a generation before the main action of the novels (or series), Stirling's story revolves around the father of Athelstane King (the hero of "The Peshawar Lancers") and Mary Gentle's deals with the 'parents' of Ash from "Ash: A Secret History".
The other two, though, seem to be independent works. Harry Turtledove's explores what would've happened had Socrates gone with Alcibiades to Syracuse (in Sicily) and if Alcibiades would not have fled following his summons back to Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Without giving too much away, he reenvisions Alcibiades as a possibly less-successful Alexander the Great a full 80 years before Alexander's time. Walter Jon Williams, on the other hand, takes a look at a Tombstone, Arizona to which Friedrich Nietzche had been medically exiled. He had Nietzche (sort-of) joining the Clantons against the Earps at the famous O.K. Corral shoot-out and creates a much different legacy for the Old West.
All four novels are well done and each author knows his or her territory well (and, more importantly, provides details about the real-world events in their respective afterwords), but some succeed better than others. Turtledove has problems resisting the temptation of having characters dwell on alternate fates (i.e., events as they actually happened).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing in Common but Too Expensive September 12, 2002
By WFK
Format:Hardcover
Since this is a collection of four unrelated alternative history novellas I first discuss them separately:
The piece about Alkibiades becoming an earlier Alexander of Macedon shows Harry Turtledove at his best: a good idea, credible story but still solid history and (unusual bonus for this author) short.
S. M. Stirling's story about a hunting party in an America after the fall described in his "Peshawar Lancers" universe is a somewhat odd mixture of post-nuclear expedition a la "The Postman", a western revenge movie and gothic horror-story. A good summer read.
Mary Gentle's story is the low point of the book: it gives the distinct impression of something put together from earlier, discarded material just to meet a deadline. It is unclear to the end what the story really is about and as a teaser or introduction into the "Ash" universe it fails miserably.
But the book as a whole is saved by its last piece: William's story about Nietsche in Tombstone is a rare gem. Crazy and funny (imagine: Nietsche as a gunman and gambler!), but still accurate. Just great.
My opinion about the book: the stories have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are all taking place in alternate histories. That wouldn't be a problem in a bigger anthology or in a magazine, but for a hardcover with just four stories it adds up to too expensive. So read it, but don't buy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superior but uneven works by major authors July 21, 2005
Format:Paperback
This collection presents standalone alternative history novellas by Harry Turtledove and Walter Jon Williams, along with works by S.M. Stirling and Mary Gentle set in pre-established alternate universes. Generally, while all four stories are well-written (and, in Gentle's case, extremely well-written), none of them except William's piece are exceptional.

Turtledove's "The Daimon" takes the most literal turning point of the four: Socrates' decision not to accompany the Athenian invaders to Scicily. By sending Socrates on that expedition, Turtledove sets in motion a believable chain of events that lead, of course, to a very different outcome. Turtledove is at his best, a refreshing break from the anemic, repetitive writing found in his various series. My only complaint is that the story ends where it probably should begin.

Stirling's "Shakari in Galveston" takes place in the "Peshawar Lancers" world, in which a heavenly body struck the Earth in the 1870s, leaving climate change, famine, and cannibalism in its wake. That novel is first rate, and so is this story. "Shakari" presents an expedition in semi-civilized, cannibal-plagued post-Fall Texas. The hallmark Stirling Gothic horror is in check, as is the gratuitous sex that often mars Stirling's work. The story's exciting, but it's the weakest of the four novellas. Stirling might have been better off choosing the Mexican "high culture" or the ascendant Native Americans, rather than degnerated Americans, as his subject matter. And, few readers havent't read "Peshawar" will fully appreciate this story.

The same is true of Gentle's "The Logistics of Carthage." This story demands an understanding of "Ash: A Secret History.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four very varied tales... March 16, 2007
By Graham
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Four very varied alternative-history novellas:

In "The Daimon", Harry Turtledove lets Socrates guide Alcibiades in Athens' wars with Syracuse and Sparta. Well written, with lots of historical details. (Including a cameo by a teen-age Plato.) Definitely the best of the four.

In "Shikari in Galveston" S. M. Stirling takes a gallant officer from his Peshawar Lancers through a dashing adventure against cannibals in a post-Fall South-East America. Light, fun, fast reading.

In "The Logistics of Carthage", Mary Gentle describes a minor incident in an alternative medieval (Arian) North Africa, which is apparently part of the backplot to her novel "Ash". Unfortunately this rather drags as a standalone story, with a great deal of emotional agonizing and very slow plot movement.

In "The Last Ride of German Freddie", Walter Jon Williams gives us Friedrich Nietzsche in the Gunfight at the OK Corral. A little slow, but an amusing look at Nietzsche applying his philosophy in the old West.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This a a group of some of my favorite Science fiction authors rolled into one book. I can see myself re reading this often.
Published 16 months ago by donald douglass
5.0 out of 5 stars A good collection of alternate history world stories.
I liked all the stories, but especially the Sterling as it is set in his alternate where the divergence point is a strike by a comet or coments in the late 1800's, nearly wiping... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Lloyd Willis
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
As a long time fan of alternate history and the authors of this collection I was very entertained by the short stories inside, if you've read any of their works and longed for... Read more
Published 18 months ago by tkioz
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
I really liked the Stirling and the Williams novellas.

The Stirling one was a return to his "Peshawar Lancers" world, but here in North America. Read more
Published on July 24, 2012 by Cissa
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh good enough
if you've got time to kill it's good enough, it's not their best work though
Published on January 9, 2007 by Francisco Lopez
3.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to alternate history; hardcore fans might yawn
These four alternate-history novellas made an appetite-whetting introduction for me, a newbie to alternate history. Read more
Published on August 14, 2004 by Kelly Cannon Hess
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-developed alternate to traditional history settings
Science fiction fans of alternate history settings will want to place Harry Turtledove, et.al.'s Worlds That Weren't anthology high on their reading lists: it provides four... Read more
Published on October 8, 2003 by Midwest Book Review
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Interesting Alternative Histories
"Worlds That Weren't" is a fascinating glimpse at four alternative histories written by writers who are masters of this subgenre of science fiction. Read more
Published on August 8, 2003 by John Kwok
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
I enjoyed all four of the stories in this anthology. In fact I went to get The Peshawar Lancers and Ash: A Secret History after reading the Stirling and Gentle contributions... Read more
Published on August 26, 2002 by Maddi Hausmann Sojourner
5.0 out of 5 stars A host of alternative history stories
Harry Turtledove, et.al.'s Worlds That Weren't provides a host of alternative history stories: new novellas which range in setting from ancient Athens to a very different Turkish... Read more
Published on August 9, 2002 by Midwest Book Review
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More About the Author

I'm a writer by trade, born in France but Canadian by origin and American by naturalization, living in New Mexico at present. My hobbies are mostly related to the craft -- I love history, anthropology and archaeology, and am interested in the sciences. The martial arts are my main physical hobby.

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