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Worlds that Weren't Hardcover – July 1, 2002


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The Amazon Book Review
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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: ROC (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451458869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451458865
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,714,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Well written, with lots of historical details.
Graham
I'm looking forward to reading both their novels in hope it will fill some of this in.
Maddi Hausmann Sojourner
This was the least satisfactory story, as it seemed not to have much of a point.
Kelly Cannon Hess

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Carl Malmstrom on July 11, 2002
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 By WFK on September 12, 2002
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Cohen on 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 By Graham on March 16, 2007
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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