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Fire on the Mountain (Spectacular Fiction) Paperback – October 1, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hugo Award-winning Bisson's novel looks at an alternative North America in which John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry is a success and the South becomes a separate nation with an African majority. Told through the journals of the former slave Dr. Abraham, who witnessed Brown's raid, letters of the abolitionist Thomas Hunter, and the life of Abraham's great grand-daughter Yasmin Odinga, whose story is set in the 1950s, Bisson offers a complex view of a world which inexplicably leads to technological achievement far beyond that which occurred in our own history. All of Bisson's characters come to life and present their understanding of the world around them-although not always accurately. In addition to the focus on the aftermath of Brown's raid, Odinga's story revolves around her personal issues, including her fractured relationship with her daughter, and the very public loss of her husband. The 19th and 20th century storylines don't completely mesh, with little to indicate how the changes introduced by Brown's success would result in Odinga's world of the 1950s. Civil War buffs and alternate history fans will both enjoy the proposals Bisson advances, even if he doesn't provide the necessary extrapolation.
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Review

“You don’t forget Bisson’s characters, even well after you’ve finished his books . . . [this book] does for the Civil War what Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle did for World War II.”  —George Alec Effinger, author, When Gravity Falls


“Few works have moved me as deeply, as thoroughly  . . . With this single poignant story, Bisson molds a world as sweet as banana cream pies, and is briny as hot tears." —Mumia Abu amal, death row prisoner and author, Live from Death Row


"A slender novel, but it does the science fiction trick of making you step back from your own world and see it more clearly, and it does so while wrenching your heart and setting your pulse pounding. All in all, one of the best alternate histories I've read."  —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing



"A book that continues to provoke questions about how and why our world is the way it is—and how it might be different."   —Indypendent (NYC)
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Product Details

  • Series: Spectacular Fiction
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: PM Press; Second Edition, Second edition edition (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604860871
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604860870
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found the book to be disappointing. My expectation was that the author would go into more detail about how the country and society had developed since John Brown's forces won the rebellion. The description of the historical event was adequate enough, but I felt that I never got a good sense of how the subsequent version of America differed from the current one. There were references to several wars that were fought but no explanation of what had precipitated them or who was on which side. There were references to places like Nova Africa, but again I was never clear what that was - was it the entire country or only one part of it. There were hints that the European and African countries had developed very differently, but again it was only hinted at. Those things would have been the most interesting for me - how would America, and the world, look different if the slave rebellions had been successful. I felt I never got a clear picture of that.
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Format: Paperback
John Brown is one of the most intresting and lesser known characters of American History. He led an unsuccessful raid on an armory in an attempt to start a revolution amongst slaves. This book tells the story of his success and the dramatic difference in American history and advances in modern technology as a result. It's got great characters and is intresting to anyone intrested in Sci-Fi, American and civil war history, black history, or current race relations.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not really a reader, though I love books and I love to read. I have trouble focusing and I can't always pay attention. This book, however, kept me interested. It switches between third person (sorta omniscient), first person, and, a little later, epistolary; it kept my attention. I read this book for a class, and I will say that this was the first novel I ever "accidentally" read past my assigned page readings. I love it, and will recommend this book to anyone, and especially to those who like historical fictions and science fiction. It was a neat read! Sorry for my run-on sentences!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've always been a fan of alternate history stories and this one was no exception. I enjoyed the author's take on the point of divergence and the lasting impact it has on the new timeline. Including our own timeline as a story within a story was a little cheesy and could have been dropped. I was also a little leery that technology seemed to be far more advanced in the alternate timeline.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Short, fun beach read, you can't go wrong with 99 cents and Utopian revised history.
There are a few things unexplained (precise geography, how technology advanced so fast so quickly, mostly).
Loved the irony of Abe Lincoln, whose mission was to preserve the Union and implement gradual emancipation, has mad him a villain.
Only question for me is why was the mechanic named Elvis Pressley Cardwell (not sure if the last name is correct) - is he supposed to be the "real" Elvis?
Overall, it's an intelligent, fun, interesting read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A unique experience in alternate history. The story focuses less on the action that many associate with Civil War alternate histores, and instead explores how its various characters relate to history, and how it forms our identity. It also functions to challenge how we understand the characters and the nature of the conflict that America loves to celebrate. Whether it is Lincoln as the Emancipator, Lee as the gentleman soldier, or supposed north-south divide on the issue of slavery, everything is re-examined when the struggle by Africans for Africans is placed in the forefront of the narrative. I would recommend this to anyone as a way of becoming interested in alternate narratives of the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as a pleasant experience in optimistic speculation on a brighter world that could have been.
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Format: Paperback
I don't usually like alternate histories but my brother recommended this one and it was very good. It's narrative is based on letters and a memoir of people at the time of the main events (1859) and tied in nicely with what the alternate history looks like from the vantage point of a 100 years on. A very well written book. I really enjoyed reading it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am really not sure why I just couldn't get into this book. I love history and thought that this would be an interesting read. I couldn't get past the first chapter. Too many names that I could't pronounce, places I couldn't identify and language I just wasn't getting. I was familiar with the area it takes place. I know it was supposed to be sci-fi, but it was unbelievable with the time frame only 100 years out from the beginning of the civil war. Maybe, I will try again...I don't know...for now it is in my archives.
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