Roads Not Taken by Gardner Dozois

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Book Information  
AuthorGardner Dozois
TitleRoads Not Taken
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Anonymous
(Mar 27, 2000)

This is a book of short stories culled from the magazines Analog and Asimovs.

The quality shows. The stories have been selected to be published in the magazines. Then from all of the qualifying stories, these few have come through a second selection process to appear in this book.

It is a stark contrast to the previous book of this nature that I read. Alternate Generals edited by Harry Turtledove.

"Must and Shall" by Harry Turtledove

In this story, Turtledove shows he is a better Author than Editor.

Set in 1942, at the time of the second world war, the story concentrates itself on the situation in New Orleans.

But this is a New Orleans in a Different America to the one which we know today. In this America, Lincoln was shot at Fort Stevens in 1864. Far from losing the civil war, the North then went on to a crushing victory leaving the south resentful to this day.

Overlay WW2 onto this alternate history and posit that the Nazis would be sympathetic to the souths cause, (on the basis of your enemy is my enemy), and the stage is set for an entertaining read.

Turtledove has a number of powerful insights and draws the reader into making their own comparisons with history in our own continum.


"An Outpost of the Empire" by Robert Silverberg

This is by Robert Silverberg and therefore is a de-facto long and rambling story which doesn't seem to be going anywhere before it finishes leaving you strangely satisfied with the outcome. In this story the Roman Empire never fell. The story of the empire is told through
the eyes of a Roman Proconsul as he woos a Greek lady on his latest posting.

The Romans have effectively imposed the Pax Romana on the entire world, stopping scientific progress in its tracks.

At the end of the tale, I had to stop and ask myself... was this such a bad thing ?

A story that makes you think a litle... Can that be a bad thing ?


"We Could do Worse" by Gregory Benford

This very short short takes place in a bar at the time of the 1956 republican convention in the USA.

It is so short that to say any more would be to spoil the story.

It says much in a very short space, but I think to fully appreciate the irony, you would need to be American.


"Over There" by Mike Resnik

This story deals with some of Americas famous statesmen in unfamiliar settings.

How would some of the gung ho heroes of the past fare in World War 1 trench warfare ?

Resnik does a good job in conveying the sense of mud, loss and waste. However, there is

little here to really get your teeth into.


"Ink From the New Moon" by A.A. Attanasio

Attanasio postulates an American continent, North and south, discovered by the chinese

before any caucasians made their claim.

In the form of a letter from a clerical assistant to his far away loved one, this story

charts the first contact between the Chinese settlers in their new world and Christopher Columbus

on his first landing.

The parts that stand out for me are the graphic descriptions of the technological advantage

the Chinese had at that time. The portrayal of the difference in racial psyche is also pronounced

although conveyed subtly by Attanasio.

What might have been if the Chinese truly had achieved this early colonisation is nicely

left for the reader to ponder on his own.


"Southpaw" by Bruce McAllister

Not many people know that Fidel Castro, the renowned and feared leader of communist Cuba, was a fine

baseball player in his youth.

In this alternate world, Castro did not turn down the New York Giants and go on to become a revolutionary leader.

Instead he finds himself on a pitchers mound in New Yark, A western appartment, wife and lifestyle.

Perhaps because the alternate history, (ours), is so strong, he finds himself having halucinations of being

a rebel, fighting in jungles.

This then leads him to become involved in a secret(ish), plot to free Cuba.

Mcallister makes some interesting points but the denoument is all to predictable.


"The West is Red" by Greg Cosikyan

A world where America is not the capitalist bastion we all know...

but an America of socialist ideals and leftward leanings.

As predicatable as the seasons, the socailist economy is shown to be hopelessly backward, examples being

a single computer in each country with a snippet of dialog amongst the heroes speculating what could be

done with a computer per person.

This of course is all a valid postulation. However, here it is done without balance.

Would it be so bad to trade off a slight delay in the speed of scientific development in favour of feding the

poor and ensuring that education is universal ?

such notions are given short shrift here. They are discussed in such a way as to show that the Author is

American as apple pie and proud of the American way.

I found that this unbalance marred what could have been a great story.

A shame.

On the other hand... I could have missed the point entirely and this could be the best ironic story in the world.


"The Forest of Time" by Michael F Flynn

I discovered Michael F Flyns work when 'In the country of the blind' was published in serialised form in Analog magazine.

That was a science fiction story set in the past or a parallel universe.

The story presented here is one where a researcher creates a machine which is capable of crossing from one parallel

universe to another. th machine is still experimantal of course, and the principle not fully understood.

losing himself in the timestreams, our hero inevitably ends up in a war zone. This one is a place where the original 13

states never unified into the U.S.A.

Wars and unrest between the states continues. Science has not progressed. Our hero is arrested, stripped of his equipment and locked up.

Flynn makes the most of this opportunity. Through careful character development of some of the inhabitants of this land he shows

where the differences are in the timelines and how it affects the world, and the people in it.

A very worthwhile read.


"Aristotle and the Gun" by L. Sprague de Camp

De Camp chooses a subtle twist for his contribution to this work.

Can history be changed by a time traveller is the question. The protagonist sets out to resolve the question once and for all.

Not by killing anything or anyone, but by educating Aristotle so that science would accelerate and advance much faster

than it did in our time line.

The story is set in the time when Aristotle was educating the young Alexander the Great.

"How I lost the Second World War and helped turn back the German Invasion" by Gene Wolfe.

As anyone who has read 'Shaddow of the Torturer' knows, Gene Wolfe has a

slightly off beat view of the world.

I may be guilty of understatement there.

This story proposes a very slightly alternate world where the technology is

a little more advanced than in our own, The Japanese are a little more advanced

than anyone else. No reason is given for this. An annoying oversight in my opinion.

the year is 1938, just prior to when WW2 broke out in our continuum.

At the British exposition, world trade fair, call it what you will, the German

peoples car is pitched against a British rival in a competition arranged by a

number of high profile historical figures...

This is a very short story so any more will probably spoil it.

It would be sufficient to intimate however that it would be dissapointing were

the Germans to win, wouldn't it. And Wolfe doesn't make the mistake of giving

the Germans inferior technology, because that wouldn't follow the rules of stories

of this nature.

If you are already a Wolfe fan. Read and enjoy.

If you aren't, read and enter the world of one of the more esoteric science

fiction writers of our time.

Visit the author of this review

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