Best Alt History?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by thirstyVan, Feb 19, 2011.

  1. thirstyVan

    thirstyVan the Thirsty

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    Just looking for opinions. What do you think is the best alt history book/series?

    That would be a book or series set in the real world (or something close to it), but with some fantasy elements, which have usually affected the course of history. Examples,

    Naomi Novik's Temeraire series
    Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series
    Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

    This does not include historical fantasies. That would be novels/series set in a fantasy world which is based on the real world/real world events. Guy Gavriel Kay does this, I believe.

    As for me, I love the Temeraire series, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was an excellent book. I wish Clarke would write another already (but considering how long she spent on the first one, I think we're in for a wait).
     
  2. Twinner

    Twinner Registered User

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    It has been years but I remember enjoying the book, "Fatherland" by Robert Harris. It was an interesting take on, "What if Hitler remained in power?"
     
  3. owlcroft

    owlcroft Webmaster, Great SF&F

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    Depends on definitions . . . .

    It is possible for an alt-hist tale to have no magic whatever, and be just what the description says: an alternate history.

    A few oddities along these lines (in which I have omitted worlds so different--so very magic-heavy--as to not be "alternate history" so much as sheer fantasy):
    • Aldiss, Brian W.: Report on Probability A
    • Card, Orson Scott: the "Alvin" cycle
    • Davidson, Avram: The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy
    • Helprin, Mark: Winter's Tale
    • Roberts, Keith: Pavanne
    • Wright, Austin Tappan: Islandia
    As I say, this is just some few oddities that might not make other people's lists.
     
  4. ben1xy

    ben1xy Registered User

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    Would Wild Cards be considered Alt History? I recently had the chance to get my hands on the TOR edition and it was really good
     
  5. Zillarian

    Zillarian militaryscifi.com

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    I always liked Harry Turtledove's stuff as well as S.M. Stirling's Marching through Georgia and the rest of his Draka series
     
  6. chokipokilo

    chokipokilo Unreasonable reasoner

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    Habitation of the Blessed (Valente) is based on a real hoax letter that described a fairy tale land. There were many expeditions in search of such a land for several centuries. Habitation is basically about the hoax being true, but nothing about the land quite matches expectations.
     
  7. beniowa

    beniowa Registered User

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    A few other alt histories I've read and enjoyed,

    The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
    The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, Mark Hodder
    The Cardinal's Blades, Pierre Pevel
    Roma Eterna, Robert Silverberg
    Bitter Seeds, Ian Tregillis
    Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

    Yes, I'd say so. Wild Cards is definitely one of the best ones.
     
  8. Tyler Hawke

    Tyler Hawke Registered User

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    A quick aside: I'm currently reading a very interesting book about possible futures. It's called The Next 100 Years, A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman. Compelling stuff. He uses history and trends to predict future events.
     
  9. Sfinx

    Sfinx Life's a riddle

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    The Man in the High Castle is certainly a good read. Making History by Stephen Fry turns the question around: what if Hitler had never existed? I think Harry Turtledove has made a career out of writing alt history novels, but wouldn't know if they're any good. I can however highly recommend Frederik Pohl's The Coming of the Quantum Cats - where earth is invaded by alternate Earths from alternate universes. Entertaining and thought provoking.

    Cheers,

    Sfinx.
     
  10. spiralcity

    spiralcity Registered User

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    The Proteus Operation by Paul Hogan is interesting.
     
  11. ebusinesstutor

    ebusinesstutor Star Gawker

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    Orson Scott Card's "Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus"
     
  12. Pub

    Pub Registered User

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    Havent read them in a long time but i though they were good back then

    Stephen Lawhead writes a lot of crusade type king arthur books
     
  13. upperhi

    upperhi Registered User

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    suggestions

    Here are some suggestions, both fantasy and SF, books that I loved (i put only lst in series where there is a series):
    Sean McMullen- Voyage of the Shadowmoon (really wonderful characters and situations- great tragedies, nobility, intrigue)

    sean McMullen- Souls in the Great Machine (Great Winter has destroyed technology, "the call" forces people to walk westward unless tethered at time the call comes, an ingenious woman tries to restart tech)

    Jacqueline Carey- Kushiel's Dart (sex and political intrigue, but no supernatural elements)

    Kim Newman- Anno Dracula (Dracula marries Queen Victoria)

    Steven Brust- any of the Viscount of Andrilanka series or The Phoenix Guards

    Liz Williams- The Snake Agent (where you can travel b/t earth, heaven and hell, and the policeman has a demon partner)

    Connie Willis- The Doomsday Book (or for lighter book, To Say Nothing of the Dog)- student historians use time travel as educational tool (sometimes with disastrous results)

    Scarborough, Elizabeth -Channeling Cleopatra- getting a bit of DNA from Cleo and hosting her spirit

    Christopher Moore- Practical Demonkeeping (hilarious)

    Tanya Huff- Blood Price (female detective meets vampire- solve mysteries)
     
  14. upperhi

    upperhi Registered User

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    another thought

    Forgot, recently read "into the Storm" by Taylor Anderson. Beleagered destroyer in WWII pacific battle with Japanese, escapes by steering into a storm and comes out in another reality with dinosaurs.
     
  15. Jennifer P

    Jennifer P Registered User

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    Early Harry Turtledove is excellent. I would put 'The Guns of the South' as one of the best ever.

    But...and this is just my opinion...avoid the entire Great War series (starts out well, goes downhill) and In The Presence of Mine Enemies. I'd be wary of anything he wrote this century.
     
  16. Zillarian

    Zillarian militaryscifi.com

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    That is an excellent series though the dinosaur bit is not really a primary story line, at least not directly. While the Grik are obviously descended from dinos they are a clearly defined society (granted a viscous one).
     
  17. ArtNJ

    ArtNJ Registered User

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    I liked Stirling's Draka stuff too. Stirling doesnt seem too well liked on here, but the stuff is fun end engaging.
     
  18. Holbrook

    Holbrook Edited for submission

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    If you like Alt History stories, take a look at, "the Company of the Dead", By David J Kowalski
     
  19. PeterWilliam

    PeterWilliam Omnibus Prime

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    Gemmell's Troy series is often remarked upon as his best work. However, I've not read it.
     
  20. DDCOrange

    DDCOrange Registered User

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    I think Stirling's the best! Though his recent stuff (the Nantucket and Emberverse series) is more "Alternate reality" than "Alternate History" though I suppose I'm splitting hairs. Still very good though!

    Others in this type of genre that I like are:

    John Birmingham's World War 2 series starting with Weapons of Choice where a slightly futuristic international task force is plopped literally in the middle of World War 2 due to a bizarre physics experiment gone arwy.
    His Without Warning series is also very good (the final volume has just come out).

    Harry Turtledove is usually pretty reliable. His Worldwarseries about a massive alien invasion in the midst of the Second World War is excellent...just don't read the sequels (i.e. Coloniztion seires). Unlike some others, I did like the Greatwar series and Guns of the Southwas among his best. His more recent stuff though has been disappointing.

    Eric Flint's "Ring of Fire" series is also good; particularly the main story threads that he and David Weber write. Some of the perepheral stuff written by others is pretty hit and miss.

    I'll have to try some of the other recommendations here. I really enjoy this type of writing as I'm kind of a history nut. I would say the more you know about history the more this genre will have appeal.