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  1. #1
    the Thirsty thirstyVan's Avatar
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    Dec 2010

    Best Alt History?

    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. #2
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    Feb 2010
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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. #3
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Sep 2008
    Ritzville, Washington, U.S.A.

    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. #4
    Registered User ben1xy's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    Singapore/ Sydney
    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. #5 Zillarian's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    East Providence, RI
    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. #6
    Unreasonable reasoner
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    Nov 2008
    Abilene, Tx.
    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. #7
    Registered User beniowa's Avatar
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    May 2009
    Iowa City, Iowa
    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

    Quote Originally Posted by ben1xy View Post
    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
    Yes, I'd say so. Wild Cards is definitely one of the best ones.

  8. #8
    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. #9
    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.



  10. #10
    Registered User
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    Jan 2011
    Chicago, IL.
    The Proteus Operation by Paul Hogan is interesting.

  11. #11
    Star Gawker ebusinesstutor's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    Nanaimo, BC, Canada
    Orson Scott Card's "Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus"

  12. #12
    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. #13


    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. #14

    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. #15
    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.

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