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An enjoyable collection from start to finish

Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History - L. Sprague de Camp, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Gardner R. Dozois, Gene Wolfe, Harry Turtledove, Gregory Benford, Bruce McAllister, Stanley Schmidt, Greg Costikyan, Shelly Shapiro, A.A. Attanasio, Michael Flynn

Short-story anthologies can often be a mixed bag consisting of both the good and the bad.    This is one of the reasons why Gardiner Dozios and Stanley Schmidt’s book stands out; taken from the pages of both Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and Analog Science Fiction and Fact, it offers a stronger than average collection of alternate history tales.  The book consists of the following stories:

 

"Must and Shall" by Harry Turtledove – In 1942 New Orleans, a federal agent works to head off an rebellion in a South still occupied by government forces.

"An Outpost of Empire" by Robert Silverberg – A Byzantine noblewoman reconciles herself to the reunification of the two Roman empires.

"We Could Do Worse" by Gregory Benford – Two FBI agents undertake an assignment in an American where McCarthyism rages unchecked.

"Over There" by Mike Resnick – Theodore Roosevelt puts together a new group of Rough Riders to fight in a very different conflict.

"Ink from the New Moon" by A. A. Attanasio – A man’s letter to his wife reveals a very different America.

"Southpaw" by Bruce McAllister – A Cuban pitching for the Yankees wrestles with events back home.

"The West is Red" by Greg Costikyan – A Soviet scientist is present as the United States grapples with the consequences of its defeat in the Cold War.

"The Forest of Time" by Michael F. Flynn – In a very different Pennsylvania, a scout comes across a man traveling from another world.

"Aristotle and the Gun" by L. Sprague de Camp – A scientist learns a valuable lesson when he attempts to set scientific discovery on a proper path from the beginning.

"How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion" by Gene Wolfe – In 1930s England, an American diplomat inspires a very different conflict between Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill.

 

Though not all of the stories are to everyone’s taste (there are a couple that, having read them, I doubt I will revisit again), the overall quality is quite good, much better than in most anthologies.  With an introduction explaining what alternate history is, this is an excellent book to give someone seeking an introduction to the genre, as well as a good addition to the bookshelf of any fan of the counterfactual tale.