The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century

The first thing I’ll say about this collection is that not all of the content lives up to the title. In fact, after reading the first several stories which comprise about the first third of the book, I was only happy with a couple out of eight stories. The others were either too short to be interesting or too political for my taste. The last six stories, though, ranged from okay to outstanding. My favorite of the book was “The Death of Captain Future” by Allen Steele, which was more of a straight science fiction story than alternate history. Ward Moore’s “Bring the Jubilee” was the longest story in the book, but very good as well; it dealt with an alternate Civil War history and the consequences of time travel.

Some other good stories included “Islands in the Sea” by Harry Turtledove (also an editor of the collection), “Dance Band on the Titanic” by Jack Chalker, and “Moon of Ice” by Brad Linaweaver. Turtledove deals with a history where Byzantium falls earlier to Moslems and Bulgaria must choose between Islam and Christianity. Chalker’s story is about a steamboat that follows a route through several different alternate Earths on each leg of its journey. Finally, Linaweaver spins a tale of a Nazi victory in WWII and the startling events that transpire in a German Europe in the 1960’s as told by Joseph Goebbels.

Overall, this collection is similar to many collections of short stories: some are good, one or two great, and many okay or not so good. Also, I had read three of these previously in other collections, so one also runs the chance of encountering stories more than once. I would not call this the best collection of alternate history stories from the 20th century; I have read many other stories that are better than some of the stories included. However, depending on your taste, there are some good stories here to read.

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