What Might Have Been, Vol. 3

The Raw Feeds continue on this anthology series.

Raw Feed (1991): What Might Have Been, Volume 3: Alternate Wars, eds. Gregory Benford and Martin H. Greenberg, 1991.Alternate Wars

And Wild for to Hold”, Nancy Kress — This is not a kind story to Anne Boleyn, its focus. Usually Anne Bolyn is portrayed as a sympathetic woman who is interested in not only maintaining her station and virtue but ambitious, willing to rift Henry VIII away from the Catholic Church and, in the future, cause another secular/temporal rift between the Church of the Holy Hostage and the Time Research Institute. Kress does a nice job setting up another historical analog with Mary Lambert’s infatuation with Michael Culhane and Culhane’s infatuation with Boleyn mirroring Henry’s love of Boleyn. She is determined to live her life and have the drama of her averted death and she callously does not care who gets hurt in either of her time streams. Her supporters in England may be appreciated, but she is willing for them to die like her for the sake of drama and stubbornness. As the constable in the Tower of London says, “This lady hath much joy in death.” This story does something not done too often in the time travel and alternate history sub-genres. It gives us the vision of a person contemplating her own alternate history and being made responsible for deeds she did not — but was definitely going to — commit in another time stream. The weird sensation of seeing the actions and consequences of a life you did not live is well portrayed.

Tundra Moss”, F. M. Busby — In his introduction to this anthology, Benford talks about how the fate of an entire society can depend on a single line of infantry. This is a story built around that theme. I didn’t find it that compelling. Its historical turning point has Franklin Roosevelt getting a heart attack and not making, immediately, his “Day of Infamy” speech. Public sentiment demands immediate vengeance on Japan, and Roosevelt is politically unable to first direct his efforts to defeating Germany. The story centers on a small group of men on the Aleutian island of Amchitka trying to counter Japanese sabotage of the Alaskan Communication System. The ACS is needed to get a secret message from Russia to MacArthur’s forces. They have been waiting for Russian permission to use Russian landing fields for bomber flights to Japan. By this communication and an accident the Japanese are defeated. Then Busby throws in some cheap irony and reveals that Germany has detonated an atomic bomb. I don’t really see how tackling Germany second would have gotten them the A-bomb any sooner. I also found the tech talk about ACS incomprehensible. I did like the image of Dwight D. Eisenhower rearing to go in the second most important theater of the war. Continue reading

Eternity Road

Another retro review, this time from about May 1997.

A short review for me because I was either lazy or more concise and better writer then.

Or maybe it just wasn’t one of those books to inspire much comment one way or another.

My mother doesn’t read much science fiction, but her limited perspective review was that McDevitt didn’t know much about horses.

Review: Eternity Road, Jack McDevitt, 1997.Eternity Road

There’s a lot to like in this quest story set in North America several centuries after a plague brought the “Roadmaker” civilization to an end in 2079. There are the scholarly speculations, sometimes comical, sometimes poignant, on the meaning of Roadmaker ruins and literature. It is the discovery of a lost Mark Twain work that sets a group of scholars in search of the legendary Haven, reputed treasure trove of Roadmaker learning.

The journey to Haven definitely holds the reader’s interest with the scholars encountering artifical intelligences that still haunt the landscape, river pirates, and other hazards of the road. However, the story quickly falters when Haven is reached. McDevitt hurries the conclusion to his tale, and, though he provides a definite conclusion , it is so rushed it makes the book seem unfinished.


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