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© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
Editor:  Ernest Lilley
Associate Editor: Sharon Archer

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Aug02 Contents
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Columns:
Editorial License
US Books
UK Books
Can Books
Comics
DVD

Events/Cons:
CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday, this must be TOR

Feature Interview:
Ken Macleod

Feature Review: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod

BBook Reviews
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
Alternate Generals II
ed by Harry Turtledove
Argonaut by Stanley Schmidt
Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
The Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by
Michael Marshall Smith
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars by Julie E. Czerneda
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Graphic Novel:
Murder Mysteries. Original short story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P. Craig Russell
Zine: The Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives

SFMedia:
Film:
Austin Powers: GoldMember

Metropolis (2002) Restoration
& Metropolis Essay
PowerPuff Girls
Reign of Fire
Signs
Simone

 

Alternate Generals II edited by Harry Turtledove
Baen Books; ISBN: 0743435281; (July 2002)
Review by Robert Archer
Hardcover , 352 pages $24.00 Buy at Amazon.com

Sometimes an author or a series becomes a victim of its own successes.  I suspect this is the case with Alternate Generals II.  After a successful first edition exploring a myriad of alternate universes, this second work does not seem to be as adept at grabbing the reader.  This is not to say that the effort is poor, just not up to what we’ve come to expect from a work with Turtledove’s name on the cover.  That said, there are some truly entertaining stories within this work.

For me the most entertaining tale was the one that stuck most closely to the tried and true formula of intertwining as many historical characters as can fit into the story.  “Southern Strategy” by Michael F. Flynn probably should have led off the book, but perhaps it was judged a little lengthy for an opening piece at over 40 pages.  However, I don’t think that the reader minds the length as it delves into an interesting world that will ring familiar to those opponents of getting too enmeshed in organizations like the United Nations.  Flynn’s story brings us the most diverse cast of characters as well as an alternate look at the League of Nations and the civil rights movement.

As the author heading up the compilation, Harry Turtledove pens “Uncle Alf”, a story told via letters from the main character.  This is a device used a couple of times in Alternate Generals II, though it sometimes comes in the form of diary entries too.  As usual, Turtledove does a wonderful job of making his world come to life and the emotions of the narrator shines through.  The only complaint I might have is that I wish he’d steer clear of the romance novel details that occasionally find their way into his stories.

A pair of stories that fit very nicely into the Generals motif both involve George S. Patton, Jr.  Roland Green tells us of a man that is quite different in temperament and reputation to the fiery General that became a household name during the Second World War.  A second tale brings a very interesting and well written comparison to the reader that relates to another controversial General, George Armstrong Custer.  “Tarnished Glory” by Chris Bunch examines a world that puts Custer and Patton as contemporaries and friends.  Beyond the actions in the story, “TarnishedGlory” also provides some thought provoking parallels. 

One of the wonderful hallmarks of short stories are their penchant for surprise endings.  This trait is exemplified in “Compatriots”, a joint effort by S.M. Stirling and Richard Foss that take us through the inauguration of Teddy Roosevelt and his surprise partner.  It is an interesting change to our history that while implausible in some ways, is quite an interesting and captivation story.  Another surprise ending comes to us from Esther Friesner in “Labor Relations”.  This is a story that will get a chuckle out of you, if not a sympathetic cringe.

While there were several interesting concepts and well-written stories in Alternate Generals II, there were enough stories that did not quite appeal to me that I am can't tell you to drop everything and go buy it.  There is enough here to be worth the read, but I’d look for it in paperback next year as that may be the format (and price) that suits this compilation best.

 

Rob Archer lives in Northern New Jersey and prefers alternate histories to traditional ones. He is a regular contributor to SFRevu.