RogerBW's Blog

Alternate Generals 26 April 2014

Anthology from 1998 of alternate histories based on different decisions by military leaders; edited by Harry Turtledove, Roland Green and Martin H. Greenberg.

Most of the stories, I have to say, are quite forgettable, can be summed up in a sentence and don't really have much to offer beyond that summation: Nelson fought for the French. Custer lived at Little Big Horn, and became president. Caesar decided to reject kingship, but was still assassinated. Joshua Chamberlain ends up fighting for the Confederates. And so on. A few left a more lasting impression.

The reason I picked up this collection was Tradition, by Elizabeth Moon: it deals with the pursuit of Goeben and Breslau in the early days of the Great War. Craddock replaces Troubridge, and ignores his orders so as to go after the fleeing ships. It certainly feels like a reasonable set of consequences, and the seriousness of contemplating an act of mutiny is given its due weight (possibly assisted by Moon's military background). I don't know enough about the period to pick holes in it, but I found the story most enjoyable.

Two Second World War stories go together, though they're not adjacent in the book; in both William Sanders' Billy Mitchell's Overt Act and R. M. Meluch's Vati, an air leader does a better job than the historical oneā€¦ only to find that, in one case, preventing the disaster of Pearl Harbor means the USA's entry into the war is much less whole-hearted, and in the other, that delaying Overlord and bringing jet fighters into Nazi service in large numbers merely prolongs the war and makes the end worse when it comes. It's always a temptation for a writer of alternate history to make things better (unless you're Steve Stirling who seems to glory in making things worse), and it's most pleasing to see an acceptance that sometimes a tactical victory can lead to a major strategic error.

The other stand-out story for me is Lois Tilton's The Craft of War, told as a Socratic dialogue, in which Sun Tzu is exiled from China and ends up organising the army of Xerxes. Here, yes, it can still be summed up in a sentence, but the joy is mostly in the writing style.

Recommended if you can get it very cheaply second hand, and you're interested in alternate histories anyway. But it's very slight, and would be hard-put to justify its original cover price.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 10:57am on 26 April 2014

    Yeah, they did a whole series of those. I could have sworn I had ALTERNATE GENERALS 1 and 2 but they seem to have gone the way of all pulp. (To the charity shops normally.)

    I still have ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS, which was quite fun. It had an alternate outcome for each of the American Presidential elections from Ben Franklin as the Father of His Country (more than he was already, the randy old devil) to Robert Sheckley dropping some alien first contact on Michael Dukakis. I rather enjoyed some of these, especially the picture of Teddy Roosevelt losing re-election due to a 'premature' support of feminism and ending segregation.

    I also have the last of the sequence ALTERNATE KENNEDYS and if you think GENERALS was less than full value for money...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 08:48pm on 26 April 2014

    I read ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS quite a while ago, but I didn't know enough about US presidential history to work out most of it. Still don't, probably. And my fascination with the Kennedys is probably best measured with a microscope.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1