RogerBW's Blog

A Choice of Destinies, Melissa Scott 15 June 2024

1986 alternate history. While camped at Bactra and on the verge of the Indian campaign, Alexander the Great hears of a revolt among the Greek cities he left behind him. So he turns back…

That's the point of it, really; to explore how Alexander's world might have changed if he'd been forced to turn back and secure his empire rather than expanding it further.

After Greece, he's lured into the Italian peninsula in something approximating the Pyrrhic war, which is clearly an authorial excuse to pit phalanx against Roman legion; Bret Devereaux has been running a fascinating serieson this recently, and it's interesting to see some of the same points raised at several decades' remove. Obviously Scott's sympathy is with Alexander, but she doesn't assume that he'll simply win purely by being Alexander: he has to back that up with morale and discipline, and take advantage of the weaknesses of same in the enemy.

After Rome, he naturally has to go on to Carthage, because they're both a military (sea-raiding) and a political threat. There's plenty of siegecraft, as well as politics and psychology with unwilling allies.

Most of the narrative viewpoints are from Alexander's Companions, and I particularly appreciated the way that they're portrayed as continuing to love and follow him while remaining aware that he's human and dangerously fallible.

Intermissions leap forward to various moments centuries later, to show the world of Alexander's empire projected into its future, with its problems but also its triumphs.

It's a fascinating approach to alternate history, which I enjoy now rather more than when I first read it at about the time of publication.

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