Top positive review
Excellent Collection of Speculative Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on July 31, 2015
If anyone has regrets in life -- and who doesn’t? -- the phrase “what if?” is a constant. As humans we look back at key moments and wonder what would have happened if we had done something differently. Inherently this is a major part of time travel stories, exploring revising the past to gain a better hand on the future.
But...what if something had actually been different? What if I had told Jessica I liked her when I was in the fifth grade? What if I had studied more for that important final exam in my college physics class? What if I had invested $100 in Google the first moment I’d ever heard their name?
That age old question is addressed in a historical context throughout the latest speculative fiction anthology ALT.HISTORY 101, curated by Samuel Peralta. The thirteen stories in the collection are all wonderful examples of what could have happened in history had something else transpired.
What if...the age of immunizations never happened? What if...Steve Wozniak didn’t found Apple, instead focusing his talents elsewhere? What if...the women’s suffrage movement wasn’t successful?
Answering these questions, along with dozens of others, the stories in ALT.HISTORY 101 showcase the incredible stories set in those alternate worlds where that “what if” situation occurred.
I really can’t say there is a bad story in the bunch, but the stories range from the good, to the great, to the important.
Important? Yes. Important. Take Pavarti Tyler’s story for example. Entitled “Concerns of the Second Sex,” her tale looks at a world where the 19th Amendment never came to be. In fact, with the absence of the women’s vote, the world has reverted to a place barely recognizable. Well, recognizable if you’ve read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but that’s about it. Tyler pays homage to Atwood with this story and takes it a step further with the treatment of other races, including race mixing. If we never respected the rights of half of the species, why would the race movement of the 50’s and 60’s be successful, either? The story is tragic, yet Tyler does give it a hopeful note. I found it poignant and an important story to read and understand where we’ve come from and where we are going.
I also really liked Tony Bertauski’s “108 Stitches.” One its face, Bertauski’s story is about baseball, but there is so much more to it. In a world where Steve Wozniak is thrust into the world of medical engineering, artificial stem cells are the norm. With this in mind, we’re given the story of Theo, a man whose entire life revolves around a white ball with red stitching. As one of the best baseball players on the planet, Theo wrestles with his own existence as a recipient (and maybe even victim) of said stem cells.
Another story I couldn’t stop thinking about was Michelle Browne’s “The Factory,” a world where slavery never ended. The world was portrayed well and showed how close we still are to the institution of forced labor we thought we’d left behind a century and a half ago.
All in all, there isn’t a dud to be found in the collection. Each author takes their own approach and I really enjoyed reading the vastly different writing styles as I went from a Victorian age story to a mid-19th century American tale to a futuristic telling of the dangers of unchecked disease. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the stories. As a high school history teacher in my day job, part of what I do is challenge my students to think about what would have happened if… With this collection, we get a small peek at those worlds and the fascinating characters alive in them.
I did receive an advanced reader copy, but have preordered my copy of ALT.HISTORY 101 for my own. I look forward to having this on my shelf and to more stories in the universe of alternative history dreamed up by Samuel Peralta and his cadre of excellent storytellers.