Category Archives: Alternate History

Review of “Through Darkest Europe”

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Book Reviews – “Through Darkest Europe” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Harry Turtledove (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Turtledove). Mr. Turtledove has published in excess of 100 novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Situations. The story is set in Europe, but not the Europe that we know. In this alternate history, Europe has fallen into a very dark age.

In this world, Saint Thomas Aquinas back in the 13th century had written the Summa Theologica, a book which concluded that studying science corrupted religion because it reduced man’s faith in God’s omnipotence and omniscience. The intellectual pursuits of Christiandom have languished since that time. Nearly a century and a half earlier, the Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali had looked into the same issue but had come up with an entirely different opinion. To him, the more that man learned, the better he can glorify God. This resulted in the Muslim world advancing in science and technology, while Europe fell farther and farther behind.

Now investigators Khalid al-Zarzisi and Dawud ibn Musa have been sent from Tunisia to Rome. Their mission is to do what they can to protect the Pope and the Grand Duke of Italy. The Maghrib, from whence al-Zarzisi and Musa come, does not want the Roman Grand Dutchy destabilized. There is a powerful underground Christian movement in Europe, The Aquinists. The Aquinists have ‘seminaries’ all over Europe for ‘educating’ the young men to strike out against the local governments as well as Muslim interests. Their goal is to turn the world back. To make the world over in their view of how people should live.

As foreigners, al-Zarzisi and Musa have no authority, they can only advise. They work closely with Italian police and find themselves more than once in the way of the Christian terrorists. Al-Zarzisi unexpectedly finds himself attracted to a Christian woman, Annarita Pezzola. As they continue their work, it becomes obvious that there is someone close to them that is working with the Aquinists. Is it Pezzola or someone within the Italian Ministry of Information.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 9.5+ hours I spent reading this 320-page alternate history. The world this novel is set in is a complete reversal of what we see. The Muslim nations are democratic and lead the world in education and scientific discovery. Europe has changed little in decades. The Europeans suffer from much unrest and poverty among the common people. The Aquinists take advantage of this and recruit young men and women as soldiers who are willing to die for their cause and achieve heaven. The story starts a little abruptly and is a little slow. I like the characters of al-Zarzisi and Musa. The fact that al-Zarzisi is Muslim and Musa a Jew puts another spin on things. I also like the whole ‘world-flipped-upside-down’ premise for the novel. I think that the cover art is well chosen. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

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Review of “The Blue Sky Wolves”

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Book Reviews – “The Blue Sky Wolves” eBook was published in 2018 (November) and was written by S. M. Stirling (https://smstirling.com). Mr. Stirling has published more than 55 novels. This is the fifth novel in his “Emberverse V Rudi’s Children” series of alternative history novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story is set nearly 50 years after ‘The Change’ with the second generation living on the altered Earth.

Crown Princess Órlaith and Japanese Empress Reiko first lead their forces in the freeing of the Hawaiian islands. Then they lead the armies of Montival and Japan respectively to Korea in a final confrontation with the occult power that was behind the Yellow Raja. Once they have landed in Korea, they meet unexpected allies there, the descendants of Genghis Khan now rising as a force to be reckoned with in Mongolia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 11 hours I spent reading this 352-page alternative history fantasy. I have read most of the novels in the Emberverse series and have found them all enjoyable. I like the characters of Órlaith, Reiko, and their comrades. I think that Stirling has done a great job both with the plot for this series as well as with creating interesting leaders in a broken world. While this novel was filled with battles between the forces of Montival and her allies, the end seemed too easy and simple for the conclusion of this part of the series.  I do like the cover art selected for this novel. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Black Chamber”

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Book Reviews – “Black Chamber” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by S. M. Stirling (https://smstirling.com). Mr. Stirling has published more than 50 novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and some Mature Situations. The story is set during the World War I years, though in an alternate timeline. In this world, President Taft dies in office and Teddy Roosevelt becomes president again instead of Wilson. The result is a much more conservative US. A US that is primed to enter World War I against Germany.

The primary character of the story is Luz O’Malley Aróstegui, a young woman who is a spy for the Black Chamber, an American intelligence organization. She is sent on a secret mission to Europe posing as a Mexican revolutionary who is seeking Germany’s assistance. She discovers that the Germans plan a secret attack against American cities to delay them from entering the war.

Aróstegui must use both her feminine wiles as well as her considerable skill to fool the Germans, obtain the information she has been sent for, and report her findings.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 13.5 hours I spent reading this 400 page alternate history thriller. The altered timeline is interesting and gives a foundation for some creative stories. I have read many of Mr. Stirling’s novels and have found them all very entertaining. The chosen cover art is OK. I give this novel a 4.5 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Arabella The Traitor of Mars”

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Book Reviews – “Arabella The Traitor of Mars” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by David D. Levine (https://www.daviddlevine.com). Mr. Levine has published three novels as well as numerous novellas and short stories. This is the third in his
“The Adventures of Arabella Ashby” series. Read the interview with him.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in an alternate history to our own. While the story is set in Earth’s 19th century, this one has lighter-than-air craft traveling around the Solar System since the 1600s. The main character in this fantastical tale is Mrs. Arabella (Ashby) Singh, a young woman who has grown up in the British Colony on Mars.

While she is a more or less proper English young lady, she has shown far more interest in adventure and mechanical automata than English refinement. She has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with as she helped her fiance defeat Napoleon’s space navy at Venus. While in London celebrating the defeat of Napoleon and paying last respects to Lord Nelson who died in the battle, she learns of a plan by both The Mars Company and the British Crown to force the entire planet of Mars into the British Commonwealth.

Flush with the defeat of Napoleon, there seems to be no obstacle to Britain’s domination of Mars or the Solar System. When her husband is chosen to lead the British forces, she feels betrayed and flees Earth in a desperate attempt to reach Mars ahead of the British forces and lead a resistance as she feels Mars is her home rather than England. It becomes a race to see if adequate Martian forces can be brought together to oppose the powerful British fleet.

I enjoyed the 8.5+ hours I spent reading this 336 page steampunk alternate history and fantasy. While I liked the story and there are several very well created battles between opposing vessels, I really had a hard time with the notion of there being a breathable atmosphere between planets and ‘sailing ships’ able to travel through space. Perhaps if I had started with the first book in the series things would have been explained, but I doubt it. I was able to pick up this third novel in the series and read it without really needing to have read the prior novels in the series. I do like the cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “River of Bones”

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Book Reviews – “River of Bones” eBook was published in 2018 (July) and was written by Taylor Anderson (http://taylorandersonauthor.com). Mr. Anderson has published thirteen novels, all in his “Destroyermen” series.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in an alternate universe. Commander Matt Reddy and the crew of the World War II era destroyer USS Walker has somehow been transported to another Earth.

This is a more primordial Earth where the Walker ran straight into a war between the Lemurians and the Grik. The Walker has allied themselves with the Lemurians and is fighting a vicious war with the Grik. Not only must the humans contend with the Grik, but also the Holy Dominion. Some Japanese forces have found their way to this world as well and the Allies must contend with the very effective Japanese air force.

The League of Tripoli is another group of transplants who have ended up in the Mediterranean area of this world. While no open hostility exists yet between them and the Allies, clearly the League is working against them. The destroyermen and their allies must make a last-ditch stand to keep the Grik swarm from attacking Madagascar, though they face an overwhelming force.

I enjoyed the 14.5 hours I spent reading this alternate history thriller. This was a bit hard to read as a stand-alone novel. Fortunately, I had read a previous novel (#10) in the series “Straights of Hell” so I had a little background. I would strongly suggest starting at the beginning of this long series if it sounds interesting. I like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “The Philosopher’s Flight”

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Book Reviews – “The Philosopher’s Flight” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Tom Miller. This is Mr. Miller’s first publication.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Situations. The story is set in an alternate history. An Earth where magic is both possible and common. The story is set in the time of World War I with the primary character being 18 year old Robert Weekes.

Weekes uses empirical philosophy, a branch of philosophy (magic) that is almost entirely dominated by women. His dream is to be part of the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service. A group that is exclusively female. He has read and heard stories about the Sigilry Corps all of his life. His mother was a hero of the Corps during earlier military actions. Now he wants to find a way to join up and aid allied soldiers at war in Europe.

An attack by those opposed to the use of magic gives him the opportunity to show what he is capable of. That leads to a scholarship to study Philosophy at the almost all female Radcliffe College. He must overcome the bigotry of the women who surround him. He meets a young heroine of the war, Danielle Hardin, at Radcliffe. Soon they are more than simply friends, which brings a touch of romance to the story. Not only must Weekes overcome the resentment of his classmates, but he must survive further attacks by those that want to see magic outlawed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the nearly 10 hours I spent reading this 433 page young adult alternate history fantasy. While this was another ‘young magician off to face the challenges of school’ story, I thought that it took a refreshingly different approach. I liked the characters created for this story and look forward to reading more in this series. I am not a fan of the cover art. I give this novel a 4.8 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “The Powhatan”

Short Stories – The short story “The Powhatan” is available on the Baen Books website. This alternate history tale took me about 30 minutes to read. This story was written by Tony Daniel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Daniel_(science_fiction_writer)). Mr. Daniel has published 10 novels.

I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in an alternative history where Roman Legions have occupied part of North America. The Romans have the city-state of  Potomak (located West of Washington DC on the Potomac river by the falls) under siege. Seventeen year old Wannas Kittamaquand is one of 22 who have been chosen to quietly go over the city walls and seek help.

I enjoyed this short story and would like to read more of the Universe in which it is set. Not only are the Romans in North America, but there are beasts and men you would consider part of a fantasy. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

Review of “The Sea Peoples”

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Book Reviews – “The Sea Peoples” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by S. M. Stirling (https://smstirling.com). Mr. Stirling has published more than 55 novels. This is the fourth in his “Rudi’s Children” series.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story is set in an alternate timeline, several years after the Change, when unknown powers disabled technology on Earth.

Earlier in the series Prince John, the brother of Crown Princess Órlaith had been captured by dark powers. His sister, along with Japanese Empress Reiko, are searching the Pacific for John. They are briefly delayed by an assault on the Kingdom of Hawaii by the forces of Pyongyang (Korea).

I found the 9.5 hours I spent reading this 331 page alternate history interesting. While I had found the first novels written about the Change to be exciting thrillers I could hardly put down, I found this one falling far short of that mark. To me this was a slow and dull story for the most part. The cover art is OK. I give this novel a 3.5 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “DEI BRITANNICI”

Book ReviewsShort Stories – The short story “DEI BRITANNICI” by D. J. Butler (http://davidjohnbutler.com) is available for free from the Baen Books website.

This is a Fantasy short story set in an alternate timeline. This is a prequel to the novel “Witchy Eye”. England is on the verge of falling to the Necromancer. Will Sir Isaac Newton and John Churchill be able to defeat them?

This is well written but jumps into the Universe established for Witchy Eye. I enjoyed it, but I felt out of place with the plot and characters as I have not read Witchy Eye. I read this short story in less than 20 minutes. I give this a 3.8 (rounded up to 4) out of 5.

Review of “The Massacre of Mankind”

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Book Reviews – “The Massacre of Mankind” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Stephen Baxter (http://www.stephen-baxter.com). Mr. Baxter has published more than 30 novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story takes place some 14 years after the original “War of the Worlds”. The British have learned much from the technology left behind by the Martian attack.

When launches are seen on Mars once again, the British prepare to repel a new wave of Martians using all they learned in the first invasion. The martians though, have learned from the first invasion too.

The primary characters of this story are continuing characters from the original, including Walter Jenkins. Britain is not the only target in this new assault. Soon the entire world is attempting to fight off the Martian onslaught.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 13.5 hours I spent reading this 498 page alternate history and science fiction thriller. This is an authorized sequel to the original work and it has the right feel for the period – the 1920s. If you have read the original “War of the Worlds” and enjoyed it, you will want to read this sequel as well. I like the cover art selected. I give this novel a 4.7 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).