History is a part of our past, informing our present so we can use it to live a better future. But when the past changes, our present becomes something very dissimilar to what we’re used to. One pivotal moment in time or a series of moments strung all together, ripple forward through history in impactful ways, vastly changing our present in ways never before dreamed. What would life be like if information was severely controlled and limited by the corporations or the government? What if Christopher Columbus never discovered America but something else entirely? What about mysterious technological advancements that helped mankind or was bestowed upon us by benevolent rulers? Or precious resources controlled by outside influences with more selfish motives? All of these possibilities and more await you in this amazing anthology where imagination runs wild and history is amok.
Starting with an enthralling introduction by anthology producer Samuel Peralta about the power of alternate universes and one of his sensational poems about past lives, we get twelve innovative stories about what might have been, starting with:
Jennifer Ellis’ “The Most Beautiful Woman” – In 1942, Hedy Lamarr, recognized primarily for her stunning beauty, is also an inventor, trying to encourage the US military to use her creation to help win World War II. But due to everyone’s inability to see past her looks, she decides to help spy on Hitler by infiltrating his secret bunker using her beauty as a façade. Can she succeed in this highly difficult mission? Lamarr’s point of view was extremely immersive, as her increased hopelessness, despair and sadness at her dilemma was deeply palpable. The thrilling plot was thick with tension on both professional and personal levels at the chauvinism all around her, with an unexpected, surprising and especially fitting ending.
Will Swardstrom’s “Requiem” – Mozart has loved Marie Antoinette from afar since they were children. In 1791, the French Revolution was brimming with violence and Mozart was determined to save his love, now the queen of France. But will his daring plan to rescue her succeed? Terrifically told from the point of view of Sussmayr, Mozart’s apprentice, this fantastic composition is filled with Mozart’s ardent passion for music and his love for the queen. As Mozart throws himself heedlessly into matters of the heart, so too did this story, sweeping me into it and building a formidable crescendo that culminates in a truly stunning and profound finale.
Artie Cabrera’s “Diablo Del Mar” – When Christopher Columbus fails to find what he was seeking, he actually discovers something bizarre and unusual. So when he tells the Spanish royalty, who are also his patrons, about what he found, they get angry and exile him and his crew! But when a member of a mysterious cult approaches him with an offer he can’t refuse, what is the price he must pay? Remarkably strange, off-kilter and just plain exciting, this tale has astonishing twists and turns that you never can predict, with a distinct language and style that brings a refreshing you-are-there perspective to this engrossing story.
Rysa Walker’s “Whack Job” – Simon is the right-hand man to Saul, a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. After destroying CHRONOS, Saul relies on Simon to time travel and adjust history so it suits his own ends. So, when Simon gets very curious about the trial of Lizzie Borden for murdering her step-mother in 1892, Simon can’t help himself and investigates the mystery of what really happened the day of the murder. And what he finds will astound him! Delightfully reveling in Simon’s arrogance and penchant for getting into time travel trouble, this tale dives deep into a compelling and engaging adventure where the outcome is always in question and the captivating historical details are mesmerizing, adding extra authenticity to this grim narrative.
J.E. Mac’s “Drought” – Harl and his seventeen-year-old daughter Lindz embark on a trek from their desert commune to Los Angeles to discuss some business with Pettray. You see, water is a highly prized commodity in short supply and L.A. needs more of it. Since Harl’s commune holds the secret, Pettray wants to know what it is so he can sell it. But when other dark forces come into play, Harl and Lindz are caught between a rock and a hard place as they try to survive! The author creates a foreboding atmosphere as well as a special relationship between a father and daughter that turns into a deadly situation as it transforms unexpectedly into an exciting page-turner with high stakes for the whole Los Angeles area!
Asha Bardon’s “The Elissiad” – After Hannibal destroys Rome and transforms it into the Eternal City of Carthage, two aliens Tanit and Baal now benevolently rule over it as reluctant gods, disguising their alien past while helping maintain the peace. Caught between her gods and her city, Elissa, a priestess and a princess, is torn as secrets are revealed and her city is thrown into chaos when a mysterious cult who questions their gods, calling their collective belief of these gods into question! A beautifully illustrated story about Elissa’s love of her city and her journey from being blinded by her faith into relishing the secrets behind it and the ramifications of both as they tragically collide.
Drew Avera’s “The Tesla Gate” – In 1904, Nikola Tesla is trying to invent a time machine, not just for himself but for his dear friend Samuel Clemens. He works in conjunction with Alokin, an intelligent and inspirational aspect of his personality who is more than she appears. As time passes, this dichotomy of two distinct minds must find a way to work together, as their ability to succeed lies in their sometimes adversarial relationship with one another, leading to a spine-tingling and wondrous conclusion! This back and forth verbal tête-à-tête between them is the appealing heart of this unusual yet charming relationship.
Adam Venezia’s “The Black Network” – A dock worker spends his time living where he works with an adequate quality of life but eventually comes to realize that knowledge is controlled by the elite. Deciding he wants more in life, he slowly sets out to try to make that happen. But can he succeed when the odds are stacked against him by society itself? This is a compelling and harrowing journey as one man methodically discovers his true purpose. I found the thoughtful detail behind this story was completely believable, well-reasoned, and mind-blowing in its complexity. A completely realistic and fantastic depiction of what happens when attempting to let knowledge loose for all to experience, hopefully making a difference for all mankind.
Hank Garner’s “The Visitation” – A man in a roadhouse, who was dismissed as a crackpot years ago, spins a yarn to a young but hungry journalist named Josh. This tale starts in 1985 when the narrator was a child when a mysterious hitchhiker named Marcel was invited to help around their farm in exchange for food and shelter. But Marcel is not what he appears to be and holds many secrets. And when we learn these secrets, we’re blown away by what it reveals and its ramifications for all mankind! But can we even trust the tale of this man in a bar? This is enveloping and engrossing storytelling at its best from the first page to the last and didn’t let me go until it reached its astonishing and completely unanticipated ending. That is how amazing and impactful those hidden secrets were.
J.J. Brown’s “The Finest Mask” – In a world where Europe invades North America in the 1600’s and is ravaged by infectious diseases, in the year 2020, the world continues to try developing vaccines to prevent this. But since the Indian nations refuse to share their genome, William searches the eastern coast of America in vain, attempting to find that elusive DNA that he needs. But since most of the world has been afflicted one way or another, will William ever meet someone with unblemished skin, demonstrating they are free of any past affliction? This compelling obsession of his is riveting, the scientific discussion is precise and the storytelling is impressive, depicting a horrifying world. And the impact of this problem upon human beauty and how it’s perceived by others is frightening as well.
Therin Knite’s “The Blackbird Sings” – The Cold War goes hot when the USSR assaulted the United States with nuclear weapons, launching a war and irradiating the West Coast forever. Now, the nation is divided, with the West eking out a subsistent living and the East turning themselves into cyborgs to protect themselves. Thirty years later, a Senator is dead at the hands of an assassin. Cybernetically enhanced FBI agents Kara and Zane are tracking the assassin, who went over the wall dividing the nation, heading right to California. Why the assassin is motivated to do so and what his agenda is are all part of this intriguing puzzle. The pace is swift and the action is exhilarating and kinetic, leading to an explosive conclusion that left a wide grin on my face due to its superb execution.
Alex Roddie’s “The Locked Web” – Eric is a 23-year-old man paralyzed by a stroke when he was a child, now wheelchair bound. Jobless, he observes how the world is embroiled in constant war with each other in 2015 and how London’s government has formed a police state in the name of national security. When the microcomputer industry went under after a Soviet cyber attack in 1982, access to computers and the Acanet became tightly controlled. Talking to friends on the Acanet, which he can only access at the public library, he somehow attracts attention from the government and it sets in motion a stunning series of events that ripple across the world. Eric is a highly sympathetic character, an everyman, tired of the frustrations in his life and tries to do something about it. This story has terrific characterization and is a well-written and all too plausible as well as cautionary tale of the government controlling the internet for its own ends!
A wide variety of topics are covered in this anthology, from religion to chauvinism, the power of information and who has access to it, from time travel to aliens, control of natural resources and other deviations from everyday society that we have come to love and enjoy today. There’s also many famous historical figures and their alternate histories, from Mozart to Hitler, to the (infamous) Lizzie Borden to Christopher Columbus, from Hannibal to Samuel Clemens and Nikola Tesla, there is a story here for everyone.
So sit down and settle in for wonderful and imaginative stories examining “what if” and be thankful that this is fiction. Many of these alternate histories are simply too frightening to contemplate. But what isn’t frightening is the captivating and thrilling stories we get to read as we explore the stories of what might have been.
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Leighgendary Rating: 10/10 Stars
If you liked this anthology about alternate history, then I’m sure you will also enjoy the first volume in this series as well, Alt History 101, which is part of the Alt.History line of the Future Chronicles anthology series.