Reviewed by Matthew Appleton
This review originally appeared in the December 1998 issue (#124) of The New York Review of Science Fiction.
Most alternate history stories have as their “what if’ scenario something seemingly plausible. What if the Roman Empire never fell? What if the United States had lost the Revolutionary War? What if Napoleon didn’t invade Russia? What if the South won at Gettysburg? What if the Nazis had won World War II? What if a professional baseball team thought a young Fidel Castro had enough pitching talent to sign him to a contract? Well, the last question might be a bit of a stretch—talent scouts universally thought little of Castro’s arm—but such “stretches,” while a minority, are not that uncommon to alternate history: Harry Turtledove, easily the current leader in this subgenre, recently finished a four-book series where aliens invaded Earth during the middle of World War II; the hero of Ward Moore’s classic Bring the Jubilee alters the course of history by arriving in Gettysburg during the Civil War (widely accepted sf trope or not, we all know time travel is impossible); and in L. Sprague de Camp’s classic Lest Darkness Fall, the hero attempts to prevent the fall of the Roman Empire after falling through a crack in the space-time continuum.