Sigh. I wanted this to be so much better than it was. Instead we get a bland story about a man recruited to kill a Nazi commander in an alternate histSigh. I wanted this to be so much better than it was. Instead we get a bland story about a man recruited to kill a Nazi commander in an alternate history where England and Germany made peace and divided Africa between then. Things go wrong, and it becomes a race to escape the Nazis while running into black rebels. People die until only the expected character is left alive at the end. Characters are drawn with a broad brush, and the plot is as thin as a Fast and Furious movie. In fact, it read more like an outline for an action movie.
I really wanted to know more about the alternate history. The Africa parts are based on Hitler's actual plans (according to the afterword), but there was a lot that could have been filled in. The US stayed out of everything, but there is no explanation of why Japan never attacked Pearl Harbor (at least I assume they didn't, since the US apparently never went to war with them either). I have trouble believing that the USSR was so easily subdued.
There was the potential for a really good alternate history novel here, but it just didn't quite work....more
This story actually surprised me. I was kind of expecting a pulp-style story about a monkey who is a fighter pilot in WWII. Instead, I got one set a hThis story actually surprised me. I was kind of expecting a pulp-style story about a monkey who is a fighter pilot in WWII. Instead, I got one set a hundred years later where the monkey was star of a massively popular multi-player computer game. But the programmed monkey is showing signs of self-awareness, leading a group to decide that he is an actual artificial intelligence. A member of the group is the girlfriend of the Prince of Wales, and she pulls him into 'rescuing' the enslaved AI.
But things go crazy from there. The company behind the monkey is also owned by the prince's mother, and they've been 'treating' the prince over the years. The break-in finds a *real* monkey instead of a self-aware computer program. And the truth of what the queen has been up to. Meanwhile, a woman who is a cyborg is investigating the murder of her ex-husband (and others), only to be targeted herself.
Oh, and there's the mission to Mars that is more than it seems.
Part alternate-history, part cyberpunk, part steampunk, part thriller, part pulp, this book throws in everything except the kitchen sink. Strangely enough, it all works, and I look forward to giving the next book a shot....more
I read the first book when it came out, and really enjoyed it, but due to various factors, it took until now to get to the second novel of the trilogyI read the first book when it came out, and really enjoyed it, but due to various factors, it took until now to get to the second novel of the trilogy. But that's alright. Book two has a twenty year jump from the first book (although I better read book three faster).
At the end of the first book, which featured English warlocks vs Nazi science-created superheroes, the Soviets captured the Nazi technology. As a result, they now control pretty much all of continental Europe. England has a lot of refugees, and the US is in a decades long depression.
But now Gretl (the seer) and her brother have escaped from the Soviet outpost studying them, and they've made it to England, stirring things up all over again. Will, consumed by guilt over what he did during the war as a warlock, has been giving the Soviets the locations of the warlocks, setting them up for assassination. Marsh has become a drunk and his marriage is collapsing because of his son's... condition.
And then there is the question of the otherworldly creatures that the warlocks contact to do their work and what they really want for our world.
The story ends on a cliff-hanger, and I really look forward to finding out what happens in the end....more
This was an intriguing little book about a group of astronauts stranded on the moon when the US and USSR go to nuclear war and destroy the world. HoweThis was an intriguing little book about a group of astronauts stranded on the moon when the US and USSR go to nuclear war and destroy the world. However, they also have a Nazi-made (?) device that lets them slip between alternate worlds. They are hunting for a world that has destroyed itself, but one where the US still exists and has a space program. And preferably before they run out of food or go crazy (there's already been several suicides). But will they find what they are looking for?
I won't give away the ending (there's a twist!), but as a fan of the space program, I found the appendix as interesting as the story, if not more so, as it outlines an alternate space program that didn't shut down the moon program after Apollo 17, but also headed straight into a world-ending war.
The story, unfortunately, seemed a little... unfinished. It definitely should have been longer. Instead, there's a twist! and then it stops, with no follow through....more
If you are looking for a plot-intensive story, or great action, this is not the book for you. However, this is a fantastic look at how different a lifIf you are looking for a plot-intensive story, or great action, this is not the book for you. However, this is a fantastic look at how different a life can be based on a single choice.
Patricia is an elderly dementia patient who has two sets of memories, as if she is switching between alternate worlds. The dividing point is when her fiancée (who she got engaged to after knowing for a single evening) says that they have to get married either right away or not at all.
In the immediately universe, she ends up in an unhappy marriage with four children. In the not at all universe, she goes on to fall in love with Florence (the city) and a female biologist, and between them they have three children and a happy life together, even after her partner looses her legs in an IRA bombing.
But even more interesting is how history is different in the two lives, and different from our own. For example, in the first universe, Kennedy is killed, along with his wife and the governor of Texas, by a bomb, and Bobby Kennedy comes up with possibly false evidence linking the vice-president to the plot. In the other history, the Cuban missile crisis culminates in a limited nuclear exchange that destroys Miami and Kiev (with other nuclear exchanges in other parts of the world that follow).
In a lot of ways, it was the background alternate histories that really fascinated me, and I would have liked to have known more about them. I was certainly drawn through the entire book, and a little disappointed when it ended....more
As a fan of Egyptian history, I really wanted to love this book. Really. Mind you, I didn't hate it. It was a fun read, it just was a little half-bakeAs a fan of Egyptian history, I really wanted to love this book. Really. Mind you, I didn't hate it. It was a fun read, it just was a little half-baked in places.
The world is a sort of steampunk world, where the change in history is that Julius Caesar was not assassinated, and he and Cleopatra went on to control all of the known world. This does not make much sense, since Rome was heavily against them at the time, and Egypt was on the wane. The idea that their descendants are still ruling all of Africa, Europe, and most of Asia, nearly 2000 years later is highly improbable. That this world would be practically a Utopia is even more so, looking at the history of Rome and Egypt.
Even more improbable is the idea that with all those changes, we still have Verdi composing Aida. Plus there's a rebellion being lead by Victoria and Albert, along with Bismark. After that much changed history, they shouldn't exist.
And then there's the Americas, ruled by a combined Inca/Aztec/Maya empire. They're the ones that developed dirigibles, and are trying to send a rocket to the moon.
The last is the cause of the story, with two princes (and man, there's a lot of royalty in this world, along with silent soldiers and naked servant women) sent by the Queen of Egypt to investigate the moon rocket rumours. They meet up with an Incan prince (for the three princes of the title), and conveniently end up in just the right place (although one of the men actually mentions the coincidence, and credits the gods).
The ending came across as rushed, with too many coincidences to be comfortable. Not to mention two cases of 'love at first sight, so we're getting married' that had me rolling my eyes. And the whole 'black orchid' conspiracy was hand-waved away. And since there was no indication of a sequel to come, it was disappointing.
Still, for a first novel, it was a fun, if not terribly deep read. I enjoyed it, but the ending stopped if from being a really good book. That and too many naked women being described in great detail....more
I love a good alternate history, and while this one wasn't a home run, it was definitely a solid double. (don't ask me why the baseball metaphor: I doI love a good alternate history, and while this one wasn't a home run, it was definitely a solid double. (don't ask me why the baseball metaphor: I don't have a clue).
The basic concept is, drawing on real scientists on Nazi Germany who were interested in rocketry with the goal of getting a man to the moon, are recruited to create a space plane capable of bombing New York to keep the US out of the war in Europe, cancelling the actual Nazi missile program. When MI-6 finds out, they warn the Americans, who pull resources from the Manhatten Project, and set them, under Robert H Goddard, to develope their own spaceship to stop the Nazis.
As a whole, the novel is somewhat lightweight (expanded from a short story that was his first published story, later revised), but I sill really enjoyed it. It even managed to treat the German scientists (Sanger and Von Braun) rather sympathetically. And written with the framing element of the surviving members of Goddard's theme being interviewed for a book seventy years later, we get a few hints of what the future was like after that (Steele's novel The Tranquility Alternative is loosely set in this universe).
I would have preferred a longer, more intense, treatment of the story idea, but it was still a fun read, especially after seeing the far less serious movie, Iron Sky (Nazis on the dark side of the moon!)...more
Heart of Iron covers a lot of ground in content. It's alternate history, it's steampunk, it's early feminism, it's a spy novel, and it touches the edgHeart of Iron covers a lot of ground in content. It's alternate history, it's steampunk, it's early feminism, it's a spy novel, and it touches the edge of fantasy (with the Spring-Heeled Jack elements). Oh, and it's set in Russia.
Sasha is a young woman being raised, since her father's death, by her slightly silly mother and her intensely practical maiden aunt, Eugenia. During her 'coming out', Sasha's aunt gets into an argument with the Emperor (who is obsessed with all things English), that results in her becoming part of the first group of women to be admitted to university.
At university, Sasha becomes friends with a group of Chinese students -- equally outcasts in the eyes of the Russian male students -- and runs into a mysterious British man who appears to have super-powers.
And then she finds out about British plans abroad, and ends up on the run, taking the secret British plans to a China in the middle of the Opium Wars, hoping to persuade the Chinese to approach Russia about an alliance against the dastardly British plans.
I really like Sasha. The author does a great job of showing a young woman thrust into roles that she was not raised for, considering the time period. The prejudice of her teachers rather reminded me of a Canadian Heritage Minute commercial about the first woman (Jennie Trout) to go to medical school, and the reaction to her (you can find the video at the official website -- and it is also part of a DVD that can be ordered)
In other words, the author does a great job of avoiding the common mistake of dropping what is essentially a modern woman into a historical period.
I look forward to reading more of Ms Sedia's writing....more
A great side-story to the Axis of Time series. We finally get to see Prince Harry (in this universe) as a focal character, including what was determinA great side-story to the Axis of Time series. We finally get to see Prince Harry (in this universe) as a focal character, including what was determined of his position in the royal family when his grandmother is younger than he is. It's also interesting how, instead of Berlin, Rome is the divided city with a wall down the middle.
Spies, defectors and secret Soviet weapons (since Stalin, who has now lived longer than he would have in our world, is determined that the collapse of the USSR won't happen the same way in this changed timeline).
I look forward to the next part of this story....more
Peter and his photographer father are chosen to accompany the last dinosaur circus as it returns the dinosaurs to the Lost World (Doyle's book was hisPeter and his photographer father are chosen to accompany the last dinosaur circus as it returns the dinosaurs to the Lost World (Doyle's book was history, not fiction) in 1947.
The first half was a little slow, until they reach the drawbridge that divides the Lost World plateau from the rest of South America. At that point, between an angry carnivorous dinosaur and uncooperative local military, everything goes wrong, and things get excited.
I bought this book when it was first released in paperback (15 years ago), and I finally got around to reading it. It was a much simpler book than most of Bear's science fiction, but a fun, pulpy read....more
Deck Z isn't the first 'zombies on the Titanic' book I've seen, but it's the first one I've read. (Don't ask what the other ones were titled. They looDeck Z isn't the first 'zombies on the Titanic' book I've seen, but it's the first one I've read. (Don't ask what the other ones were titled. They looked so bad that I didn't bother finding out anything more).
Dr. Weiss is a German expert on disease in the days before the first World War. During a mercy mission to China, he comes across a disease he's never seen before, that turns its victims into madmen, and sets them to attacking their fellow humans. After dealing with the small outbreak, he returns to Germany with one of the victims, and sets about finding a cure. But he finds out that his country, planning a war, wants to use the disease as a weapon of terror against Russia. Horrified, he torches his lab and flees with a sample of the Toxin, planning to escape to the US to continue his attempt to find a cure, and ends up on the Titanic, pursued by a German agent trying to retrieve the Toxin.
Of course the agent gets the Toxin. And after Weiss tries to convince him that it isn't actually the toxin, he tests it on a flea-ridden rat, which then starts spreading the disease.
This leads to the classic battle. The Toxin, of course, turns people into zombies. We get the heroic captain, trying to save his passengers. We get the representative of the ship's owner who orders full speed ahead, wanting to get to New York faster because of the invasion, leading to the crash with the iceberg. There's the ship's doctor, who become infected, the ship's designer, who also goes down with the ship, and even the scene of the ship's band playing until the end, even as the zombies advance, reflecting history.
Plus we have the heroic german scientist, and the plucky girl in third class who befriends him, plus the agent with a tragic past that he wants to avenge, but which drives him to commit attrocities
And there's the chance of a sequel, since the story starts with a submersible retrieving the metal container that holds the vial of Toxin.
For a zombie novel, it was a very good read, with a lot of echoes of actual history, as well as a number of very likeable characters (both created and historical), and some characters that you love to hate. I definitely recommend it to fans of zombie novels....more