Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alternate Warriors - Edited by Mike Resnick

1993; 434 pages. Book #3 of Resnick's "Alternate Anthologies" series. Genre : Alternate History. Overall Rating : C- (below average, but manly).
This is a "what if" book. Mike Resnick asks a bunch of writers to take any historical person of reason or peace, and examine what would've happened if they had said, "the heck with turning the other cheek, I'm gonna kick some butt!"
What's To Like...
It's Alternate History, and that's a plus. There are 29 stories all told, which is about double what you get in most anthologies. The ubiquitous Esther Friesner is here. So is Mercedes Lackey, whose books I like. I also met five noteworthy historical figures that I had never heard of.
The Best of the Bunch...
Jane's Fighting Ships. Esther Friesner's contribution. Jane Austen teams up with Davy Crockett to strike a blow against Napoleon in French-occupied England. Wow.
Sam Clemens and the Notable Mare, by Mel White. Told with a Twainsian style of humor.
The Firebringers. An all-star cast of 40's Hollywood legends are the flight crew on a plane slated to drop the first atomic bomb. Destination : Berlin.
Queen of Asia. Sisygambis (who?) rallies the Persians to defeat Alexander the Great. Probably my favorite story in the book.
The Arrival of Truth. Kind of a Toni Morrison "Beloved" story, but only 25 pages long.
The whole list of bloodthirsty characters...
"(*)" indicates somebody new to me.
Julius Nyerere (*); Jane Austen; Martin Luther King; Gandhi; Frederico Garcia Lorca (*); Pope John Paul 1; King Tut's wife; Susan B. Anthony; Mother Teresa; Lawrence of Arabia; Mark Twain; St. Francis of Assisi; Leonard Bernstein; 40's Hollywood actors; Albert Schweitzer; Sisygambis (*); Moses; Marilyn Monroe; Thomas Beckett; Albert Einstein; Stephen Hawking; Tecumseh (kinda); Pope John XXIII; Neville Chamberlain; Sidney Reilly (*); Jesus; Martin Luther King (again); Jules Verne; Sojourner Truth (*).
All things Austen, always...
I had very low expectations for this book, and it lived down to them. Other than the "best" stories listed above, this was a pretty boring read. Some of the tales were silly, such as Albert Schweitzer playing Tarzan. Quite a few were banal - Martin Luther King or Gandhi or a Pope picks up a gun and goes postal. Yawn.
In the end, I think the main problem was the theme itself, not the authors. Alternate History cannot be propely done in 10-15 pages. Here's an example.
Sisygambis, the original cougar, outmaneuvers the invading Greeks, saves Persia, captures Alexander the Great, and History takes a different fork in the road. Fine. Alas, our story ends there. What we really want to know is how Western Civilization would then have been changed. And that isn't addressed.
I picked this book up solely because it had a Jane Austen story in it, and the 5-Squared mandate is to read and review any and all books written by her, about her, or with her in it. There is a lot of good Alt-History out there, and I kinda figured this would pale in comparison. I can't recommend Alternate Warriors, but I give it a C- because at least a couple of the stories held my attention. For the most part though, it was boring. Only my OCD made me finish it.

In closing we'll leave you with this Photoshopped image of our previous Pope, just oozing with machismo. For an appreciation of the Alternate Warriors task, go ahead and try to write an interesting short story about John Paul II in this alternate persona. I have a feeling it won't be easy.


Amanda said...

I saw the title and picture and knew immediately I had to ask if this was your manly counter to the Anne post. I see, though, that you already wrote up it was manly in your heading... :D

Unknown said...

The Pol Pot Saloon was a dive, no question, and heavy with late afternoon tropical air, thick qith mosquitoes. The clientele was expat, and they drink stiff liquors with stout American names: Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, Blackberry SChnapps. The men were lousy, lousy with drink, lousy with bad Asian currency, lousy with lice, the kind of place you don't exactly expect to find the pope. Imagine the surprise of the group of unshaven, twitchy eyed men, when John Paul II walked in, his censor slightly askew, the sleeves of his white cassock rolled up over his brawny pipes.
A slurred voice rang up fromt he back, and the room grew silent.

"You there, fella! Yeah, you. The man in the pretty white dress. Why don't you come back here and sit on mah lap?" The man stood, huge, burly, scrappily bearded, a straw stetston sweated permanently onto his grimy red locks. "What's with the hat honey?"

He reached for the tall, white hat, and John Paul moved, like lightning in a robe. The censor swung down on a knee, and snapped in half. He jabbed the jagged end uncomfortably under the chin, and gripped the offending hand in his steel grip, his iron fingers closing around the man's fist. Blood ran in red rivulets from where the man's nails were driven into his palm.

His voice was low, ragged, filled with so much power and fury that there was barely room left for the clip of his Polish accent.

"Son, nobody... NOBODY... touches the mitre..."

Amanda said...

I'm having some serious UHF flashbacks.

hamilcar barca said...

Excellent, Jason! That could be story #30 in Alternate Warriors.

and no, this wasn't intended to be a counter to the Anne of Green Gables trilogy. it took me a week to read this cuz i kept getting bored. i had the review about 90% mapped out today when i read Jason's. so it just took a tweak or two to make it fit as a reply.

Julie said...

All of this has me LOL, it's so hilarious! I think that Alt-J.A. story would be something to read for sure. Funny stuff :)

Christina said...

Good review, Terry. I might not pick up the book, though; however, I might have to peek at Friesner's story. 10-15 pages isn't really long enough to get into some stories, especially when the people don't act as we recall or their events might have a dramatic effect on history and domino to present day.

L said...

The Pope with an oozie. Hmm..

Excellent review. Smart ass.

hamilcar barca said...

the Jane Austen story is 18 pages long - definitely short enough to be read at the local library or used book store. no reason to purchase the book. there were several copies at the used-bookstore where i bought it, and i'm sure they'll refuse to buy my copy back. :-(