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 (*).
Aspirations of Mediocrity...
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.
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.

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