Alternative History Novels

Years of Rice and Salt, definitely. “Guns of the South”, too - despite it’s time travel premise, it’s really an AH - and quite a good book, too, best I’ve read from Turtledove so far. And it doesn’t have too many characters or creepy sex scenes.

However, what I really should be puffing for here is For Want Of A Nail - though it’s not really a novel. It’s a history book from an alternate world where the British won in the American Revolution and it continues from there to 1970s, with a detailed description of historical events inbetween. While it might be a bit dry and the later events fall a bit into implausibility zone, it should still have a history nerd interested in alternative histories have his little heart go pitter-patter with excitement.

Kim Newman’s ANNO DRACULA series, beginning with the first vol of that title (Drac defeats Van Helsing & Co, then weds Queen Victoria & vamps the Empire), THE BLOODY RED BARON (he dominates Germany’s WWI military), and JUDGEMENT OF TEARS (1959 a retired Count is killed in Rome on the eve of his marriage)- all of these are chock full of references to historical & fictional characters of the era- John Merrick is a servant in Buckingham Palace yet also in an anti-Dracula secret society; Dr Jekyll & Dr Moreau are dueling colleagues as are Dr. Herbert West & Dr. Praetorius; Dracula’s murder is thought to be an Orson Welles magic-trick at a dance attended by Gomez & Morticia Addamms, Clare Quilty & Vivian Darkbloom, & Clark Kent.

THE IRON DREAM- Spinrad presents a long out-of-print SciFi novel by an Austrian failed political agitator-turned-succesful pulp magazine artist-turned-SciFi writer- the novel- LORDS OF THE SWASTIKA by Adolf Hitler.

RE Turtledove- I did like THE TWO GEORGES, I also recommend his (perhaps out of print) AGENT OF BYZANTIUM- its the 1200’s & an agent of the Christian Roman Byzantine Empire falls for a lady agent of the Manichean movement. The Church never split, a lot of religious turmoil never happened, and Mideastern Christians revere St Mohamet, Apostle to the Arabs “There is no God but Allah and Jesus is His Son”.

For anyone interested in this, it was edited by Robert Cowley. There’s a second book, What If? 2, also edited by him. It is also essays rather than fiction. The first one focuses solely on alternate histories stemming from military events; the second has some which are military-related, and some which are not.

The Years of Rice and Salt is amazing. I can’t recommend it highly enough. There are some slow parts, but overall, it’s incredibly thought-provoking.

Necessity and Freedom by Emma Bull and Steven Brust is tremendous fun. It’s set in 1848 England with conspiracies and swashbuckling galore.

Kantalooppi, this history nerd will definitely be looking for For Want of a Nail. Thanks for the tip!

No particular need to look far away - I got my FWoaN through Amazon. And I continue to definitely recommend the book.

BTW, I’ve ordered Lion’s Blood (an AH novel about slavery in American South with reversed roles - it’s a tale of an Irish boy-slave in a black Moslem master’s plantation) and should get it by Christmas. Has anyone read it? Is it good?

I’ve read quite a few of those books-- it’s a genre I like as well.

For something different, you might want to try the Chung Kuo series by David Wingrove.

It takes place in the near future, where China has taken over the world-- but managed to rewrite the past two thousand years of history (so that America was discovered by Chinese sailors, etc…).

Thanks everyone… I’ve written down the majority of these books as a list and will look for them at my earliest convenience. Keep ‘em comin’, though… I go through five or six good sized books a month. :slight_smile:

I knew somebody would suggest Pastwatch by Card, but I didn’t expect it’d be as soon as the second reply in the thread. Hats off, sleestak.

The Jesus Factor” by Edwin Corley. Guess what? The atomic bomb does not work if dropped fropm a plane!

Interesting read.

Making History by Stephen Fry.

What would have happened if Hitler had never been born?

Would it have been better? Not necessarily. It might have been pants!

Darwinia, by Robert Charles Wilson is sort of an alternate history. In 1911, Europe is obliterated overnight and replaced by an alternate Europe in which para-insects rather than vertebrates are the predominante land animals. A scientist who joins an expedition into the heart of the “new” continent eventually discoversthat his world is actually a re-creation of the 20th century inside an uber-computer billions of years in the future, and that the replacement of Europe was caused by a rogue computer virus.

Justa note on The High Crusade (mentioned above by Hometownboy):

Read the book! Avoid the movie! For some reason the producers decided to play it for laughs. They lost. :rolleyes:

I’ll second the Lord Darcy mysteries as well.

I’m reading What If? right now (Thanks, Secret Santa!) and finding it great fun, even though it isn’t fiction.

And I’m making a list …

Yeah they did make a movie of the book “Fatherland” - and it wasn’t very good. The book was (as usual) much better and I will second the recommendation. The idea is that Hitler won WW2 and manged to keep the “final solution” secret. Interesting stuff.

Also I believe the military book club (which can be found online at has an entire section of alternative history books.

Robert Charles Wilson is an excellent writer, he’s almost enough to make me change my mind about those filthy Canucks…almost…

Another one by him that toys with alternate history is ‘Mysterium’. A small town gets transported to an alternate reality where Christianity was never adopted by the Romans. The world is still dominated by Christians, but it’s a very different Christianity, based on Gnosticism with a lot of pagan influences. Interesting book.

I’ll 3rd Fartherland as an excellent read in the alt-history genre.

I forgot to mention earlier, S. M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers a world where the remains of a comet hit the earth in the late 1800s. North America is pretty much wiped out, most of Europe is destroyed, and Disraeli decides the only option to save the British Empire is to move it to India. That is the back story, the real story doesn’t start until the 21st century.


Wow, all these posts, and no mention of my all-time favorite (it is, admittedly, an oldie): Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration. In it, the Reformation never took place (the pope bought off Luther, IIRC), so Europe continues to be Catholic. It’s mostly about a boy with a beautiful voice who they want to turn into a castrato, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on as well.

Okay, having scanned to see if I was going to be the first on that, I now have to go back and reread the thread to jot down some titles.

Great topic, Aesiron!

Amen to many of those listed, I would not not reccomend any I am familar with. I see I have some reading to do on the rest.

I offer two, that I think fit in the category and while they might not make your top 10 — they perhaps would make your top 25 in the Alt. History (AH) Category List:

Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois
Set In the 1970s, ten years after the nuclear war that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US is still struggling to recover. More the story is set in that time (like in Fatherland) rather than the story truly being about AH.

1632 by Eric Flint. A six-mile square of present day West Virginia is tossed back in time and space to Germany in 1632, at the height of the Thirty Years’ War. This sounds soooo stupid I know, but it really isn’t bad. Very interesting.

William Sanders is a good alternate history author whose work is little known. The Wild Blue and the Gray is about WWI pilots in a world where the Confederates won the war. Journy to Fusang is about a world where the Mongols overran Europe and the Chinese settled the Americas.

The Divide by William Overgard is another out of print AH novel worth looking for. It’s set in the 1970’s with the United States divided between the Japanese and the Germans who won WWII.

If you’re looking for non-fictional alternate history (if there is such a thing) check out Almost America, The Hitler Options, The Napoleon Options, Rising Sun Victorious, and Third Reich Victorious. All of these are anthologies by historians on possible alternate histories.

The Domination is a neat series, not too scifi-y in the first books, but becomes more scifi-y in Drakon