This is the second volume I have reviewed for SFFWorld courtesy of blog buddy NE White. The first was a mixed bag of End of the World stories. This, if you have not already figured out, concerns the First World War, arguably the most brutal war in history until that point. Here in the UK, we mark Remebrance Day on the 11th November as the anniversary of the end of the war and though it is used to commemorate all of our war dead, it reminds us especially of the great sacrifice made between 1915 and 1918.
I imagine the reader is asking precisely what speculative fiction writers can say about the past? Often rather a lot through implication but this deals with the more imaginative side of both historic fiction and sci fi. Alternate histories fascinate me and the concept for this volume was no exception. The offerings are:
In The Girl With The Flaxen Hair, Gavrilo Princip fails to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand and we see the devastating effects of a small war that may have just as devastating consequences for a greater world war to come.
In Wormhole, a man returns to active duty after an incident claims one of his eyes. He is sent on a mission working with experimental technology who come up against something quite unexpected on arrival in the British front lines. The trenches are deserted, but why?
Jawohl is the story of a man in the aftermath of the war pressed into a work gang to clear up and rebuild a walled fortress that protects them and the secretive scientific experiments going on behind the walls. Why is he there and what experiments has he been witness to?
The fourth is the contribution of Elizabeth Moon (yes, the same one). Tradition takes us away from the infantry war and onto the deck of a British naval ship in the summer of 1914 and some tough decisions for a Captain to make.
Next is On The Cheap; it is 1925 and a soldier is telling his story to a reporter that tells a very different story of an Irish war hero. The soldier plays up his own part in a daring rescue.
Sixth is One Man’s War which takes us back to Hitler in 1914 and the person who knew him best during the Great War. But who was the real Hitler? I would have to say that this was my favourite but I don’t want to explain why and give away the story.
Last but not least is The Foundation, a curious tale about a strange building project dedicated by The Empire to the sunrise on the date of 11/11/11.
There is no glory in war here, nor is there jingoism, or even solemnity for that matter. It’s just good old-fashioned storytelling and they are all of exceptional quality. Of the seven, I would have to say that my favourite is . I was surprised to have finished it in just a couple of days. I remember the previous collection having more stories than this; seven doesn’t seem quite enough and I was left wanting more. In some ways that works in the volumes favour though!
You should definitely purchase this, ideal for long train journeys. Intelligent writing without being taxing.