Yet another geek blog

16 November 2011

by Keith Roberts

In Short

A well crafted alternative history. The religious wars of the 16th Century were decisively won by the Catholic Church who then went on to increase their stranglehold over all aspects of society. We have a 20th Century inhabited by people who feel historical.

Things to Like

The detail is carefully built up to make the world very believable. Each chapter is a self contained story centred on a character from a different level of society. The most striking thing (to us) about this world is the way it has developed. People are allowed to develop existing technologies, but not invent new ones.

For example, they have steam locomotives, because they developed from steam engines. But, with no investment or research there are no railways. The locomotives are owned by private hauliers and run on roads that are directly maintained by the towns. The nearest thing to large companies are the guilds such as the one that maintains the network of semaphore towers but they are not free to do anything new.

Things not to like

The format makes it feel a little fragmented and lacking in overall narrative. Only towards the end to the different threads begin to come together and only at the very end does it ask questions about the nature of history and the way that it works.

Things it is like

  • Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove (The Spanish Armada is victorious)
  • The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock (The British Empire never falls)
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris (Hitler wins World War II)
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick (Ditto)
  • Going Postal by Terry Prattchett (Because of the semaphore towers)


posted by Yet Another Geek @ Wednesday, November 16, 2011


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