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AltHist # 2

1/07/2011. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy AltHist # 2 in the USA - or Buy AltHist # 2 in the UK

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pub: Alt Hist Fiction. 72 page paperback or e-book. Price: paperback: GBP 6.99 (UK), e-book – various formats: $ 6.99.

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The second issue of ‘AltHist’ magazine builds on the solid basis of the first issue, bringing a collection of historical fiction and alternate histories from a broad cross-section of history. There are some wonderful stories among them. I said in my review of issue #1 that I wouldn’t normally read historical fiction by itself, but later remembered reading the entire ‘Brother Cadfael’ series several years ago. There is a selection of book reviews in this issue and I must admit I was intrigued by the premise of the novels.

‘Long Nights In Languedoc’ is an entertaining medieval knight’s tale by Andrew Knighton. Accompanying his brave and brash master to record his heroic deeds, a scribe discovers that there are some things more terrifying than the opposing army. It’s told in a light-hearted yet gritty tone and was a highly enjoyable start to the magazine.

The ancient Romans decide to honour their gods by launching the first astronaut into orbit, using some potentially feasible ancient technology. ‘The Apollo Mission’ by David X. Wiggin is pretty short but does a good job of imagining the setting and the feelings of the unfortunate volunteer.

William Knight gives us a first world war investigation into a suspicious death in ‘Son Of Flanders’. The horrors of life in the trenches are atmospherically portrayed without becoming gratuitously overwhelming. The stolid investigative work in the midst of so much death and destruction only serves to highlights the folly of the whole affair.

Enigmatic and atmospheric, ‘In Cappadocia’ by Ashley Rose Sullivan takes us on an unnerving trip through enemy territory in the company of a nervous soldier. It’s short but intriguing.

‘The Orchid Hunters’ is a superb story by Priya Sharma following an expedition to Africa to find the rare elephant orchid. Told in diary format, it is elevated above a run-of-the-mill Victorian adventure by excellent characterisation, atmospheric jungle and a plot that is far more involved than it first appears.

‘Death In Theatre’ is another short tale by Jessica Wilson, that relives the assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln from the viewpoint of the assassin. It’s an interesting study in motivation and human nature.

We travel to Egypt for Anna Sykor’s ‘The Scarab Of Thutmose’, where a confused young pharaoh would rather be a dancer than rule his country in an amusingly quirky tale of intrigue

‘The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street’ by NK Pulley is an intriguing Victorian tale set in London where the ingenious mechanism devised by the eponymous watchmaker appears to have strange powers. The flawed central character makes an interesting viewpoint to experience the strange goings-on.

The stories this time are of great quality, indicating a promising future for the magazine. Fans of historical fiction, fantasy, alternate history and steampunk will all find satisfaction in this collection.

Gareth D Jones

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