Alternate History

Tales of Brave Ulysses (Timeline 10/27/62)

Tales of Brave Ulysses (Timeline 10/27/62) is the sixth book by James Philip in a Brit-centric alternate history take on the aftermath of a Cuban Missile Crisis turned spasmodic WW3. Over in hours, or so it seems, but everything is changed.

I love this title. The author has a fondness for using song titles as book titles, and the Cream song of the same name is one of my favorites.

This is the last one out as I write this, and thus the last in my reread project for this spacific series. There is a parallel series, currently at three books, set from an American perspective, largely in the United States.

Fair warning: This books ends in the cliffhanger to eclipse his previous cliffhangers. Unless you have paid unnatural attention to detail, you will end the book by crying out “nooooooooo!” I admire the skill that went into building that ending. Fantastic! Luckily, the next volume is out soon. I have preordered it. There will be enough chaos, even without Philip being proverbially ghost-written by GRRM.

Obviously, I love the series. I have pointed out some modest complaints previously. The need for editing continues. Other things improved, or didn’t strike me as hard. Your mileage may vary. I can see some people simply not liking the type of story at all, or failing to get into it at the beginning.

By the end of this book, there has been some cutting to the chase, so to speak. What is known versus what is not known is always a driver of story, but ultimately must resolve for a conclusion to occur. Things look grim, but people who need to know now do, with help from the most surprising of sources. And there needs to be some action! Some tidying up loose ends. The next book is the last set in the sixties, within the years immediately following the nuclear madness. There will be two more, but the last is going to be set a decade later. That could be intriguing.

The Burning Time (Timeline 10/27/62)

The Burning Time (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 5) by James Philip is the fifth in a series of alternate history books, which together will complete an overall story arc, with a point of departure in which the Cuban Missile Crisis gets critical. It proves to be no more the end of history than was the end of the Cold War, although the United States starts out perceiving it as such. Lack of vigilance, lack of complete information, vanity, and lack of appreciation for who your friends are has its price – especially for your friends.

This set of books in the timeline are mainly written from a British perspective. There is an additional, overlapping series showing events almost entirely in the United States, and from an American perspective. You might also say that a Maltese perspective plays a key role in this, the main series. Malta is certainly the star among locations. Finally, this volume, and some of the others, are not without the perspective of historical or imagined characters in or from foreign locations. More often you merely see the impact on world events of what antagonists are doing.

The Burning Time is a bargain $3.99 on Kindle. As mentioned previously, and so far true throughout the series, editing could have improved things. Not the story, but the effect of skidding to a halt in the flow when you, if you’re like me, run into a typo, spelling error, repeated word, or such. The story is so compelling, at least for me, and the major characters so dear to me, it is well worth errors and periodic trudges through expository setup.

Red Dawn continues to raise havoc, while there are signs of danger that could be described as elsewhere… elusive. We tend to believe what we want to believe, and to dismiss what seems farfetched. This book ends on gut-wrenching notes that again are something of a cliffhanger. Luckily you will not have to wait to be able to read book six. Book seven is another story, and the cliffhanger therein is the ultimate, but that’s another review.

Red Dawn (Timeline 10/27/62)

I’ve been slipping, so I actually finished Red Dawn (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 4) some time ago and didn’t immediately write a review. This is, as you’ll know if you’ve been following along at home, the fourth in the primary, Brit-centric Cuban Missile Crisis alternate history and aftermath series by James Philip. In fact, you will see three reviews in rapid succession, because I have also finished the fifth book, and am about to finish rereading the sixth book in the series. After which there will be a sad wait for the seventh.

It’s hard to write reviews that are interesting without containing spoilers. Red Dawn is $3.99, a Kindle bargain, naturally. It carries on with the need for editing, which didn’t hit me so hard on my first read through. I’ve actually been catching more errors of various types this time around, having become attuned to it, and because it’s a reread. If you can’t bear that kind of thing, you might want to pass. Also, I am not referring to British spellings or expressions, which are natural, considering. The wife recently observed that British English is currently gaining greater use in American English due to the popularity of BBC shows. This came up because a blogger friend of mine was told “speak English” in response to the expression “sod off.” I joked that sod off is British for “get off my lawn.”

Onward. Shockingly, something called Red Dawn comes to the fore in this volume. It continues to be clear that war is not done with the Anglosphere… even the Americans, and that the British and Americans need to be on the same side. The end is the usual cliffhanger, where you can’t be sure just how dire an outcome was until the next book. Good thing that’s already published!

Once again, well worth the read. With another caveat I ought have pointed out sooner, and which varies in degree from book to book in the series. There are swaths of exposition interspersed between action. Some is simply authorial exposition, and some is in the form of dry conversation or thoughts internal to a character. It does serve to set things up and move matters along, but it can be dull in places. Another picky thing is repetition of detail you’ve already seen enough that perhaps you need not see it again. If you are going to refer to “the Big Cats,” you should not need to clarify every single time that this refers to the ships HMS Lion and HMS Tiger. We don’t need to be retold every time that a particular character, a real historical figure, is a living national treasure yada yada. I’ve been finding that a bit grating on the reread, and it applies to the series, not to Red Dawn specifically.

That said, read it if you have any interest in this sort of thing. It really is great, picky details aside.

The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62)

The Pillars of Hercules (Timeline 10/27/62 Book 3) is the next in the main alternate history, Cuban Missile Crisis turned hot series by James Philip. It’s a bargain at $3.99, at least once you’re hooked on the series as I was by the time I finished the second one. I did notice a large number of instances where editing was needed. It rolled off me, but some, and usually I, may find it jarring.

Even as I read this, I found myself wondering what to say, besides praise how good the story is. I would reiterate the author’s skill at building connections between often disparate characters. It doesn’t seem unrealistic so much as literary usage of the proverbial “six degrees.” Kevin Bacon would surely approve.

Despite being Brit-centric, there is no shortage of action in the United States, along with some key points of view. I missed some details on my first read, including the vehement outlook of Curtis LeMay, and the implications of the glimpse we get at the thoughts of the heroine’s brother.

The events of this book have added meaning for me, given that I have read the volumes of the parallel USA timeline that have been published to date. If I were ambitious, I would eventually come up with a recommended reading order that would intertwine the two series logically. A bit like the periodic discussions in Robert Jordan fandom about at what point in reading the main Wheel of Time series you should interject reading the New Spring prequel.

At any rate, things have been unexpectedly grim, but at least now the powers that be have an inkling of what might be going on, and who is not an enemy. Onward!

Love is Strange (Timeline 10/27/62)

Love is Strange (Timeline 10/27/62) by James Philip is the second in an excellent series of alternate history books based on the scenario of what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned hot. This is part of my reread project, to review books I read before this site existed. Well worth rereading, I might add, though I don’t remember noticing the large number of spots that needed editing when I first read it.

The author skillfully weaves a web of interconnections between characters who might have been disparate, while also making them live and breathe in a way that gets you emotionally engaged. That comes into its own in the second volume, where the first contained more informational narrative to set the scenario. Ultimately, the entire series centers around a pair of fictional characters. However, you get into the heads of historical figures, as well as a wide cast of secondary characters. Secondary is not to be confused with unimportant. Some of the insight described in this paragraph comes from my having read the entire series to date, and then entire USA timeline series that intertwines with it.

To reiterate from my review of the first volume, this series is Brit-centric. The Americans don’t come off looking too good after destroying large swaths of the world with too little provocation, forgetting their allies in the process, and behaving in ways perceived badly afterward. The world becomes an extremely dangerous place.

If you can get through the first volume without being annoyed that the USA doesn’t come of the hero, it moves along wonderfully from there. I know from having read it already, it just gets better from here.

It is funny the things you forget. I had forgotten how early a pair of mysterious characters joined the story. I had forgotten the introduction of some lesser characters. I had forgotten how obvious it was that a character you hear of more than see is a bad guy.

Highly recommended.

Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62)

Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62) by James Philip is the 99¢, abbreviated introduction to an extended alternate history series that imagines what if the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned hot. This is largely written from a British perspective. The author has since created a second, overlapping series set in the United States, from an American perspective.

This is part of my Operation Reread, which gives me a different take, perhaps, than had I reviewed the book immediately following my first read. Obviously I got hooked, given that I have read every one to date, and have preordered each next volume as it has become available. Hooked or not, I can see why I perceived this as the least compelling volume in the series. I can also see how some might perceive it as anti-American. It’s written from the perspective of people in the world hurt far worse than Americans, who in the context of fictional events and a fictional hindsight could be seen as trigger-happy bullies. It’s worth suspending any misgivings you may have along those lines.

This first book runs heavily toward factual exposition, mainly in the form of facts laid out in an excerpted future history book/memorial retrospective. That may feel heavy and slightly dull at times, or it may be fascinating. It serves to fill you in, regardless, so we may cut to the characters and their stories. The most central characters and their interaction is introduced nicely. We also meet a few additional characters of importance. It’s just the barest of setups, in a way; cataclysm… now what?

I cannot recommend the entire series enough, starting with this fast-reading introduction.

California Dreaming

I finished this yesterday, but didn’t want to write and post the review the same day as Aftermath. This time James Philip brings us California Dreaming (Timeline 10/27/62 – USA), the second in his alternate history of the Cuban Missile Crisis gone hot from the perspective of the United States. The fantastic original series is from a British perspective.

The two series naturally interact, since these are the same events seen from different sides of the pond, through mostly different, if sometimes related, eyes. Coincidence stretches almost to the breaking point in the telling, but that can be the way of coincidence, so it’s not a real complaint.

Something sinister is happening behind the scenes. My personal theory is that the only reason for the October War in the first place was forces that didn’t exist or didn’t have their way in our own timeline. I could be wrong. Part of the beauty of the combined series it that there is such room to speculate and wonder. Having read the other series to date, I found myself anticipating larger events that would affect this (mostly) new set of characters. The author doesn’t disappoint, leaving things tantalizingly up in the air so we can’t wait for the next installment.

Something is rotten in America. Given that Americans were caught off guard by this, no wonder it was utterly baffling internationally.

The prices of $3.99 is a bargain for such an exceptional work. I had ordered in advance, so I had it in hand, virtually speaking, as soon as it released. Presumably the editing problems will be patched up in time, so you might see fewer or none. I’ve not seen as many errors in any of his other books. Mostly it’s wrong spellings, extra or missing words, as when you start to phrase a sentence one way and then change it, but leave a missing or dangling word. I’ve done the same many times. Too bad I can’t (as far as I know) flag a needed edit right from the Kindle.

That said, I would buy the entire rest of both sets on the spot, right now, if they were done, and read nothing but them until the conclusion. If there is a conclusion, per se, given that there’s an entire new timeline to play in, and endless possible repercussions. I would buy them in paperback, if they were available no other way. Your mileage may vary, but they are one of the best things I’ve read.

Aftermath

This review of Aftermath (Timeline 10/27/62 – USA) is sort of odd to write, given that I am waiting to reread the original series of Timeline 10/27/62 before reviewing those, which arguably should be read, at least the first one or two, first. The original set, starting with Operation Anadyr, have a British perspective. The Brits are in a hard way after nuclear cataclysm, complicated by the United States seemingly going mad.

All of these book are brilliantly written by James Philip. Aftermath was $2.99 and is just a bit longer than the abbrieviated Operation Anadyr, designed to get you hooked at 99¢.

Aftermath sets you up with various characters, some with familiar surnames if you’ve read the other series, and the events of the ever so brief October War from their perspectives. Where were you when the Cuban Missile Crisis went off the rails? It’s more intriguing, having read the other series, but probably not vital. We start to learn where the US was hit and how the personal and political might go down.

This book had more need for editing than I recall in the other series, if much less than the next one in the USA series. The advantage of electronic books is the ability to fix errors as readers find them. My inner editor sees every one of them, but I’ve gotten over being stopped cold when that happens. It helps that it’s hard to put down. The next one gets even more so, as I’m sure I’ll tell you again once I have finished it.

The Time Bridge at Orion

Frugal? It’s 99¢, but it’s also a short 55 pages/17,500 words, albeit packed with action. The Time Bridge at Orion is a sequel to One Thousand Years, also by Randolph Beck. It picks up after the events of the original book. In a way, it’s larger than its length, because setup is no longer required.

We learn more about the advanced aliens, who are, it seems, having a civil war. This makes for a dynamic three-way encounter at the point in space where the Nazi ship does not want to be seen jumping through time.

This was gripping. It took little time to read, its length compounded by the difficulty in putting it down. I’ve paid the same for far shorter works, so I can’t complain. I might have preferred a book-length sequel all at once for 3-4 times the price, but this left me more satisfied than I would have been had I been required to wait longer and remained at the previous stopping point. Perhaps there is something to say for what amounts to serialization.

You must read the first book before this, or else it will make no sense at all. So far, I recommend the whole series, unless the genre is not your thing.

One Thousand Years

One Thousand Years by Randolph Beck is the book I have been reading exclusively on my phone for a few months. Let me explain. Before I got an actual Kindle, when there was a sale I couldn’t refuse, I used the Kindle app on my phone. This worked well, despite the screen size. The Kindle seemed so large as to be unwieldy at first, though it took all of a day to adapt. Once I had the Kindle, I continued to use the reader on the phone while in waiting room situations. Beats stale magazines and drug company propaganda, or just staring around the place. Selecting one book that was exclusive to the phone made it especially compelling. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

I bought it at 99¢, but it’s a bargain at the current price of $2.99. At least, it is if you like science fiction that has military and historical elements. It’s the story of a Tuskegee airman, rescued from a crash off Italy by future Nazis. You learn their history as he learns it. It’s not the history you know or as he expects it to unfold. But why?

In the end, it got almost too compelling to read only while waiting. I took advantage last night of my Kindle having an inexplicably dead battery. I was almost done with the latest Spinward Fringe, naturally extra gripping in the last several percent. When that was done, I finished this one, also in its last several percent. Unfortunately, between the adrenaline of the charging problem and reading the climax of two excellent books, I had trouble getting to sleep. Not good, when the alarm goes off before 2 AM. I started a book that explores an EMP scenario as faced by fictional preppers, but that was too interesting, so I switched to a fantasy book where the setup would render me sleepy faster. That and I switched back to the Kindle, which had enough charge by then. Which was good, since the phone was down to 5% and needed to go on the charger as it normally does while I sleep. But I digress.

I am looking forward to more in the world of One Thousand Years. I went looking today, thinking there might be a sequel. I haven’t read it yet, but there is a 99¢ , 55 page story that follows up the main one to some degree. I bought it, and will probably make The Time Bridge At Orion my next “read on the phone” book. Assuming I don’t get impatient, because the end of One Thousand Years left a terribly intriguing mystery. If that doesn’t resolve things, I hope there’s more soon!