alternate history


Collects Age of X-Man Alpha, Age Of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men 1-5, Age of X-Man Omega.

Writers: Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler

Artists: Ramon Rosanas, Marco Failla, Simone Buonfantino

The Alpha comic starts the new reality of the Age of X-Man storyline. When the X-Men seemingly died at the end of X-Men Disassembled, Nate Gray created another reality where he moved most of our merry mutants. Nate tried to create a paradise: a world where everyone was a mutant. But of course, something needs to be off. This time, Nate created a world where mutants have evolved beyond the base desires of love, family, and sex. People aren’t allowed to have relationships, no matter if they’re romantic or familial. Children are created in birthing chambers and raised in creches. They don’t know their parents or possible siblings. Trying to suppress such a basic human need isn’t easy. In the Alpha comic, we already find out that in order to create his utopia, Nate altered the memories of everyone. He also has Department X which arrests the ”criminals” and changes their memories even more, or if they ”infringe” several times, they’re taken away to prison. In the Alpha comic Jean and Bishop start a relationship and Bishop is arrested and dragged away. The rest of the team doesn’t even remember him anymore.

The Marvelous X-Men are Jean Grey, Storm, Magneto, Colossus, X-23, Nature Girl, and Nightcrawler. In this now peaceful world, they only fight against natural disasters. But when En Sabah Nur and his minion Kitty Pryde start to preach for love, the X-Men must take a stand. But is it against them or with them?

This was an interesting alternate world but of course, we all know that it can’t last. I had problems with a few of the ideas, such as Apocalypse as the messenger of love, but most of them were explained in the Omega comic. I didn’t really buy some of the romantic pairings the comics had, such as Bishop and Jean but of course the writers had to play with characters they were given.

I really enjoy seeing alternate versions of familiar characters and it was fun seeing Magneto, Storm, and Jean trying to get to the bottom of this new reality. The Alpha comic leads into all of the six new limited series and the Omega ties up all the storylines from the six series.

The third book in the alternate history/SF Lady Astronaut series. Technically it’s a stand-alone but I recommend reading at least the first book, the Calculating Stars, first.

Publisher: TOR
Publication year: 2020
Format: print
Page count: 542

Elma York and the others are on their way to Mars. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Earth First terrorist group is doing their best to get the International Space Coalition and especially the various nations around the world to cancel the space program. They don’t believe that the meteorite strick damaged Earth so much that human habitation will become impossible. Instead, they try to funnel the funds toward rebuilding the US. They use religious rhetoric to turn people to their side.

Meanwhile, IAC is already training colonists to go to the Moon station.

Nicole Wargin is one the first female astronauts, ”astronettes”. She also the wife of the Governor of Kansas, which is the current US capitol. Earth Firsters arrange demonstrations, try to poison the lead rocket scientist, and sabotage a rocket. The FBI and IAC suspect that one or more of the crew or colonists on the Artemis Base are Earth Firsters. During the war, Nicole was a spy. Now, IAC boss Clemens wants her to spy on her fellow astronauts and the colonists. She knows just how crucial the information will be, so she agrees. Even though she hates spying on her friends.

Her husband is thinking of running for president. Nicole is already a very public person and is used to supporting her husband. But being the wife of a presidential candidate would make it even worse. She’s not thrilled but supports him. He’s not thrilled that she’s on the Moon for months at a time, but supports her. I loved their dynamic, as much as I loved Elma and Nathaniel.

Nicole is the first-person POV character. She’s extremely competent. A pilot, a spy, an astronaut, a diplomat. She’s also very human. She hates her paranoid spy -side but uses it when she must. She has anorexia. She has been getting better, but when she’s stressed she forgets to eat. When she feels that things are out of her control, the only thing she can do to have a semblance of control is by starving herself. That’s not good in space when you need to be at your best. She also has arthritis on her feet, which she hasn’t told IAC doctors.

This was a wonderful continuation of the series and I enjoyed it a lot. Nicole isn’t Elma. Her damage is different from Elma’s. Just like Elma, she’s a very human character. I also loved her close friendships with the other astronauts. The only flaw for me was in the epilogue: I don’t think one of the things in it would be possible then. I enjoyed it, but it felt out of place.

This book is similar to the first one because it has lots of politics. The main focus is firmly on Nicole and her friends, especially in the latter half of the book. The latter half also has a somewhat claustrophobic feel because Nicole is hunting for terrorists on the Moonbase.

Apparently, the series will get at least one more book. I’m looking forward to it!

My next short story is available at Amazon!

infiltrator

During the Cold War, spies from both East and West played their deadly games in Finland.

MI6 undercover agent Alex wakes up in the middle of a park, in unfamiliar clothes. During a mission he does not remember.

He must find out how and why. Before it is too late.

The Infiltrator is a pulse pounding paranormal mystery short story in the world of international spies.

A stand-alone spy novel set in an alternate 1938.

Publication year: 2018
Publication year in Finland: 2019
Publisher in Finland: Gummerus
Finnish translator: Tero Valkonen
Format: print
Page count: 320

Rachel White is one of the few women in British Empire’s Secret Intelligence Service. She and a male colleague are handling a man who has defected from Soviet Union to UK. But the ex-Soviet doesn’t tell anything and in the end, he kills himself just after he has whispered to Rachel the codename of a Soviet mole in UK afterlife, the Summerland. She’s sure he has told the truth, but her hidebound, chauvinistic superior won’t hear of it and demotes her to desk duty for allowing the defector to die without giving any useful information.

But Rachel is determined to dig out the mole. She just doesn’t know whom to trust. Her husband is a war veteran, but not a “normal” war but one where men ate each other’s’ souls and it has changed him permanently. He doesn’t work for the SIS and Rachel must keep secrets from him, which is slowly destroying their marriage. She has made a lot of sacrifices to get a career.

The other POV character is the mole, Peter Bloom, who is dead and now works for the Secret Service in the afterlife. Ironically, Peter hates lying and tries to keep to the truth as much as he can. Through the whole story, we see glimpses of his life, what made him, a middle-class young man to turn to his country’s enemies.

This is not a James Bond –type story. It’s more like a cat and mouse game with very high stakes. The plot isn’t a simple one.

The world has lots and lots of very interesting ideas. When live humans found a way to communicate with the dead souls, it changed the world. The souls who don’t have a Ticket simply fade away. So, most people only care about getting a Ticket, which allows them to flourish in the Summerland. Then, death isn’t the end and there’s no need to grieve. In fact, some people kill themselves after getting a Ticket.

I was a bit disappointed that people can’t get away from dreary work even in afterlife. It wasn’t explained what sort of jobs most do and why, but I think they’re paid with energy which keeps them from fading and able to visit living humans. And apparently, Queen Victoria is still the head of the Empire, even if she rules from the other side. There’s also some very interesting stuff on how religion can support this afterlife and who people are worried that the living will have to support an ever increasing crowd of dead.

The Soviets, on the other hand, have engineered a group mind, the Presence, which is trying to destroy Summerland.

This is marketed as science fiction, but personally I put it in fantasy. Even though some (if not most) of the ideas in the book are based on real, if old scientific ideas.

A stand-alone mash up of Victoriana.

8970727._sy475_

Publication year: 2011
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: print
Page count: 424 plus seventy pages of extra material, including annotations of most of the Victorian characters appearing in the book, an alternate ending, and a part of a film script for Anno Dracula

The year is 1888. Van Helsing and his group sadly failed to end Dracula’s life. Instead Vlad Tepes is now the Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. The vampires he has made, and who have made even more, are everywhere: in the goverment, in the upper classes, in the middle classes, and among the poor and destitute. Turning to a vampire is both fashinable and a wise political move. The Prince Consort has brought his own Carpathian Guards who are keeping London in line. However, Britain isn’t the only place where vampires are increasing common; it’s the same around the world.

But not all vampires are the same. Among themselves they have racism, according to which ”bloodline” they are; to which vampire they can trace themselves to. The vampires who aren’t from Dracula’s ”bloodline” often look down on him and the vampires he has made.

The book starts with the diary of Dr. Seward. He’s obsessed with vampires and is killing vampire prostitutes with a silver knife, so he’s called the Silver Knife is the press. The killings recieve a lot of attention in the press and the police can’t find the culprit. So, the secret and very powerful Diogenes Club sends their own investigator.

Charles Beauregard is a servant of the club with some martial skills. So they send him. He doesn’t care for Dracula or vampires but serves his Queen loyally, even if Queen Victoria herself is now a vampire.

The other main character is an old French vampire Genevieve Dieudonne who is about 50 years older than Dracula but has never met him. She has no interest in making vampires or killing people. Instead she drinks from willing people. She works in Toynbee Hall which is now a free clinic for vampires. She works together with Dr. Seward.

The book has many other point-of-view characters, but I won’t spoil them here. Many of them are interesting but we only get glimpses of them. Others I didn’t care for. Dracula doesn’t appear until the last chapter.

This book is hard to review. If you like Victorian pastiches and books with more atmospere than plot, you might like this because it’s very heavy on atmosphere, but light on both plot and character development. The search for the Silver Knife seems like just an excuse for the characters to meet rather than a real plot. Also, it has only a couple of fight scenes.

But it has a lot of ideas and atmosphere. And lots of Victorian characters from various other writers. It was a lot of fun to spot them.

The first book in the alternate reality/steampunk Burton and Swinburne series but can be read as a stand-alone.

7293120

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours
Narrator: Gerard Doyle

This story is set in1861 in Albertian England. Victoria was assassinated when she was young and King Albert is a recluse as a monarch. This book has a gorgeously realized alternate reality where Charles Darwin’s theories have greatly diminished the importance of religion and London’s streets are filled with various steampunk engines and also enhanced animals. Two very different factions influence British society: Techonologists and Eugenicists. The first ones, of course, create machines while the second faction create genetically enhanced animals which work in very specialized areas, such as parakeet who deliver messages. Then there are the Libertines who want everyone of be free of social conventions. The Rakes take the Libertines’ values even further to callous sexual and drug addled deviancy without any restrictions at all.

Sir Richard Francis Burton is a renowned scholar and explorer. He and his former partner John Speke explored Africa and Middle-East a lot. As a consequence, his reputation is bad. Still, when king Albert calls him to serve, he can’t say no. However, the missions will put him in jeopardy and as a result, he breaks up his engagement with Isabel Arundel. Her parents are very relieved but she takes it badly.

Burton is charged with finding man-wolfs who are apparently kidnapping poor children. And he meets with the Spring Heeled Jack who is pretty much a bogey man in this London. The Jack roughs him up and demands that Burton “do what he’s supposed to do”. When Burton tells about this strange encounter to the Prime minister, he orders Burton to find out more about the Jack.

Burton’s closest associate Algernon Swinburne is a young “failed poet” who drinks too much and longs for life-threatening adventure so that knows that he’s alive. He practically forces his help on Burton.

This was a strange book, as the title promised, with alternate history turned up to ten. I’m not so sure that Queen Victoria’s death alone would have caused all this and later we found out that it didn’t.

Many historical people appear in the story and a couple of them are dragged in the mud as the villains. I didn’t know about them so I won’t spoil the surprises from anyone else. Burton and Swinburne are both historical figures, themselves. Spring-heeled Jack is also a real historical mythical figure.

The last third of the book really goes deep into the Jack and I found it fascinating.

The writing style is quite, er, Victorian. Especially at the start we’re told pretty much everything about the characters and their backstory. Shameless info dumps abound. The steampunk technology is very comic book like. If you like the writing style, I think you’ll like the book.

I liked it enough that I might read the sequel at some point.

The third book in the Aurelia Mitela alternate reality thriller trilogy.

43842028._sy475_

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Page count: 338 at GoodReads
Publisher: Pulcheria Press

A year ago, Aurelia Mitela was secure and happy in her life. She was the foreign minister of Roma Nova, a former special forces major, and as a Countess she was also the head of her family. Her daughter has married and moved to EUS. But after Caius Tellus usurped the throne of Roma Nova and ruthlessly pursued everyone in the legitimate government, Aurelia barely escaped with her life. Now, she’s officially an exile and thanks for Caius’ very public lies, even the small group of other Roman Novan exiles think that she’s betrayed her country and her honor. They want nothing to dow with her. Even her former friends have turned away from her which breaks her heart. Only her lover Miklos still believes in her.

Aurelia is still recovering from a near fatal shooting but she must stand up to the other exiles and convince them that even with their small resources, they must start a plan to retake Roma Nova. But Caius sends both assassins and legal teams after her. She turns to her old allies, both political and personal. But many won’t help her, at least publicly.

The final book in the trilogy continues shortly after the end of the previous one, Insurrectio. It’s mainly political intrigue but Aurelia has assassins after her and she goes on a scouting mission to Roma Nova.

Caius was a smooth manipulator in the previous books. Now, he shows his ruthless side. He believes that women are too emotional to lead and enacts laws that force women not only to step down as business owners and soldiers, but make them legally beholden to a man; husband, father, or brother. Not surprisingly, the independent Roma Novan women loath this and Caius’ soldiers enforce the laws brutally. Aurelia sees this from a distance but it’s still quite disturbing. Of course, many men are against these laws, too.

This is set in 1980s so it’s also historical fiction. It’s fast-paced and entirely from the first-person POV from Aurelia. This was an excellent ending to the series.

My first alternate reality short story is available on Amazon!

longway

A Long Way to Morning was really fun to write because I was inspired by Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise comics. I’ve read them since I was a teenager.

Obviously, my main character Iz isn’t as competent as Modesty but she does hold her own when she has a good plan. I saw this story as a black and white comic in my mind while writing it. Another inspiration was the Black Cat from Marvel comics. It’s set in an old Scottish castle. Iz must break into it to save her younger sister.

The first book in the second Roma Nova trilogy. It can be read without reading the other books first. In fact, if you don’t like spoilers, I recommend starting with this book because it’s a prequel to the first trilogy.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Pulcheria Press
Page count: 370

It’s 1960s and Aurelia Mitela is one of the elite Praetorian guards in Roma Nova. Her mother, the leader of the politically powerful Mitela family, is trying to make her to contract with Caius Tellus whose family is also politically powerful. Contracting is sort-of like marrying except that the man doesn’t own the woman’s property and the man joins the woman’s family. Aurelia has known him from childhood but she also knows that he’s not a good man; in fact he might be a psychopath. So, she firmly tells her mother no.

Aurelia’s assigned to a training exercise at the mountains bordering Prussia and Roma Nova. By accident, her group almost catches a group of smugglers but the last of the smugglers gets away, leaving only derisive laughter echoing behind him. Aurelia is notified that her mother, Felicia, was in an accident. It leaves Felicia mentally incapable of doing much at all. Aurelia tries to take over for her, but when she exhausts herself trying to do everything, she pretty much retires to do just the family paperwork. However, imperatrix of Roma Nova sends her to Berlin. She’s sent to find out who is behind a silver smuggling ring and to generally spy on the Germans.

In Berlin, the pace quickens and the plot has many twists and turns.

If you already like Morton’s style, you’re also going to love this one. It’s terrific alternate history thriller where Aurelia must fight for her own life on several occasions. It’s also full of interesting female characters, from Roma Nova’s empress to various soldiers. Most of the action happens outside Roma Nova in the 1960s, so Aurelia and the women around her are subjected to quite a lot of sexism, too.

Aurelia is actually quite similar to Carina because they’re both soldiers dedicated to the nation and they’re also both tough, competent, and (most of the time) sure of themselves. However, Aurelia has lived her whole life on Roman Nova and in a very wealthy and privileged family and she has a complex relationship with her mother Felicia who isn’t a soldier and can’t understand that world. Aurelia already has a 5-year-old daughter but her father isn’t seen in the book. There’s just a mention that he was unsatisfactory partner. Her daughter is also ill a lot. Aurelia encounters the love of her life in this book, but that aspect doesn’t take over. In fact, he isn’t seen much and remains a very distant character. Also, Aurelia doesn’t have any criminal contacts and isn’t tempted to go outside the system the way that Carina often does.

Her main enemy is similarly very intimidating and competent at playing havoc in Aurelia’s life. We find out some more about Roma Novan economy where silver seems to play a large part. While the previous books had some futuristic equipment, this one has 1960s technology.

Another very enjoyable Roma Nova book. Since the events are in Carina’s past, we already know how things are going to end up but we don’t know any of the details, just the broad strokes. It can be read as a stand-alone book.

The first book in the alternate history Lady Astronaut series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 431 including historical note and bibliography

This is my first Kowal book. I love her work as the narrator of Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye audiobooks. Happily, I clicked with her writing style or Elma’s voice.

It’s fall 1952 and a huge meteorite strikes us destroying most of the Eastern coast. Elma and her husband Nathaniel are taking a small holiday and they’re in the mountains. That’s why they’re still alive. They manage to escape to the nearest surviving Air Force base because they have a small plane and Elma is a great pilot. Nathaniel is the lead engineer of International Aerospace Coalition and he goes to work – persuading the AF base commander that this was not a Soviet attack. Except for her brother who lives in California, Elma’s whole family is dead. She’s a pilot but the AF won’t give her a chance to rescue refugees. But she must work so she volunteers at the local hospital.

But soon enough, her husband needs her particular skills. Elma has a PhD in Mathematics. But because this is 1952, she works as a computer – one of the very best at calculating anything. She finds out the chilling truth: the meteorite has changed world’s climate catastrophically and if humanity is going to survive, it must happen in space.

But only white men are approved to train as astronauts.

Kowal shows the pervasive, casual, and smug sexism against Elma and all the other women who are just casually dismissed all the time. Just as chilling is the casual racism and undervaluing of black people; how the white men don’t even see either, until it’s pointed out and yet the targets must constantly live with it. Elma doesn’t initially realize her own racism but slowly her awareness grows. Sadly, both attitudes still exist, if not so blatantly.

The book is written from Elma’s first-person POV. I loved her voice. But she constantly undervalues herself and what she’s capable of. Also, she hears her mother’s voice telling her to mind “what will others think”. She has an anxiety disorder and when she almost accidentally becomes the famous “Lady Astronaut” and people want her to speak in front of large crowds, it’s almost impossible for her. But only almost.

She and Nathaniel are happily married and Nathaniel is a wonderful, supportive husband. They both love their work and work long hours but they also find time to support each other. Neither of them talks about starting a family, though. I guess they’re too focused on their work, especially knowing that the end of the world is literally approaching.

There was also no talk about what happens to the billions of people who are on Earth. Are the colonies going to take all of them? It seems that just a select few are going to get off Earth and continue the species in colonies. Of course, a lot of people don’t believe that the Earth is going become unhabitable.

The changes in the timeline are pretty subtle at first and also the change in climate isn’t sudden but gradual. That’s why so many powerful white men have difficulty in believing that the change will come. They’d much rather pour money into their own agendas than the space program. However, we don’t see much of the world outside IAC except through newspaper clippings at the beginning of each chapter. IAC has international staff but they don’t talk much beside work (and sexism).

This isn’t an adventure book: Elma isn’t kidnapped or fighting for her own survival. Also, this is just the beginning of the road off Earth.

It’s the first book in a duology so the ending is wide open.

Next Page »