Tag Archives: alt history

Deal Me In, Week 44 ~ “The Case of the Nazi Canary”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Case of the Nazi Canary” by Michael Moorcock

Card picked: Seven of Spades
From: Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon

Thoughts: This “short” story was on the long side and caught me on the wrong week. Therefore, this is a little late.

I’m not too familiar with Moorcock despite his being a founding father of the sword and sorcery genre. This story is not part of that genre. Instead, it is one of a series involving “metatemporal” detectives  Sir Seaton Begg and Dr. Taffy Sinclair. Metatemporal would seem to refer to Moorcock’s propensity to drop these characters into whatever time period or setting he wants. (This isn’t evident to someone whose only experience is this story. I kept waiting for something timey-wimey to happen…) In the case of “The Case of the Nazi Canary,” Begg and Sinclair are sent to investigate the death of Adolph Hitler’s half-niece, Geli Raubal, in an alternate history Nazi Germany.

Hitler is the prime suspect, though Geli’s death is initially called a suicide. It’s rumored that his relationship with Geli was not entirely familial and he was possessive enough of her to forbid her leaving to Vienna. (This is all based on historical fact. Geli Raubal, Hitler’s half-niece died by a self-inflicted shot to the lung, which seems to be an odd method of committing suicide.) Begg and Sinclair are charged with, incongruously, clearing Hitler’s name.

“The Case of the Nazi Canary” is sort of a detective story parody. Begg and Sinclair investigate all the leads, interview all the suspects, and then, of course, are led back to the crime scene by Begg’s arch-nemesis to find the only real clue in the case. It was entertaining, but felt a little forced.

Is This Your Card?

Speaking of forces…

Review ~ Distant Waves

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Cover via Goodreads

From the author of REINCARNATION, another historical, supernatural romance, this time focusing on five sisters whose lives are intertwined with the sinking of the Titanic.

Science, spiritualism, history, and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn’s newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla’s inventions dooms them…and one could save them. (via Goodreads)

And Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini are in this book too! Obviously, it pokes many of my historical fandom buttons.

In Distant Waves, history is stretched and twisted back on itself so that many of the events and relationships converge on 1912. There are a lot of inaccuracies, some of which Weyn addresses at the end of the book. To some extent this should be read as more of an alternative history rather than a historical fiction. There are certainly a few speculative touches that pull it away from realistic fiction.

It was a readable book, fairly well-paced despite a pretty long lead-up to the Titanic. It was great for the readathon and I read it cover to cover last Saturday.

I’m not quite sure what I think of Weyn’s Tesla. Not surprisingly to me, the main character Jane, a fan of Sherlock Holmes, takes a liking to the eccentric scientist, who manages to rescue them during his man-made New York earthquake.  We’re treated to a lot of “creative genius picked on by capitalism” stories. In regards to spiritualism, Weyn leaves things ambiguous and that’s a good line to take in this book.

There was one plot point that I kind of rolled my eyes at, even in the midst of all the other stretches. In this case, it was more of a concrete problem solved by overly lucky circumstances that could have been dealt with, I think, in a less complicated manner. (I know this pitfall well; it’s one I often fall victim to.)

Publishing info, my copy: Scholastic, Inc, trade paperback, 2009
Acquired: Paperback Swap, I think.
Genre: historical, speculative fiction


Deal Me In, Week 11 ~ “The Eighth of December”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Eighth of December” by Dave Smeds

Card picked: Jack of Clubs

From: Tales of the Impossible, ed. by David Copperfield & Janet Berliner

Review: Alternate timeline fiction.

“Back when people listened to a different kind of rock ‘n’ roll,” Brad Taylor was as big as The Beatles and likewise a musician with a social consciousness. After John Lennon is killed on the 8th of December, Brad receives a terrifying amount of threats and decides to pull a disappearing act. The best way to fall off the radar? Fake his own death. Unfortunately, Brad Taylor being “murdered” so soon after Lennon sparks a rash of violence against rock stars. By 1982, Paul McCartney, Donovan, and Bob Dylan are all dead and many others have left public life. In 1995, the Cold War continues, the Berlin Wall still stands, and republicans run the United States. Brad couldn’t stay away music and has found fame a second time as Vic Standish, lead singer of the heavy metal band Victory. On the 15th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, Brad/Vic wonders if rock ‘n’ roll, or the lack thereof, could have really changed the world.

Writing about music is a difficult thing. How do you manage to convey what’s being played, especially if it’s a fictional song being played by a fictional band. Dave Smeds pulls it off fairly well. (Considering recent news, it makes me wonder how well Anne Rice pulled it off. It’s been a long while since I read The Vampire Lestat.) He also doesn’t out-and-out say that he thinks music after 1980 sucks, but there’s definitely the implication. Victory, I suppose, is analogous to  Metallica or Def Leppard or maybe Guns ‘n’ Roses; probably nothing harder or more deviated from the rock music of 1969-1980. Where Dave Smeds and I differ is in this opinion of music. I think he sets up a false dichotomy. To say that social activism was only fostered through peace-love-and-rock-and-rock ignores much of punk and a good swath of industrial. Just sayin’.

Is This Your Card?
I’ve been trying to find tricks that feature each cards, a concept that only occurred to me a few weeks ago. So far, I only have about a third of the deck accounted for, so this will be an occasional feature. James Galea’s routine features the whole deck, but jacks play a specific part…and I was low on videos for clubs.

Farthing by Jo Walton

Farthing is another book that was part of the Women in Science Fiction book club and, uh, the third from that club that I didn’t make it through. I decided to call it quits at page 264. Why then and not before? I wanted to give it, one of the few alternative histories I’ve tried, a fair shot.

I’m not sure I really understand alternative histories. Historical fiction, sure.  Historical fiction are simply stories set in a “historic” setting and might involve a famous personage. Alternative history? That’s tricky. There are so many factors that go into and result from events that I’m not convinced that alternative history can be done convincingly. I suppose, in a way, it’s the same as science fiction. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone does science fiction really well either when it relies on prognostication. On the other hand, history is so rich and *it’s already there.* Why not use that instead of changing it? Weirdly, when all is said and done, I might be more of a history buff than a science fiction fan.

On the writing end, I didn’t find anything particularly compelling about the story or the writing. I understand that much of a mystery/investigation ends up being related instead of shown, but the telling was boring. At pg. 264, I had long since stopped caring about the characters and the book had become a chore.