Anthology Review: Tales from the Otherverse edited by James Reasoner

tales from the otherverseI don’t read many anthologies, so I am not always sure about the proper way of reviewing them. Usually I just list the stories that stood out to me and give a brief summary of what I thought of the anthology as a whole at the end.

I am going to try to do the same with Tales from the Otherverse edited James Reasoner (actually I can’t find a specific credit to an editor, but since it is published under James’ Rough Edges Press label I am going to assume he is the editor). The anthology collects several alternate history short stories primarily set in America. Here are some of the stories that I can recommend:

“The Battle of the Bands” by Scott A. Cupp: What if the Battle of Little Big Horn was actually a battle of the bands broadcast on live television? That question sums up the entire story. There were some cute moments seeing what famous people from the 1870s would be doing in a timeline where technology was at the level of mid- to late-20th century levels. Otherwise not much actual alternate history.

“The Assassination of President Broussard” by Keith West: In this timeline Robert F. Broussard is elected President of the United States in 1912 and actually carries out his crazy plan to bring hippos to America. During a hunt for these creatures, a Boer hunter attempts to convince the president not to support the British in World War I and if the President can’t be convinced, then he will take matters into his own hands. At first I thought the story had a ridiculous premise, but when I discovered it could have actually happened I warmed up to it.

“Books Burning Brightly in the Night” by Scott Dennis Parker: A dieselpunk adventure where an FBI agent tries to stop a group of airship pirates from robbing a bank. Not much too much to say about this one. Just a fun little diversion for those who like soft alternate history.

“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Bill Crider: The best story in the anthology and a strong contender for the short-form Sidewise Award. Buddy Holly never went on that fateful plane ride and continues to have a successful musical career. Years later, during an anniversary concert for those who died in the plane crash, Buddy helps a washed-up Elvis get a second chance at fame. I can’t say nicer things about this short. For a genre dominated by wars and politics, its refreshing to see an alternate history focus on pop culture.

“The Great Steamer Riot of 1936” by Scott Dennis Parker: Steam powered robots are invented to fight in the Great War, but after the fighting is finished these humanoid automatons are suddenly a threat to American jobs. When a talented trumpet player in North Texas turns out to be one of these machines, the audience doesn’t take it well and it puts the country on a path to dismantle them all. A sad story about how easy it is to discriminate against a group you don’t like that is told in a non-traditional style.

“The Hero of Deadwood” by James Reasoner: Wild Bill Hickok is not gunned down by Jack McCall and ends up saving the town of Deadwood from an attack by Sioux. Through a series of lucky breaks he ends up being elected president. Not too much meat to this story, but I liked seeing what a gunslinger would have done if he went into politics (which is, spoiler alert, not much).

Well those are all of the stories I liked. All in all Tales from the Otherverse is a solid “okay”. With the exception of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, most of the stories were mediocre at best and a few were so implausible it really hurt the anthology as a whole. It is still worth it to read “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, so I recommend buying the e-book version of Tales from the Otherverse at least if you are interested.

One more thing. If you want to see my opinion on the book cover, check out this video.

Editor’s Note:  Matt sneaked up on me and managed to produce 21+ videos before they caught my attention.  He’s doing some interesting (and, as his reviews reveal, insightful) discussion of alternate history, tropes and video reviews.  Check out his channel The Alternate Historian, here.

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