'Grapeshot and Guillotines' Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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'Grapeshot and Guillotines' Review

Alexander Wallace explores the revolutions that never happened.
Throw the tea into the harbor. Storm the Bastille. Decapitate the King. Occupy the General Post Office. Shoot the Tsar.

There are many ways to kick off a revolution. In our era of perceived stagnation, of the feeling that the edifices of our societies have rotted, the idea of revolution is a seductive one. Of course, they are not always as pleasant as we believe them to be. There is tarring and feathering. There is a cruel war in the Vendee. There is blood in the streets.

But we must remember that there were always reasons why such carnage enveloped the world. This is something that Gary Oswald notes in his introduction to Grapeshot and Guillotines, an anthology of short alternate history stories he edited for Sea Lion Press.

Sea Lion Press has consistently shown itself to be one of the standard bearers of quality alternate history in this day and age. It has advanced the genre beyond the Turtledove consensus and given it new life. Their forum (of which I am a proud member) is home to many interesting and knowledgeable people.

Grapeshot and Guillotines shows how good the work of that userbase can be. These are stories of upheavals and overthrows that never happened, drawing from a rich reservoir of historical knowledge that will surprise you with the cleverness of its points of divergences, but also impress you with how written they are.

These stories include, but are not limited to:
  • Jared Kavanagh’s impressive opening story about a loyalist to the old regime of a Germany enveloped in revolutionary fire.
  • John Concagh’s tale of a Trinidad gone to hell, told as an interview between a reporter and the famed writer C. L. R. James (an aside - James’ history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins, is a very good read)
  • Ryan Fleming’s generational saga of a United States that ends up descending into chaos early in its life
These, and several other stories, make up the compelling allohistorical tales provided by Grapeshot and Guillotines. This is alternate history at its most daring and most original, and those interested in the genre should most definitely give this anthology a spin.

(Full disclosure - I know Gary Oswald well from my work on the Sea Lion Press blog. I am also currently working on a project for Sea Lion Press, but I was not at all involved in the creation of Grapeshot and Guillotines)

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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