'Who Will Speak for England?' Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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'Who Will Speak for England?' Review

Alexander Wallace speaks up.
I’ve made no obfuscation about my love for Sea Lion Press and the alternate history work that they have published. I have reviewed several for Warped Factor, and a number for NeverWas Magazine. Today, we’ll be talking about one of their shorter books - a concise 125 pages - by the title of Who Will Speak for England? written by Lena Worwood. I read this book in the span of twenty-four hours (but then again, I’m a quick reader) and was enthralled the whole way through.

I was first alerted to Who Will Speak for England? because it was mentioned as a work of alternate history that emphasizes the human factor in politics. There are many alternate history works, especially on the internet, concerning politics of various forms in various countries, but all too often they fall into the trap of treating people like literary devices, not bothering to show you who these people are as people. This often reaches its high points in the ‘list of leaders’ format, which has been turned into a few books, my favorite being Martin Concagh’s Presidential, which succeeds because of the humanity it brings to its format.

Who Will Speak for England? takes a radically different approach. It is a conventional novel, format-wise, with multiple narrators all involved in the workings of an allohistorical devolved English parliament. Your main characters are the low-ranking staff attached to the members of this parliament, the most prominent being a literal tour guide who has to wear a rather garish costume as she deals with unpleasant visitors. She lives in a flat with four other staffers, all freshly out of university (most younger than me, to my chagrin - and I’m only twenty-four!), who have to deal with relationship problems, housing problems and other such things.

They all get to see politics from the grittier, more technical side. At its most quotidian, this involves a lot of committee meetings. Fortunately, Worwood does not belabor such meetings, as they are oftentimes stultifying (I say this as a former Model United Nations delegate); instead, she focuses on the shenanigans that occur with depressing regularity behind the scenes where news cameras cannot look. This comes to the fore when the main character has an affair with a member of this parliament which ends spectacularly.

The most interesting aspect of these characters is the sprouting of careers that nobody expected would bloom. Who Will Speak for England? is a book about how and why people come to the political views that they do, and how politicians receive the spark that propels them to seek high office. We are reminded that the suits we see on television and the internet are real human beings, no matter how much we despise them, and how much we ought to remember they have our own foibles. It is a lesson we should take to heart.

(Full disclosure: I have a weekly column on the Sea Lion Press blog, but have had no involvement with Who Will Speak for England? or any work published by them thus far.)

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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