Marcus Sedgwick (editor)
(Walker Books)

Have you ever imagined what the world would be like if things had worked out differently during significant moments in history? If a minute little detail had been changed? The smallest change could, after all, alter the world as we know it. This is what this anthology tackles with eight short stories focusing on different part of our world history. Contributors include Philip Ardagh, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Anthony McGowan, Linda Newbery, Mal Peet, Eleanor Updale, Matt Whyman and editor Marcus Sedgwick. With authors of that calibre, you know you are on to a good thing!
I was instantly drawn to this anthology because of its fantastic title. In fact, I didn’t really know what it was about and I am not usually fan of “what ifs” stories messing with history, because I think there is sometimes a very thin line between what is acceptable and what is not. However,  I was totally won over with this one, because this anthology offers some pretty thought-provoking writing and some scary insights in what could have been!
My favourite stories were definitely those by Marcus Sedgwick and Anthony McGowan. Sedgwick’s story, The Burning Glass, focuses on Napoleon’s time in exile in Elba while he was plotting his return to France. I have to say at first I couldn’t really see where the story was going, but the last sentence … well let’s just say this short last sentence illustrates exactly how something unbelievably simple can change everything, and will will make you look back and realise how skillful a writer Sedgwick is. The structure of the story is very clever.
McGowan’s story, Jesus Wept, focuses on Jesus’ time in the desert and his temptation by the Devil. How clever to show the Devil as a contemporary of ours, with all the mod-cons; is our way of life gone to the point that it is the devil-personified? Certainly it gives the reader food for thought and so does the rest of the story. I was particularly interested in this one because I am a “willingly-demoted Christian” (ie I was brought up a Catholic but turned my back on it as soon as I could); trying to tempt Jesus, the Devil lists out all the things that our civilisation has done in the name of Christianity. But at the end, the reader is left to wonder what would the world be without Christianity, or religion in general. I found this story particularly thought-provoking, and it made me look again at my own beliefs, and bring new perspective to them. It didn’t turn me into a reborn Christian, but it certainly made me think.

The other stories are just as skillful, sometimes chilling; Cottrell-Boyce’s account of Scotland under Aztec rule was a particularly vivid reminder of what imperial nations such as ours have made other countries endure and what happens if the shoe is on the other foot!

I encourage you to read this anthology if you want something a little different; it will undoubtedly challenge your view of the world.

Sent for review by publisher