The Mammoth Book of Weird News (Mammoth Books)

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It's a lively and exciting story which does a lot with the small space it has, indeed it successfully creates the idea of a wider Universe in which I could imagine a novel, or even a series of novels, being set.

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This one was a fascinating Jewish alternate history. One of the things that made it so interesting was actually the account of the historical record from the year 0 to what we would consider AD.

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Narrated by an immortal who has survived from the time of Christ and yet remains anonymous and vaguely in the background of his own story, the historical divergence here is the failure of Christian Roman Emperor Constantine to secure his empire and thus to create a dominant Christian religion in Europe.

Up until this moment Newman and Byrne tell one of the most engaging and vivid accounts of the life and Crucifixion of Christ that I've encountered admittedly religious fiction isn't an area I've often explored so I have few points of comparison. After the divergence the narrative remains interesting, with an alternate version of Charlemagne founding a Jewish rather than Christian dynasty.

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Again humour is strong in the story, though mostly black, and I especially like the references to a Britain - 'a cold, miserable, wet, piss-sodden island that I don't recommend you ever visit. There are a heck of a lot of "if the South had won" American Civil War alternate histories.

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Elgin twists the norm by suggesting that if both the North and the South had refused Blacks the right to fight in their armies than neither would have edge enough to win and after a number of years the war would just fall apart as the two Disunited States crumble.

Rising up the former slaves take control of the exhausted and ravaged South and expel the white men into the North. Dubbing their land "New Africa", Elgin explains that race isn't a factor in human stupidity and through an excess of pride the various groups of New Africans cannot agree on a common language with which to govern their new nation, each preferring the language of their old African tribe. The linguistic twist is typical of Elgin, whose Native Tongue I wrote on as part of my Masters Dissertation, and her suggested solution to the quandary is an interesting one.

On vast, icy wastelands they sought any vegetation they could, grinding it up with their teeth. Climate change, as well as human hunting, is largely blamed for their extinction.

The Mammoth Book of Weird News by Geoff Tibballs (Paperback, 2011)

Their numbers quickly dwindled as they were driven toward the poles of the planet where they struggled to find food and became easier to corner during hunts. Believe it or not, however, evidence of a small group of mammoths living on St. Paul Island in Alaska has put them as surviving until 3, BC.

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Though early humans are known to have hunted mammoths, they forgot about their existence in the succeeding millennia. The area that is now the North Sea in Europe became one of the first sites where mammoth teeth were found. The area would have been passable by mammoth on foot thousands of years ago, but as the glacier receded, this left mammoth remains to be washed over by the waves of the ocean.

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Tumbling like rocks, some of these teeth washed up on European shores after storms. By the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists had a better grasp of how the ancient world looked, and whole examples of mammoths were found frozen in Siberia and the Brea Tar Pits. Mega-sized creatures like the wooly mammoth and its close cousin the mastodon went on to be instrumental in our understanding of mass extinction events and what causes them.

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