Monday, July 6, 2020

From my bookshelf: Circumpolar! and Countersolar! by Richard A. Lupoff

Honestly, this is a pair of zany alternate history books I’ve been wanting to review for a very long time.  The Twin Planets Novels by Richard A. Lupoff - Circumpolar! and Countersolar! -take place in a universe that is very different from our own. And I mean that in a very definite way. Not only is our history different with something resembling a mercifully truncated Great War that ends in a sound Prussian defeat, but there is also “an Emperor of Australia and a President of Japan.”

Pretty good stuff, because I wouldn’t well, uh… the earth they live on is flat. As in like a pancake. And it has a hole in the centre which kind of makes it look like a giant record, with a giant ice wall at the rim.

Well, at the least the flat earthers got something right.

It’s into this familiar but out-of-joint backdrop that we are introduced to Circumpolar!, which tells the story of a Roaring Twenties around-the-world race staged between Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, and Amelia Earhart against a group of suitably dastardly Prussians including the Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen and his brother, Lothar.  The air race takes the competitors across their side of the world, over the ice wall, and onto the other side where they encounter the mysterious ancient civilizations of the other side of the flat earth and back up through the north polar hole.  There’s a lot of fun and action to be had, including an amazing aerial sequence involving flying mechanical horses.

The sequel, Countersolar! takes place a few years later.  It’s 1942 and the world is at peace. While the world is at peace, the underlying tensions between Prussian revanchists and their backers in Peronist Argentina and the rest of the world that threaten to explode when a faint but urgent distress signal is picked up from an undiscovered counter-earth, orbiting on the far side of the sun. If you’ve accepted the concept of a flat earth at this point, the appearance of the counter-earth is one more violation of orbital mechanics that is briskly disposed of as the plot moves along. …and did I mention that the Titanic was still afloat? Lupoff takes the reader through a guided tour of the solar system, winding up on Counter-Earth, where their version of America is under threat from homegrown fascists.

Both Circumpolar! and Countersolar! are well-researched period pieces, with their backdrops and protagonists and antagonists, fictional and otherwise, finely drawn, all in the name of good fun. Lupoff invites just enough suspension of disbelief, which is the mark of a great storyteller, greater still that we get so deeply immersed in his flat-earth alternate-reality that we forget the finer things such as science.

Highly recommended. Go looking for the books online or in your local bookshop. They’re well worth your effort.

What’s Next?
First, apologies for being late with this blog.  Unfortunately, my laptop had an unplanned meeting with the floor which resulted in a  highly predictable outcome. However, the good news is that the computer has been repaired and that I am good to go again.

In terms of what’s on my review list, I have two books coming up. First, the latest novel in Taylor Anderson’s long-running Destroyermen series, Pass of Fire, and then a novel by Robert J. Sawyer, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which retells the story of one of the 20th century’s most influential scientists in a different light. 

In the meantime, you can purchase Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  

Take care of yourselves.

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