5 alternate history novels for Wolfenstein fans

Wolfenstein MoonWolfenstein: New Order* is on shelves and seems to be getting some great reviews. You can read our review of the game HERE. While it’s great to see a classic find new success for a new generation, I was actually more excited for the developers’ decision to use the concept of an alternate history as the game’s jumping off point. In Wolfenstein: New Order, the Axis powers win the war and we jump ahead to a 1960s America under Nazi occupation. This concept got me thinking about some of the alternate history literature that I’ve read over the years, so I’ve compiled a list of 5 alternate history books that might tickle your fancy. If you like New Order, you may want to check these out.

1) The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick

The_Man_in_the_High_CastleDivergence Point: The Allies lose World War II resulting in the take over of the United States by Japan and Nazi Germany.

In the stacks of alternate history literature, few books loom higher than that of “The Man in the High Castle” by Phillip K. Dick. Dick’s name should already be familiar to fans of science fiction as the man is well known for giving us “Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?” the novel that inspired Ridley Scott’s film “Blade Runner”. This is a subgenre that is filled with postulations about alternative paths resolving WWII, but this is the book that everyone cites as “the best”. The Man in the High Castle follows several characters as they navigate a world in which the allies lost World War II and Germany and Japan split America in two. The real treat of the story is the “novel within the novel” aspect of “The Man in the High Castle”. Author Hawthorne Abendsen has written a novel called “The Grasshopper lies Heavy” which posits a reality wherein the Axis lost WWII. Heavy stuff, but you can’t expect anything less from P.K.D.  If you’re interested in this book, you should definitely check out this fan-made movie title sequence for a possible film adaptation. It’s pretty brilliant.


2) The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

YiddishDivergence Point: After World War II, the displaced European Jewish population are given refuge by the United States, in a settlement in Sitka, Alaska.

“The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” is a crime story set in an alternate modern day, in which police detective, Meyer Landsman, attempts to solve a murder weeks before the forced displacement of the Jewish population from Alaska. This book uses pulp and film noir to color a world inhabited by Jewish gangsters and Inuit tribes. While the outside world doesn’t seem all that different, aside from Kennedy not getting assassinated, Chabon sticks to the insular world he’s built; painting a vivid picture of a what an Alaskan Jewish community might be like. Landsman, the typical pulp detective who is always biting off more than he can chew, is easy to root for as is his ex-wife who is his superior officer and his giant half-Inuit, half-Jewish partner Berko Shemets. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a believable alternate history featuring a fleshed-out world with rich, colorful characters.


3) The Two Georges by Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfus

Divergence Point: The United States of America is retained under British rule as the “North American Union”.

2 Georges“The Two Georges” of the book’s title refers to a Thomas Gainsborough painting depicting an agreement between King George III and George Washington which leaves Canada and the U.S. under British rule. It is the theft of this painting that serves to kick off the story of “The Two Georges”. We follow Colonel Thomas Bushell of the Royal American Mounted Police as he goes in search of the missing painting, stolen by terrorist organization “The Sons of Liberty”, in hopes of recovering it before the King arrives on British American soil. Turtledove and Dreyfus weave a heist tale set in a relatively believable world. During the search for the painting, we meet several alternate history luminaries like Governor General Sir Martin Luther King, used car salesman “Tricky” Dick Nixon and newspaper publisher John F. Kennedy.



4) Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore

Divergence Point: The Confederacy wins the American Civil War.

bring the jubilee“Bring the Jubilee” is narrated by Hodge Backmaker, a protagonist who paints a vivid picture of two opposing countries: The flourishing Confederate States of America and a United States in perpetual recession and rife with corruption. ‘Bring the Jubilee’ follows Backmaker as he becomes embroiled in an organization that wishes to pit the German Union against the Confederate States in hopes that these acts of sabotage will return the U.S. to its former glory. Along the way, Backmaker meets a research scientist who has invent a way to travel back in time. Wishing to study the Civil War from a firsthand perspective, Backmaker travels to Gettysburg, altering the course of American history forever. Moore uses a diary format to show us an America vastly different from our own before restoring history through the use of time travel.



5) The Difference Engine by William Gibson

Divergence Point: Charles Babbage success in creating his “Difference Engine” a computer system that heralds in a new renaissance of technology in 1800s England.

difference-Engine-777883Widely considered to be the first “steampunk” novel, “The Difference Engine” posits the effect semi-modern technology would have on an 1800s England. We see a world where computers are mass-produced and steam-powered machines have driven the United Kingdom to great economic success. The story is driven primarily by the search for a set of mysterious punchcards used to program the Babbage computers. We also see a fragmented United States and an Ireland in which the famine never occurred.“The Difference Engine” was inspired by the 1845 novel “Sybil” by Benjamin Disraeli (himself a character in the novel), and borrows some of the same characters, but instead examines the social, economic and political lives of those living in this new technological society.



*I would like to point out that this game has released some of the most quietly horrifying trailers I have ever seen. Just…just terrifying.

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