Alternative History asks lots of “what if” questions, tweaking one or two key events and examining how life could have played out. This genre shows how close we are to everything we know being completely different, yet scarily familiar. Here is a list of the best of the best no matter what universe or timeline you find yourself in.
5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (2011)
A man travels back in time to stop the assassination of JFK. Jake uses a portal in a diner to go back to 1958. He follows Lee Harvey Oswald exploring conspiracy theories connected to him. The coolest thing about the story is that Time is a character. The closer he gets to stopping Oswald, the more time pushes back to stay on track. And when Jake does get the upper hand, he ends up getting kicked in the gut.
4. Anastasia (1997)
Set in Communist Russia 10 years after the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The twist here is that Anastasia escaped, but hits her head and now has amnesia. Anastasia’s grandmother, living in Paris, promises a huge reward for anyone who can reunite her with the princess. Two friends find Anastasia, who now goes by Anya, and try to pass her off as the royal heir, unaware that she’s the real deal. Rasputin is in limbo and uses magic to try and finish the job and kill the princess. He also had a talking bat friend for comic relief. Now that Disney bought Fox’s film catalogue, there’s a question out there on the internet if she’s acquired status of “Disney Princess.”
3. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)
Charles Lindberg challenges and defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the presidential election. President Lindberg, an anti-Semite, becomes best friends with Hitler. Another interesting layer added to the story is that the novel is told from Roth’s point of view as a child as anti-Semitism becomes commonplace in America. I won’t ruin the ending, but it concludes on a weird “happy note,” if you can call it that.
2. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
This story is set in 1962 in a universe where Roosevelt is assassinated long before WWII begins, and America is defeated by Japan and Germany in the war. Nazis have achieved space travel and the Japanese find pleasure in buying up American antiques. What happens when two power-hungry superpowers have to live in the same world? There’s even another alternate history within the book in the form of a novel called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” in which lots of the elements of our own universe play out like they do in the history books except with a couple major twists involving the USSR and the British Empire. There are major differences between the novel and the television show (as is the case with all adaptations), but just think of it as another layer to an already complex alternate history.
1. Superman Red Son by Mark Millar (2003)
What if Superman’s ship didn’t crash in Kansas, but landed on the other side of the world in Soviet controlled Ukraine? A fantastic thought-provoking graphic novel, that’s what! Superman is buddy-buddy with Stalin and dating Wonder Woman, who together fight for the ideals of communism. Lex Luthor is now an American hero using his vast intellect to fight against the alien. So many elements of DC characters are blended like Bizarro Superman and the Green Lanterns that never feel like they’ve been forced into the story. Also, Batman can never catch a break, no matter what world he’s in. Sorry Bruce.
Maxwell Bauman is a halfway-decent Jewish boy from the Bronx. He is Editor-in-Chief of Door Is A Jar literary magazine and the author of The Anarchist Kosher Cookbook from CLASH Books. Follow him on twitter @maxwellbauman