Alice Payne Rides

The second of Kate Heartfield’s Alice Payne novellas, Alice Payne Rides, is a full-on time war story. That is, it engages directly with the seeming impossibility of winning a time war when one side or the other can always go back in time to undo things. This may make the plot a little over-complicated for some readers, but you are all science fiction people so I’m sure the vast majority will be OK with it.

The main story thread is the ongoing antagonism between Prudence Zungia and her former commanding officer, General Almo. Alice, of course, is off doing something else entirely. She’s trying to find out what happened to her father in the war that caused him to come home not in his right mind. And because this was a two-book sale there’s the whole question of the inquisitive Captain Auden to deal with. Will he finally unmask Alice’s secret life as a notorious highwayman?

That’s basically it. Adventure story. Except that Heartfield isn’t the sort of writer to miss the opportunity to tell us something about history as well. In this particular case that something is Smallpox. It was a deadly disease in mediaeval times. It was a weapon of colonisation in the Americas. If you didn’t know all that, you will after reading this book. And you will be very grateful for vaccines, which is a very good thing for a book to be able to do to you.

book cover
Title: Alice Payne Rides
By: Kate Heartfield
Publisher: Tor.com
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