Maybe it’s because the second one was longer and much bloodier. Maybe it’s because American participation came just as the war was ending. Or maybe because it’s hard to pinpoint a “good side” and a “bad side” – i.e. no Nazis. Or the science of the era was too antiquated from a contemporary standpoint. Whatever the reasons, The War to End All Wars, today known as World War 1, gets overlooked by many speculative fiction authors in favor of its sequel.
But the fantastic stories do exist and my goal is to alert my readers to these stories that take a look at the Great War from a sci-fi perspective. Let’s start with novels (I’ll try my best not to post any spoilers):
Note: Most summaries come from Amazon.
Another note: Aren’t these jaw-dropping Russian covers to Behemoth and Goliath simply divine?!
The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan (2009), Behemoth (2010), Goliath (2011)
In this striking futuristic rendition of an alternate past where machines are pitted against genetically modified beasts, Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides in the First World War. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, and together they embark on an around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.
The Great War Trilogy by Harry Turtledov
American Front (1998), Walk in Hell (1999), Breakthroughs (2000)
When the Great War engulfed Europe in 1914, the United States and the Confederate States of America, bitter enemies for five decades, entered the fray on opposite sides: the United States aligned with the newly strong Germany, while the Confederacy joined forces with their longtime allies, Britain and France.
As President Theodore Roosevelt rallied the diverse ethnic groups of the northern states–Irish and Italians, Mormons and Jews–Confederate President Woodrow Wilson struggled to hold together a Confederacy still beset by ignorance, prejudice, and class divisions. And as the war thundered on, southern blacks, oppressed for generations, found themselves fatefully drawn into a climactic confrontation …
The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman
Graf von Dracula commands the German army, Manfred von Richthofen is the best vampire pilot of the skies and Edgar Allen Poe writes his biography. ‘Nuff said.
1920: America’s Great War by Robert Conroy
Imperial Germany has become the most powerful nation in the world. In 1914, she had crushed England, France, and Russia in a war that was short but entirely devastating.
By 1920, Kaiser Wilhelm II is looking for new lands to devour. The United States is fast becoming an economic super-power and the only nation that can conceivably threaten Germany. The U.S. is militarily inept, however, and is led by a sick and delusional president who wanted to avoid war at any price. Thus, Germany is able to ship a huge army to Mexico to support a puppet government.
Her real goal: the invasion and permanent conquest of California and Texas.
The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock
What would the world have been like if World War 1 never happened? Captain Oswald Bastable, a man living in 1902, is flung into an alternate future, to find out.
It is 1973, and the stately airships of the Great Powers hold benign sway over a peaceful world. The balance of power is maintained by the British Empire – a most equitable and just Empire, ruled by the beloved King Edward VIII. A new world order, with peace and prosperity for all under the law. Yet, moved by the politics of envy and perverse utopianism, not all of the Empire’s citizens support the marvelous equilibrium…
The Great Undead War
Book 1: By The Blood of Heroes (2012), Book 2: On Her Majesty’s Behalf (2014)
At the tail end of 1917, the Germans introduced a new type of gas to the battlefield, T-Leiche, or “corpse gas,” and changed the face of the war by resurrecting the bodies of the dead, giving the enemy an almost unlimited source of fresh troops. Among the infested was The Red Baron himself (first a vampire Red Baron and now a zombie Red Baron? The man can’t get a break.)
It’s up to a group of Allied soldiers to brave the zombie – infested battlefield to save Britain from an uncertain fate.
Fate of the Nations: Einstein Must Die!
1916 AD – Impending war with England has given Nikola Tesla the chance to build his dream: a weapon to end all wars. The American steam-powered Beowulf tank is larger than a house, and carries enough firepower to face an army. Beowulf also has a mechanical brain, embedded with the consciousness of Colonel Browning, America’s best military strategist.
But in England, King George has put Albert Einstein to work for his own war effort: zeppelins capable of reaching the former colony, and new, radiological bombs to remind them of the price of disloyalty.
So that’s my list so far. Anything I missed? What sf/fantasy/horror novels have you read that take place during World War 1? Leave a comment.