Bruce Sterling. Tachyon, $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61696-236-4
Cyberpunk progenitor Sterling's alternate history novella is bizarre, chock-full of famous people in improbable situations, and wildly entertaining, even when the worldbuilding seems to go a little off the rails. Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of the recently ended Great War and forever changed by it, is the head engineer of the titular utopia, the Italian free state of Fiume. He and his compatriots build flying boats and fight communism while dealing with American secret agents, including Harry Houdini and Howard Lovecraft (who's now working as Houdini's publicity agent after going into advertising). Hitler died saving another man's life in a bar fight, [President Woodrow] Wilson was poisoned, and Mussolini's been disabled by a pair of bullets aimed "where a man least likes to be shot," so the Europe in which Secondari is attempting to create his radio-controlled airborne torpedoes and other gizmos is already massively different from ours. An introduction by Warren Ellis and an interview with Sterling sandwich the novel, both bearing an air of false gravitas, but the actual story is wacky and fun what-if-ing at its finest. (Nov.)
You can read the prior posts about my work on Pirate Utopia in my June 10, 2016 blog post and in my July 14, 2016, blog post.