'A World of Difference' by Howard Waldrop

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Posted by Alex McLintock (1st Feb 2001, 11:50)

Originally published in Wyrmtongue February 2001.

This novel is set on a mythical world near to our own. It is firmly set in the fantasy of an alternative universe. The point behind this is firstly to give us some primitive aliens for us to have a first contact situation with, and secondly to give us an adventurous race between a crew of American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts.

I quite enjoyed the book for what it is, a space adventure. We have aliens who genuinely are alien. They don't have a similar body chemistry to ours. They thrive in sub zero temperatures. They aren't bipedal, and have a six fold symmetry in limbs and sense organs. And, to spoil it all they speak in human sounding voices. I personally doubt that any first contact could go with as few hitches as the one described here. Almost everyone learns the local lingo and trade is quickly set up. Of course we have to have a small war to liven things up.

I can't really fault Waldrop on anything. The book held my interest and got carried around a lot even though I was reading the hard back. My only concern is that there was nothing terribly original about the novel. I would have liked some great philosophical idea. Maybe a more interesting clash between the two main human ideals of communism and capitalism. The aliens could have thought less like humans and more like aliens.

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