Review of Terry Bisson’s “Fire on the Mountain”
by Joyce Frohn
How does history work? What if history had been different?
Alternative history can be such fun. The greatest master of that
genre, Terry Bisson, is back in print, (PM Press 2009, ISBN
978-1-60486-087-0) with “Fire On the Mountain”. This story manages to
weave two stories one hundred years apart into one fast, exciting
read. The question at the heart of both stories? What if John Brown’s
raid had succeeded? The Civil War is fought not between North and
South but between Nova Africa and well; you’ll find out. And who in
Europe comes in on which side? This idea works because Terry knows
history so well.
The personal stories entwine completely as a young slave who
discovers his family is not what it seems. He must take sides in a
gathering war that threatens not just his world but also his best
friend. He discovers ambition and adventure and a hundred years later
a girl must reconcile with her mother to recover from her father’s
death. The truths he finds out are the ones that will heal her heart.
In one story deception and trickery are at the heart of survival and
in the other truth is what cures pain.
And the spooky thing is that the history is totally believable.
The Mars landing is delayed by a sandstorm. And its 1959? With cars
that go hundreds of miles an hour? It’s a wild ride in both stories.
Which leads to another question raised by this book. What if we
are the alternative history?
P.S. Elvis is in here.
Joyce Frohn has been a professional writer for years. She has been published in “ClarkesWorld”, “Tales of the Unanticipated”, and”Goblin Fruit”. She is married with and eight-year-old daughter who thinks Mom hogs the computer.