October 11, 2008
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Half A Crown

by Jo Walton

Jo Walton’s third book about an England that capitulated to Germany in 1940, this fascinating book is even better than Farthing and Ha'penny. It's 1960, and our time is divided between Jack Carmichael, the reluctant commander of the British Gestapo (and leader of the Underground), and his ward, Elvira Royston, who is preparing to be presented to the young Queen. This world is a wonderfully-refracted mirror of what came to pass, in which Londoners still go to work every day and are only mildly disturbed by the construction of concentration camps for British Jews but deplore modern pop music (It's a long way to Hitlerhavn!). Two atom bombs were dropped (on Moscow and Miami), and now the world is conclusively at peace. Society and class have retreated to the Edwardian era, Churchill is a forgotten back-bencher. But London is beginning to swing, there are gay pubs now, and in one of them we meet a Foreign Office man named Guy who is soldiering on, years after his masters in Moscow became radioactive dust.