If you've never heard of David Gerrold, and I must admit that prior to reading this collection, I hadn't, he is perhaps most well-known for having written the classic Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles." After this early success, he remained a prolific science-fiction writer, with recurring contributions to an anthology series created by Mike Resnick. Alternate Gerrolds collects these anthology pieces for the first time in a single volume.
The title comes from the fact that each story centers on an alternate reality. Some are alternate histories while others simply add an unexpected element to everyday life, such as pet dinosaurs. The diverse line-up leaves a little something for everyone. The one downside to the variety is that the stories are so different that it's almost impossible that every single one will appeal to all readers.
For instance, the alternate history/alternate timeline stories fell flat with me, but it's a matter of personal preference rather than any flaw in the writing. I just couldn't interest myself in the little "what if" details. "The Kennedy Enterprise" considers what would have happened if John F. Kennedy became an actor instead of a politician. Some of the biggest actors of the 1940s are entrusted with the first atomic bomb in "The Firebringers." I think that someone who is already interested in this science-fiction subgenre would find the stories compelling. I also think the stories would resonate more with readers who lived during the time period featured in each story (ranging from the ‘40s to the ‘60s) because they could compare the two realities more fully an appreciate subtle details.
In my eyes, the collection's best stories simply provide a twist on the world we know. In "Rex," the previously mentioned dinosaur pets provide an interesting solution to a family man's problems. We see whether a lawyer can create the perfect wish, free of loopholes, in "A Wish for Smish." And "The Fan Who Molded Himself" asks the question, "What if Sherlock Holmes were real?" and adds a unique twist on exactly how he arrived at his brilliant deductions. These and many other stories provide compelling characters in interesting stories with more than one twist ending.
Mike Resnick provides a humorous introduction to the collection that manages to simultaneously praise Gerrold and ensure that he doesn't think too highly of himself. Gerrold returns the favor in a forward that he entreats us not to read. On the whole, this is an entertaining work, and as a collection of sixteen varied stories, you're sure to find at least one, if not a dozen that become personal favorites.