Short Story Review: “Suppose They Gave a Peace” (1992)

Cover art for the anthology, “The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century

The latest tale I read in The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century edited by Harry Turtledove and Martin H. Greenberg is Susan Swartz‘s 1992 short story Suppose They Gave a Peace.

It’s an anti-war Vietnam era tale as seen through the eyes of a family in Ohio in the early 1970s. Frankly, it reminded me of the old sitcom All in the Family, set in the same era and, at least in the beginning, with the same stereotypes.

Dad’s a World War Two and Korean War vet who is a total conservative. Mom’s a peace loving Quaker. Daughter is a radical college protestor, and son joined the Marines and is serving at the U.S. embassy in Saigon.

The alternate part of this history is that McCarthy won the election rather than Nixon. It didn’t seem to make much difference since the Fall of Saigon was just as ghastly.

That the Marine son goes missing and is presumed dead isn’t shocking. The daughter confessing to Dad that she was wrong was interesting, as was her decision to become a medical volunteer and travel to ‘Nam to try to find her brother.

What confronted Dad’s prejudices the most was hearing that his son had given his seat on the evac plan to his Vietnamese wife and young son.

The story was well written, and in spite of the aforementioned stereotyping, compelling, but really, you could have written this as straight drama, left out the alternate history angle, and it would have been exactly the same.

So far, it’s the least interesting story in the anthology, if only because it was pretty predictable and there was no perceivable change in the timeline.

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