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Making History

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In Making History, Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason--and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf's conception. And with their success is launc In Making History, Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason--and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf's conception. And with their success is launched a brave new world that is in some ways better than ours--but in most ways even worse. Fry's experiment in history makes for his most ambitious novel yet, and his most affecting. His first book to be set mostly in America, it is a thriller with a funny streak, a futuristic fantasy based on one of mankind's darkest realities. It is, in every sense, a story of our times.


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In Making History, Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason--and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf's conception. And with their success is launc In Making History, Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason--and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf's conception. And with their success is launched a brave new world that is in some ways better than ours--but in most ways even worse. Fry's experiment in history makes for his most ambitious novel yet, and his most affecting. His first book to be set mostly in America, it is a thriller with a funny streak, a futuristic fantasy based on one of mankind's darkest realities. It is, in every sense, a story of our times.

30 review for Making History

  1. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    Can you have a mid-life crisis at twenty-four? Or is it just the usual crisis of adulthood, something I was going to have to get used to until I doddered into oblivion? For the past year, I realised, I had been suffering from this pain, this leaking of hot lead in my stomach. Every morning when I awoke and stared at the ceiling and listened to Jane’s gentle snoring it flooded my gut, a dark swell of recognition that here was another pissing day to be got through as me. How can you tell if that’s Can you have a mid-life crisis at twenty-four? Or is it just the usual crisis of adulthood, something I was going to have to get used to until I doddered into oblivion? For the past year, I realised, I had been suffering from this pain, this leaking of hot lead in my stomach. Every morning when I awoke and stared at the ceiling and listened to Jane’s gentle snoring it flooded my gut, a dark swell of recognition that here was another pissing day to be got through as me. How can you tell if that’s freakish or usual? No one ever says. The ceaselessly expanding Christian Societies in the university would tell you that it was a sign that you needed room for Christ in your life. That your ache was a vacuum in the soul. Yeah, right. Sure. It was the same void that drugs filled, I supposed. I had thought too that maybe this was what Jane was for. No, not what Jane was for, what Love was for. Then either I didn’t love Jane as I should or this was another blown theory. The longings of a creative spirit then? Maybe my soul craved expression in Art? But: can’t draw, can’t write, can’t sing, can’t play. Great. Where does that leave me? A kind of Salieri deal perhaps. Cursed with enough of divine fire to recognise it in others, but not enough to create anything myself. Aw, rats . . . Even tho I love Stephen Fry's books (and pretty much everything else he shares with the world), Making History has been lingering on my kindle without even tempting me to start this. Why is that? Well, I unfortunately was put of by the premise that promised time travel that would culminate in the prevention of Hitler, two subjects that really don't intrigue me at all. When I started the book, the misgivings I had with the premise continued: I liked Fry's writing but I still couldn't get to grips with reading what was in part a biography of Hitler, which, well, I had not planned on ever reading. I even found myself skimming some of those parts. It was written really well, but not something I would have engaged with if it had been by any other author. However, I knew enough about Stephen Fry to be intrigued as to how he would handle the subject and how he would tie up the various parallel story lines. And of course the second story line about a history student who has just submitted his PhD thesis, was quirky enough and contained all the good parts, the parts where Fry questions things like the relationship between science and art, and how society attributes more importance to one rather than the other. But then, at about the half-way point, two things happened: For one, I realised how unusual it is to read a WWI account (even tho fiction) from a German perspective. What is more, Fry did this rather well and without resorting to a lot of stereotyping or using cliches. The second change was that the story suddenly changed a gear when the two plots crossed, and when we get to read Fry's conjectured alternate reality, which is not as, erm, peachy as the simple solution erasing Hitler's existence from the 20th century may seem. The second half of the book had me gripped. If I had not arranged to meet with a friend for lunch, I would have read this book straight through all morning. What I loved about Fry's story is that he did not rely on a naive plot, but actually put a lot of thought into his conjectures, where one change effects so many things that outcomes are not predictable. And, yet, despite the sensitive subjects that Fry brought up, there is an overarching tone of hope for humankind, even if the book focuses on the balance between the good and the bad that comes with every action. I absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, this is the last of Fry's novels that I hadn't read, yet, so I can only hope that he will at some point write another one. I love his other books (the non-fiction ones), but his fiction work is rather special to me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie Muffett

    My favourite Fry book. His jumps between narratives and playful use of various lit devices is only possible for Stephen Fry. As usual, you instantly adore the protagonist and watch his every fumbling step with the same paternal-yet-slightly-benevolently-lecherous gaze as Fry. The action in this is perfectly paced, the history glitters with colour, the humanity is raw, the politics aren't preachy or overdone, the love is true, and the voices are clear and exact. Above all of course, is the humour My favourite Fry book. His jumps between narratives and playful use of various lit devices is only possible for Stephen Fry. As usual, you instantly adore the protagonist and watch his every fumbling step with the same paternal-yet-slightly-benevolently-lecherous gaze as Fry. The action in this is perfectly paced, the history glitters with colour, the humanity is raw, the politics aren't preachy or overdone, the love is true, and the voices are clear and exact. Above all of course, is the humour. I want to make love to this book, it is so gorgeous. If I was a boy, I would freely offer myself to Mr. Fry. Seriously.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. So you invent a time machine, and what’s the first thing you do? You go back in time and kill Hitler, of course! Except you can’t (TVTropes), because either it doesn’t work or it screws up the timeline even more. Thus resolving one of the burning questions surrounding time travel: if it’s possible, why do we still have Hitler? Stephen Fry tackles this in a best-of-all-possible worlds way in Making History, where his protagonist succeeds in averting Hitler’s birth only for someone more charismatic and cunning So you invent a time machine, and what’s the first thing you do? You go back in time and kill Hitler, of course! Except you can’t (TVTropes), because either it doesn’t work or it screws up the timeline even more. Thus resolving one of the burning questions surrounding time travel: if it’s possible, why do we still have Hitler? Stephen Fry tackles this in a best-of-all-possible worlds way in Making History, where his protagonist succeeds in averting Hitler’s birth only for someone more charismatic and cunning to rise to power in his place. I didn’t like this novel at first. I’m a fan of Fry as a TV personality, but the opening pages of Making History didn’t endear themselves to me. Michael Young is such an unsympathetic character. But he kind of needs to be a jerk. One requires a certain level of hubris to think that one should be responsible for changing history, and Michael certainly has that. Of course, a story where one kills Hitler with no unintended consequences would be boring. So things go wrong, and that’s where it gets really interesting. When reality adjusts to Hitler’s absence, Michael finds himself not in Cambridge but Princeton, where he is supposed have an American accent. But with Hitler out of the picture, a more charismatic German rose to power. He reins in the anti-semitism, and as a result, Germany develops the atomic bomb first. World War II doesn’t happen, and America exists in a tenuous state of non-aggression with a Fascist/Communist Europe. In many respects this world seems more advanced—it’s 1996 and everyone has mobile phones and tablets—but culturally, civil liberties didn’t happen. Racism and homophobia are normal; a climate of McCarthyism is the country’s response to Germany’s power. And the Jews? Well, in Europe, they got shuffled into a supposed “free state” but haven’t been heard from since. Making History is a fantastic example of alternate history. I particularly enjoyed how Fry shows the same scene, set during World War I, twice, once from the original timeline and once from the timeline after Michael erases Hitler. It’s an “oh shit” moment as the reader realizes the magnitude of what Michael has done. It’s a foregone conclusion that the new world is going to be somehow less preferable to the old one, but it’s not immediately obvious how that’s the case. Fry reveals more about the new timeline gradually, giving the reader time to acclimatize alongside Michael, who must pretend like everything is cool to throw off some suspicious G-men even while he secretly freaks out and wants to find a way to restore the original timeline. This is a subject understandably close to Fry’s heart, because he has family who died at Auschwitz. And the Holocaust in any light is a serious subject. So it seems like it would be difficult to poke fun at it … and Fry doesn’t try. The humour in Making History is entirely at Michael’s expense (another reason he is an unlikable protagonist). On one level, the narrative just seems to take umbrage at Michael’s ego and conviction that he can make history better. It mocks him for believing that merely removing Hitler from the picture will somehow defuse the anti-semitism and fascist ideologies throughout Europe in the early twentieth century. Fry makes a serious point here, in that often the vilification of Hitler seems to eclipse the more important underlying issues. But he does it with a lighthearted, humorous tone with regards to Michael’s actions and feelings. The way that Fry balances the serious nature of the subject with his trademark wit is the most stunning aspect of Making History, and the most rewarding. This is far more than just another what-if story of counterfactual fiction: it moves both through pathos and humour. I wanted to strangle Michael sometimes, but by the end I was starting to sympathize with him. And while he’s still a jerk at the end of the story, he has definitely changed and learned from his rather major mistakes. In this way Fry reaffirms what is most important: the close, personal relationship between two human beings, and the reminder that we are responsible for making a better world.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hugh Malcolm

    The book started well enough, young chap at Cambridge (Fry's alma mater) immersed in the history of Hitler, working towards spending his life at Cambridge in a paid capacity, is having a tough time with his hard-nosed scientist girlfriend who finally leaves him (I found her more interesting than our hero, stronger, and more capable of carrying a story, and was sorry to see her go). Young man makes a hash of his thesis, dissertation, whatever, by being way too inventive for historical research, b The book started well enough, young chap at Cambridge (Fry's alma mater) immersed in the history of Hitler, working towards spending his life at Cambridge in a paid capacity, is having a tough time with his hard-nosed scientist girlfriend who finally leaves him (I found her more interesting than our hero, stronger, and more capable of carrying a story, and was sorry to see her go). Young man makes a hash of his thesis, dissertation, whatever, by being way too inventive for historical research, but bumps (literally) into a physics prof. who catches sight of his subject matter, becomes very excited, and shows our young hero why. For his own reasons, he too is obsessed with Hitler and is working on a way to change the course of history, basically to assuage his own familial guilt. With the young man's detailed knowledge of Hitler's early life, the physics professor's project becomes much easier. And so these two set about making sure Hitler is never born. Fry's idea is that mass events will happen no matter who, or who is not, there...they will simply be somewhat different. Therefore, even without Hitler, the basic impulse of the time is achieved through a different cast of characters. Only worse. That was interesting, interesting enough to keep going with the story. The writing was a bit clever-clever, but not too clever, actually I expected more from such a celebrated wit (no Oscar Wilde here)...and towards the end became rather sophomoric, as did Fry's completely unnecessary descent into an alternative love story way out of character for our young hero, even understanding that he too changed when the world changed. It wasn't necessary for the story, just seemed sort of stuck on as an amusement/fantasy for Fry. In fact, the last fifty pages were juvenile and rushed. In the hands of deeper thinker and a better sci-fi writer, this might have been very good. But it petered out along the way as Fry's grasp of his material also petered out. He really didn't know what to do with everyone when they'd achieved their goal, so thrashed his way out in a very unlikely comic book fashion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    This was clearly not a success for me. Especially the literary level was very low: weakly portraited, one-dimensional characters, an occasional exciting moment but a lot of very boring moments, especially in the passages that have been written as a film script, and a really really dull final. The only interesting approach is that Fry tries to imagine what the consequences would be of attempts to change history, but even that is poorly executed. As a novel this does not exceed the level of cheap This was clearly not a success for me. Especially the literary level was very low: weakly portraited, one-dimensional characters, an occasional exciting moment but a lot of very boring moments, especially in the passages that have been written as a film script, and a really really dull final. The only interesting approach is that Fry tries to imagine what the consequences would be of attempts to change history, but even that is poorly executed. As a novel this does not exceed the level of cheap science fiction, suitable to read on the beach.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Strömquist

    Probably my favorite fiction book by the wonderful Stephen Fry - when you have read his autobiography, my suggestion is to go for this one! The story, obviously, is about the changing of history and the consequences thereof. Wonderful, live and likeable characters (and some not likeable at all, of course) and has all the trademark Fry: English humor, wit, and beautiful language. At no point in this book this feels overdone, but I felt that he hit just the tone and pace here. The outcome of the m Probably my favorite fiction book by the wonderful Stephen Fry - when you have read his autobiography, my suggestion is to go for this one! The story, obviously, is about the changing of history and the consequences thereof. Wonderful, live and likeable characters (and some not likeable at all, of course) and has all the trademark Fry: English humor, wit, and beautiful language. At no point in this book this feels overdone, but I felt that he hit just the tone and pace here. The outcome of the meddling is very close to my first guess and I liked very much that he arrived there. The 'fix' is also a logical one, but does offer some surprises along the way. This was, even though it's a bit long, a smooth and not easily paused read and one that I recommend very much.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    You can read this review and more on my blog In a nutshell: Making History is an equally fun and thought-provoking read about an alternative history where Hitler was never born. This was not only my first Stephen Fry novel but my first read for 2015. It was a wonderful beginning on both accounts. I've wanted to read something by Fry for a while now and Making History was a perfect book for me to start with. I'm a history student - like the protagonist - and I'm fascinated by alternative histor/>In You can read this review and more on my blog In a nutshell: Making History is an equally fun and thought-provoking read about an alternative history where Hitler was never born. This was not only my first Stephen Fry novel but my first read for 2015. It was a wonderful beginning on both accounts. I've wanted to read something by Fry for a while now and Making History was a perfect book for me to start with. I'm a history student - like the protagonist - and I'm fascinated by alternative history, especially related to the time period. In all honesty, I wasn't quite sure to expect from this book but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It accompanied me through sleepless nights, killing time at the airport and a shaky flight home. It made me laugh, smile and think. What more can I ask for from a book? Making History answers an interesting question - what if Hitler had never been born? It's something that I have considered myself many times, and I've read and heard about a lot of different theories. In the novel, a history grad student - Michael - and an aging German physicist - Leo - are particularly concerned with it; so much that they manage to ensure that Adolf Hitler was never conceived. It's interesting to consider the implications of this. Fascism and anti-semitism would not have disappeared if Hitler had not existed - it's not like these were new concepts in the world. History instead play out differently and as a consequence, the world is changed. Aspects of the alternative society concerning technology, history and sexuality were certainly different, and I loved Fry's take on it. The novel is told from multiple perspectives and some chapters are written in a script format. The switch could be disconcerting initially, but overall I appreciated the writing style. The implications of what Michael and Leo did were effectively demonstrated with a scene told once with Hitler and again without him. I liked the characters, despite their flaws, though I didn't necessarily form a strong connection with them. Leo was an especially interesting character, considering the moral dilemma that drove him to change history. If I had to pick a favourite character, I'd go with Steve. (view spoiler)[I loved his relationship with Michael. First his support, then when he realised this Michael was different. Their relationship did seem to come about suddenly after what felt like a prolonged build-up, but it felt true. They were cute. I was worried for a minute about Steve but the ending made me happy. (hide spoiler)] Fry is a wonderful story teller and I was engaged throughout the book, even during its build-up to the actual history "making". This book was a pleasure to read and I'm already looking forward to re-reading it. I especially liked that it was at the same time fun and playful, and thought-provoking and interesting. I'd highly recommend Making History to fans of alternative history novels or simply anyone after a great read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Viir

    More like 3.5 stars but whatever. The story follows Michael D. Young, a 24 year old guy who is supposed to turn in his thesis to achieve his doctorate. He lives with his girlfriend Jane, who is a very clever ambitious Chemist (I think, idk anymore) and both of them are so different that this relationship isn't good for any of them. The thesis Michael writes focuses on Adolf Hitler and his mother but (because he is dumb, I can't find another reason for such a bad thesis) he writes it i More like 3.5 stars but whatever. The story follows Michael D. Young, a 24 year old guy who is supposed to turn in his thesis to achieve his doctorate. He lives with his girlfriend Jane, who is a very clever ambitious Chemist (I think, idk anymore) and both of them are so different that this relationship isn't good for any of them. The thesis Michael writes focuses on Adolf Hitler and his mother but (because he is dumb, I can't find another reason for such a bad thesis) he writes it in prose. Like it's a fucking novel and not a scientific paper. What.The.Hell.Dude. So obviously the professor who is in charge for his thesis isn't too thrilled and wants him to rewrite his shit. And somewhere here Michael meets another professor, Leo Zuckerberg who somehow was able to build a machine that allows him to look at Auschwitz in 1944 (again I think that was the year, I really don't want to check again). At this point they just look at it...but what would happen if they could actually do something that would prevent Hitler from doing the horror we all learnt about at school? So the story unfolds there. The book switches between chapters focusing on the "present", 1994 with struggling Michael and his life, and the past where we get to know Adolf Hitlers mother, her abuse by Alois and so on. Then we also get chapters about how Hitler was working in the first world war, the people that served in the war etc. It switches to another character from the time, but I don't want to give anything away. I really liked the history point in this book, I liked the time travel thing. But the writing style is sth you have to get used to, what took me like 200 pages. After that I was thrilled to continue reading. One major negative point is that after going on and on about history the story evolves to become a fucking love story that no one needs and no one (or maybe just me) asked for. But whatever. It is what it is. The love story wasn't even nicely written, just thrown out there. I'm annoyed. STILL I recommend reading it, go ahead have fun.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    I tried, I really did. I love Mr Fry but this was flat as a pancake, two dimensional in every respect. The first couple of chapters were like a flashback to some trip in my twenties, an acid burn. By the time it had pulled itself into something that aligned with my attention span, my attention had got up and gone out for a drink. I followed it, leaving the book behind. Sorry, I know that a great deal have really rated this, but for me it didn't mesh.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    Slow to get started, but once the set up ended (around page 150), it got completely awesome and very interesting. Michael and Leo try to fix the world by making it so that Hitler was never born, except the world that results is even worse. I loved the glimpses of the technology in the alternate world. I think the premise that the world ends up in a perpetual state of the 1950s is fascinating. I liked how Michael and Steve's relationship evolved, although I'd have liked to see a bit more of it. I Slow to get started, but once the set up ended (around page 150), it got completely awesome and very interesting. Michael and Leo try to fix the world by making it so that Hitler was never born, except the world that results is even worse. I loved the glimpses of the technology in the alternate world. I think the premise that the world ends up in a perpetual state of the 1950s is fascinating. I liked how Michael and Steve's relationship evolved, although I'd have liked to see a bit more of it. It was really just all around cool and fun and interesting. Well worth the $5 I paid for it on Amazon marketplace. *g*

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Thoroughly good book. The idea this book is based on is nothing new, people have discussed this many times, but this is the first time I have seen the idea written down. It has been very well done, the different writing styles used keep you entertained. Michael and Leo are very good characters and some of their dialogue had me in stitches. The first book I have read by Mr Fry, I will be back to read some more.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Amazing. My absolute favorite of Fry's excellent works, and one of my favorite books, period. Hilarious, it goes without saying. Intelligent, playful, silly/serious. Romantic. No one but Fry could write a book about Hitler that can make you cry with laughter. "Sodding pants."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    When someone as talented, witty, and educated as Stephen Fry writes a book, you half-expect brilliance on every page. While his genius was clearly in evidence, it was only every other page or so where it struck me--still a helluva good rate. Fry did not lack for ambition. But it was always going to be difficult to display humor, humanity, romance, and imagination when the fate of the whole continent's Jewish population was at stake. The book asks whither a world without Hitler. Fry's When someone as talented, witty, and educated as Stephen Fry writes a book, you half-expect brilliance on every page. While his genius was clearly in evidence, it was only every other page or so where it struck me--still a helluva good rate. Fry did not lack for ambition. But it was always going to be difficult to display humor, humanity, romance, and imagination when the fate of the whole continent's Jewish population was at stake. The book asks whither a world without Hitler. Fry's treatment and tone in response compels me to invent a new, compound German word (if it doesn't exist already): Unwahrscheinlicheleichternsthaftigkeit translated roughly as "mismatched light seriousness." Despite Fry's light touch, he does hit on some thought-provoking issues. "What-if" exercises are interesting when you've got someone to give you proper context along the way. A polymath like Fry certainly knows enough European history to do that. In my mind, his knowledge of the German experience between the wars more than made up for the inherent flaws in time travel logic. (I doubt even Stephen Hawking could make the physics behind such machinery sound plausible.) To his credit, Fry did not play up the sci-fi elements. What he did emphasize were pleasures of the intellect. Now I'm wondering: what if someone went back in time and made Making History disappear? I, for one, would feel less Unwahrscheinlicheleichternsthaftigkeit, and an even greater debt of outright fun.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    This was a great disappointment. The best part of the book was the alternate world that Fry imagined, with a very different outcome to the Second World War from the one we know. I found the protagonist incredibly irritating, though I was presumably supposed to find him charming. For someone who is a PhD candidate in history at Cambridge University, his inability to see that removing Hitler from the picture would not change the disastrous situation in Germany after the First World War, This was a great disappointment. The best part of the book was the alternate world that Fry imagined, with a very different outcome to the Second World War from the one we know. I found the protagonist incredibly irritating, though I was presumably supposed to find him charming. For someone who is a PhD candidate in history at Cambridge University, his inability to see that removing Hitler from the picture would not change the disastrous situation in Germany after the First World War, and that of course some other leader would emerge, was frankly unbelievable, despite his immaturity. Had he learned nothing from several years of reading history? Other irritations included the way the story occasionally turns into a film script, and the way that in the sections dealing with Germans, the English text is larded with German words. This makes as much sense as the old films where Germans (or other nationalities) spoke to each other in English with heavy accents so that we would know they were really speaking in German or French or whatever. Barely two stars, one being for the alternate outcome for Europe that Fry imagined and described well and succinctly.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    This amazing novel is a blend of science fiction, history, and time travel, and I thought it brilliant. If you're over the age of sixteen, chances are that you have spent a minute or two - in school or outside of it - pondering what our world would be like if the Germans had won World War II, or if Adolf Hitler had never been born, and that's exactly what this novel is about. Fry explores a spectrum of potential realities: historical, political, scientific, cultural, and sexual, and his speculat This amazing novel is a blend of science fiction, history, and time travel, and I thought it brilliant. If you're over the age of sixteen, chances are that you have spent a minute or two - in school or outside of it - pondering what our world would be like if the Germans had won World War II, or if Adolf Hitler had never been born, and that's exactly what this novel is about. Fry explores a spectrum of potential realities: historical, political, scientific, cultural, and sexual, and his speculations smack of realism and often of frightening possibleness. Michael D. Young and Leo Zuckerman - the young British historian and the elderly German physicist at the centre of the story - are engaging, believable, and well-rounded characters, and the situations into which they are thrown are, as I said, thrilling and involving and page-turning stuff. I also learned a few things about history - I can't believe I never knew that "Nazi" was merely the first four letters of the full name of the political party that Hitler helped to found, for instance. I think I paid a dollar for this book, at a recent book sale at work. That was money well-spent.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenn "JR"

    This was my first Stephen Fry book -- and I was a bit daunted by the 500+ page length. The writing is pretty fast moving -- heaps of details that make me feel like he's writing for a film, plus some sections where it's written like a film dialogue (not really sure why he's used this). Essentially, the story is about a student working on his PhD dissertation which sounds like an even more purple style of prose than Erik Larsen (bless his heart) and is laughed off by his dissertation ad This was my first Stephen Fry book -- and I was a bit daunted by the 500+ page length. The writing is pretty fast moving -- heaps of details that make me feel like he's writing for a film, plus some sections where it's written like a film dialogue (not really sure why he's used this). Essentially, the story is about a student working on his PhD dissertation which sounds like an even more purple style of prose than Erik Larsen (bless his heart) and is laughed off by his dissertation advisor. He crosses paths with a theoretical physicist who shares a painful personal story and, combined with access to an ex-girlfriend's pharmaceutical project at work -- proposes "let's make sure Hitler was never born." The book really didn't pick up steam until about halfway through -- that's a massive investment in weak development of ancillary characters and lengthy history essays. some of the history essays get longer in the second half, but the pace picks up. We learn about the new world at the same pace of the protagonist. In a rather circular, roundabout way, Fry makes the point that cultural conditions result in so many things that the removal of one person won't necessarily mitigate the development of some particular outcome. While he did a great job illustrating, in a small way, how some small changes would result in a world that is more or less racist/bigoted or homophobic... he left out all the super interesting bits about what was happening in Germany after WWI that resulted in the rise of nationalism and cultural rebirth -- which created a really excellent environment for a charismatic leader. I like the alternate history told in first person perspective, and I like the extra implications for even worse and more dire consequences of the protagonist's attempt to "fix" history. The ending is lovely - and makes me wonder if we could see this as a "Wizard of Oz" dream sequence where our protagonist realizes what he really wants at the end, and seizes it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alytha

    I think I read somewhere once that the first rule of timetravel is that you try to kill Hitler, and the second rule is that it either doesn't work, or things get even worse. This book falls into the second category. So, in terms of concept, it's not entirely new, but the execution is really really good. The book does an excellent job of capturing the human emotional level of the whole insane thing, and it's much funnier than you'd expect this kind of book to be. I think I read somewhere once that the first rule of timetravel is that you try to kill Hitler, and the second rule is that it either doesn't work, or things get even worse. This book falls into the second category. So, in terms of concept, it's not entirely new, but the execution is really really good. The book does an excellent job of capturing the human emotional level of the whole insane thing, and it's much funnier than you'd expect this kind of book to be. This is not really a science-fiction book though. Apart from some techno-babble, we're never really told how the time-machine works, and that's not the point of the book either. It focusses on the consequences, which, despite the rather neat tech, are pretty horrible all around. Fortunately, a bit of human decency and compassion has survived. So this eventually turns into a bit of a romance too. Another good thing is that the German in the text is almost always correct. Thank you, Mr Fry! Some nitpicks: some of the flashbacks are rather dull to read.(there's a bit of breaking the fourth wall about that, later, though) (view spoiler)[Also, logically, shouldn't Leo also feel displaced and remember his old life, as he was with Mike when they changed the past? (hide spoiler)] So, if you like history, and plots somewhere between Doctor Who and Monty Python, go for this one! 4.5 stars, really.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Franziska

    Wow - this book was amazing! In the beginning, the switch between past and present was a bit odd and I had a hard time to find into the book. But after several chapters, you see how all of it fits to the story and then I couldn't stop reading. So I am really happy that I had the opportunity to read it & can only recommend it!

  19. 5 out of 5

    S.J. Higbee

    This is the first time I’ve picked up a Stephen Fry novel, and it was an enjoyable, if slightly uneven, experience. Thumbing through the opening pages, I noticed that this book was first published in 1996, which begins to make sense when considering some of the faultlines running through this alternate history offering. The book is an intriguing premise – two men decide, for very different reasons, to tamper with history by ensuring the one man responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany is n This is the first time I’ve picked up a Stephen Fry novel, and it was an enjoyable, if slightly uneven, experience. Thumbing through the opening pages, I noticed that this book was first published in 1996, which begins to make sense when considering some of the faultlines running through this alternate history offering. The book is an intriguing premise – two men decide, for very different reasons, to tamper with history by ensuring the one man responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany is never born. However, the result isn’t what they bargained for… As a former history student, I thoroughly enjoyed Fry’s thorough approach to the historical content and had no problem with the leisurely start. And the conclusion that Fry comes to is certainly thought provoking – I’ve been thinking a lot about the book since I put it down. Fry successfully establishes Michael’s character as a wunderkind bedevilled with increasing insecurities as his peers are rapidly catching up, if not overhauling his precocious giftedness. Inevitably, given the sub-genre, the narrative timeline is speckled with flashbacks which are ably handled. And it goes without saying that the writing is excellent – actually, that shouldn’t go without saying. Excellent writing should always be acknowledged and I’d be selling Fry short if I just gave a nod in that direction because we all know that the man has an intellect the size of Greece’s overdraft. So far, so good. The protagonist has been well established, with plenty of depth. We have met with Leo and there’s been a couple of interesting plot twists – and then the novel prose comes to abrupt end and I was confronted with a film script. The action immediately speeded up as I witnessed a major emotional confrontation spool through in this script mode – feeling completely unconnected to the characters. Later in the novel, there is another, longer film script interlude, which also had the effect of alienating me from the action – a real shame as I’d really enjoyed the book up to this point. I am aware that my extreme aversion to this literary device is subjective – probably connected to the fact that books are my first and major love, while films are okay, I suppose…. However, I did find the film script sections really spoilt the book for me. Having said that, up to the point it all went Courier I found the depiction of the alternate world engrossing and chilling in equal measure. Fry is good at writing minor characters memorably and the flashes of humour helped alleviate what could have been a grim read, given the subject matter. All in all, it’s an interesting book with an interesting premise and if you enjoy alternate histories, I highly recommend it. Who knows - you may even enjoy the scripted sections… 8/10

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book is about Michael Young, a PhD candidate in the field of history, and Leo Zuckermann, a professor. They both attend Cambridge and have a big interest in World War II, and in Hitler especially. Young is writing his thesis about Hitler's life, while Zuckermann creates a time machine. When these two people meet, they decide to eliminate one of the biggest evils that this world has ever known: Hitler. They succeed, but what they did not know is that the world may had been better off with Hi This book is about Michael Young, a PhD candidate in the field of history, and Leo Zuckermann, a professor. They both attend Cambridge and have a big interest in World War II, and in Hitler especially. Young is writing his thesis about Hitler's life, while Zuckermann creates a time machine. When these two people meet, they decide to eliminate one of the biggest evils that this world has ever known: Hitler. They succeed, but what they did not know is that the world may had been better off with Hitler, than without Hitler. I'm really glad that I gave this book a chance, it was such an unique book. It took 150 pages to warm up, and at first I really thought about giving up and abandoning it. The writing was a bit weird; it was something that I had not encountered before, the POVs kept shifting to people I did not know (I did not understand it at all, to be honest), but it all made sense after I found out what Young and Zuckermann were up to. Fry's humour is very clever, but doesn't take away all the seriousness in the book; it is well-balanced. His references to pop culture really amused me and I liked that sometimes he changed to a film script format. It gave a nice touch to the book. The only thing that really annoyed me was Rudolf Gloder's POV. I did not add all that much to story, it merely strengthened his mean character, his brutality. Granted, it drew a nice parallel, but those bits were so dry and boring compared to Young's POV, and that was a bit disappointing. If it takes you some pages to get into this book, do keep reading. It is a interesting, funny, and at the same time, serious book. It's a real page turner and before you know it you slam the book shut and realise it's all over.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Malquiviades

    This is my first approach to Fry's books. It is an entertaining read. He is a talented and cultured man and that it is what you see while reading. A book is always embedded with the author's feelings likes and dislikes and opinions about anything. It is his "creature" after all. No surprises there. However, it may seem here that the story is just a necessary background against which Fry's impress many of its thoughts (academia's live and fauna, “Scientific” vs. “Humanist” v This is my first approach to Fry's books. It is an entertaining read. He is a talented and cultured man and that it is what you see while reading. A book is always embedded with the author's feelings likes and dislikes and opinions about anything. It is his "creature" after all. No surprises there. However, it may seem here that the story is just a necessary background against which Fry's impress many of its thoughts (academia's live and fauna, “Scientific” vs. “Humanist” views, English vs. American, social and cultural criticism...) All of them spiced by many comments showing the broad culture of the author; a thing that, so plainly shown, I dislike very much in a book; the research, knowledge and culture should be there, but more slightly woven into the whole story. It is not bad, but I regret that the interesting story is just put aside. What it is left is just an entertaining reading of Fry's humoristic view on the world. Curiously enough, the research on Hitler's first days is thorough and compelling. I liked it much more those parts than the rest. The implications on changing the past have been visited many a time before, with better end worse results. However... I do prefer "Back to the Future" in this sense. Admittedly, not the same thing, but far more amusing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Heather(Gibby)

    This was the first book by Stephen Fry that I have read. It is an enjoyable easy read, dealing with one of my favorite genres, time travel. I found the chapters that were written to mimic a movie scripts were very distracting, and don't really understand its use as a literary style. does Fry do this often? The storyline is a fairly classic one, What would happen if you travelled back in time and prevented Hitler from being born? The clever consequences of this action make t This was the first book by Stephen Fry that I have read. It is an enjoyable easy read, dealing with one of my favorite genres, time travel. I found the chapters that were written to mimic a movie scripts were very distracting, and don't really understand its use as a literary style. does Fry do this often? The storyline is a fairly classic one, What would happen if you travelled back in time and prevented Hitler from being born? The clever consequences of this action make this a very interesting read. The main protagonist is a flawed individual who steals your heart anyway. I was also quite amused by the comparisons between "American" and English" expressions in the book, as a Canadian, is was 50/50 as to which one was more familiar to me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jelena

    There are not so many books which manage to get in your head in such a way that you ask yourself all those questions even though you know you won't get an answer. And it does so in such a light way filled with humor but it talks about topics darker than the night sky. What if Hitler had never been born? Would have this world been a Utopia or would it be even worse? Is there always a worse possibility? And should we ever, if given the chance, tamper with time and past events and what not? What if There are not so many books which manage to get in your head in such a way that you ask yourself all those questions even though you know you won't get an answer. And it does so in such a light way filled with humor but it talks about topics darker than the night sky. What if Hitler had never been born? Would have this world been a Utopia or would it be even worse? Is there always a worse possibility? And should we ever, if given the chance, tamper with time and past events and what not? What ifs and what-should-have-beens are numerous and I cannot give enough praise to Mr. Fry for writing such a book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hadas Sloin

    Although it took me a while to get into it (the beginning of the book is slow), I greatly enjoyed "Making History". Fry manages to take a well-discussed topic and a well-known (even worn) idea, and shape them into a funny and insightful story. Mostly, I'm amazed by his ability to meaningfully discuss such a complex and heavy topic, and still leave me with a smile on my face. While I didn't like Fry's writing style and his peculiar protagonist at first, I learned to love them both by the end Although it took me a while to get into it (the beginning of the book is slow), I greatly enjoyed "Making History". Fry manages to take a well-discussed topic and a well-known (even worn) idea, and shape them into a funny and insightful story. Mostly, I'm amazed by his ability to meaningfully discuss such a complex and heavy topic, and still leave me with a smile on my face. While I didn't like Fry's writing style and his peculiar protagonist at first, I learned to love them both by the end of the book. Highly recommended to any humor or history lover, preferably both.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    Loved this book from the first page, Stephen Fry has a wonderful turn of phrase and the way, which is so easy to read. The story is different take on time travel and results in history being worse after the first bout of time travel than it originally was. However all things end up as they should by the end, or do they? At times it was very funny, at other times quite serious, but a great read overall.

  26. 5 out of 5

    astrangerhere

    a little too long, but a fun ride nonetheless.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I love the writing and the plot is one of the most fascinating ones I've read *-*

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pien

    Although at the start it was a bit over the top in enthusiasm (it read like every word was screamed out by the writer), I liked the book. It is original, witty and the way the main character experiences everything feels very true. It’s written very well. Fry knows a lot. A lot of a lot. And speaks several languages. But yet, he doesn’t show it off. It’s all just for the good of the story. I read it in Dutch, should have read it in English. I’m shure the British humor would have be Although at the start it was a bit over the top in enthusiasm (it read like every word was screamed out by the writer), I liked the book. It is original, witty and the way the main character experiences everything feels very true. It’s written very well. Fry knows a lot. A lot of a lot. And speaks several languages. But yet, he doesn’t show it off. It’s all just for the good of the story. I read it in Dutch, should have read it in English. I’m shure the British humor would have been even better - and the English in this review as well...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bookguide

    What if? This reminds me of a late-night student discussion of what would have happened if Germany had won WWII, what if Hitler hadn't been born, and what if you had the ability to change history. If you changed one thing, would that make the present better? In 'Terminator', somebody returning to the past changes the future for the better, but even though one butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can theoretically change events on the other side of the world, will removing one major agent for ev What if? This reminds me of a late-night student discussion of what would have happened if Germany had won WWII, what if Hitler hadn't been born, and what if you had the ability to change history. If you changed one thing, would that make the present better? In 'Terminator', somebody returning to the past changes the future for the better, but even though one butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can theoretically change events on the other side of the world, will removing one major agent for evil be enough to change history, and will the changes be for the better? In this novel, Stephen Fry investigates this premise, when a young man at Cambridge gets the opportunity to disrupt history and experiences a new, alternate reality. The graduate student Michael Young seems the embodiment of a young Stephen Fry himself, with his bumbling incompetence, his self-deprecation and his assumed persona of cool dude which masks his other-worldliness. In one respect he is different, however, as he's living with his efficient and rational girlfriend. The author himself comes to mind in passages such as this where Michael says, "History isn't my business at all. I managed at least, to stop myself from describing history as my 'trade', for which I reckon I can award myself some points. History is my passion, my calling. Or, to be more painfully truthful, it is my field of least incompetence." Even though Stephen Fry was a literature graduate, I can only too well imagine him saying this. In the second half of the book, where Michael is immersed in his new reality, this is less apparent, as he exercises his brain to find his feet in a world where much seems the same and yet things have, at a day-to-day level, subtly changed, and the world stage is radically altered. It turns out that progress takes a different path if different people do not meet or different resources are available in a different place. History does not revolve around one person, however influential that person may be. One voice shouting in the wilderness cannot lead a revolution. History is not a void, and evil ideas such as the Holocaust came into existence because of the existing social and economic pressures, not simply because Hitler was a great orator. This is very entertaining book, told with Stephen Fry's usual snippets of fascinating information, some good background information about WWII which I have to admit I read without retaining and some musings about an eclectic range of subjects. I didn't like the way in which he wrote the more action-packed sections in the form of a screenplay, as I found that more difficult to read than straight prose, and at times he slipped in more text than strictly necessary for a script, explaining the characters' feelings. It was interesting to see his portrayal of the WWI trenches and to wonder if he was assigning the roles to particular actors from the 'Blackadder Goes Forth' series; I couldn't help imagining Schmidt as the Baldrick character, the naive hero-worshipper, and Gloder as Blackadder, sending somebody else to do the hard work then taking all the credit. Blackadder came out in 1989, so 'Making History' came much later, in 1996. In the later chapters of the alternate reality, it was interesting to compare their technology with the reality of the time and to realise that the speech recognition software is probably now available to make this current reality, something which was not the case in 1996. Having given up on Fry's 'The Hippopotamus' after only a few pages due to his insistence on bad language, I am glad to be able to read one of his novels. It was perhaps less literary than I had expected, more full of pop culture references, and I did indeed, as the quotation from the back cover suggests, let the tea go cold. Which begs the chicken-and-egg question, which came first, the cover of a cat watching a goldfish or the quotation from The Independent, "A powerful imaginative pull that keeps the pages turning while the tea goes cold and the cat gets the goldfish? Finally, I highly recommend this video of Stephen Fry talking about 'Making History': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Uom7-...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dimitris Hall

    "I don't know why I find it intensely erotic to stand naked before an open fridge, but I do. Maybe it's something to do with the expectation of a hunger soon to be satisfied, maybe it's that the spill of light on my body makes me feel like a professional stripper. Maybe something weird happened to me when I was young. It is an alarming feeling, mind, because all those assembled food-stuffs put ideas in your head you're on the rise. Stories of what you can do with the unsalted butter on ripe melo "I don't know why I find it intensely erotic to stand naked before an open fridge, but I do. Maybe it's something to do with the expectation of a hunger soon to be satisfied, maybe it's that the spill of light on my body makes me feel like a professional stripper. Maybe something weird happened to me when I was young. It is an alarming feeling, mind, because all those assembled food-stuffs put ideas in your head you're on the rise. Stories of what you can do with the unsalted butter on ripe melons or raw liver, they crowd your head as the blood begins to rush. "I spotted a big slab of Red Leicester and pulled off a piece with my hands. I stood there chewing for some time, buzzing with happiness. "Thas was when the idea came to me, full born. "The force of it made me gape. A mashed pellet of bread fell from my open mouth and at once the blood flew upwards to the brain where it was needed, leaving my twitching excitement below with nothing to do but shrink back like a started snail." No wonder this man can write so eloquently and wittily about penises. It's a great thing it's not just them he can write like that about. Stephen Fry is some sort of homo universalis: a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, only much funnier. He's an actor, a humourist, a TV show preseneter, a walking encyclopedia, an activists for gay rights, a linguist... an intellectual all around. I had no idea he was a writer on top of all that but it comes as no real shock. One can't resist but nod silently, in contemplation and agreement to Mitchell & Webb's "who doesn't want to be like Stephen Fry?". Imagine my surprise when I found out that the book I had picked from Politeia, just because it had "Stephen Fry" and "History" written with large playful letters on the cover where it also had a picture of a cat, had to do with WWII and alternate history. I was thrilled! It's been some time since I last read a 500-page book in less than 10 days. It was a good page-turner, not too memorable or original, but for a lover of good alternate history and for one that wouldn't turn down well-written science fiction, it was rather good. I know that the best part of such stories, at least for me, is finding out the little details of the "fictional" worlds that have branched out differently. Therefore, I shall not disclose anything but what's necessary to whet your appetite: if Hitler had never been born, how can we be sure that the evil he was responsible for would have been equally prevented? Would Rock & Roll have ever been born? Would Orwell live to write 1984? What would the computers look like in 1996 -- the year the book was written? Stephen Fry in his signature cerebral style includes real historical tidbits on many personalities of the past as well as science and cultural background that make the thing more believeable. It seems only right that a man with a broad range of interests such as himself would be the perfect candidate to write such a demanding genre as alternate history. I'll roll this review up leaving you with this: at one point of the book, the protagonist decides that the format of a novel is not enough to convey the action; the book promptly switches to telling the story by means of being a film script, only to switch back when the heavy action's suddenly over:"I fade from Hollywood screenplay format to dull old, straight old prose because that's how it felt. That's how it always feels in the end. Exquisite.

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