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What Might Have Been
The Story of a Social War. Handheld Classics 1
It is 1907 in the Collateral Age in Britain. There is mixed flying above the promenade in Hastings. The telescribe flashes messages instantly to its subscribers, and a recent naval battle has been won by an Englishman's daring. But civil war is brewing, between the Conservative party of decent tradition and the Labour government inflicting a socialist nightmare on British society. Daily life is about to change in this Edwardian speculative fiction of the near future, and it will not be for the better.
What Might Have Been: The Story of a Social War (1907) is Ernest Bramah's long-forgotten novel of Conservative resistance to Labour rule. It has long been celebrated for its vision of a futuristic society and politics, but was quickly bowdlerised of its more savage political satire, and republished in 1909 as The Secret of the League. Bramah mixed hard-hitting social realism and intricate office espionage with riotous political satire, and accurately predicted the invention of the fax machine and the ascendancy of Labour politics. What Might Have Been is a political thriller packed with high adventure, on the roads with a nail-biting Buchanesque car chase, at sea in a battle that C S Forrester could have written, and in the air with dramatic rescue missions.
Now, for the first time since 1907, What Might Have Been is available at its original length, with 7000 words restored to recreate this lost landmark in British speculative fiction. The critical introduction by Jeremy Hawthorn sets out thenovel's history, its themes and its connections with Bramah's more famous literary works, The Wallet of Kai Lung, and Max Carrados.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
The Times Literary Supplement published a long and detailed review of What Might Have Been in the issue of 24 November 2017. They said that What Might Have Been 'abounds in humour and wit, especially in the early chapters. Bramah's condemnation of the power of the press to corrupt and mislead is as pertinent today as it was in 1907'. Also: 'the volume's excellent introduction by Jeremy Hawthorn offers a welcome addition to the otherwise general paucity of critical material on Bramah'.They quoted their favourite joke from the book: '"Hastings permitted mixed flying. It was a question that had embittered many a town council. To one section ... it seemed hideous that coatless men should be allowed to spread their wings within a hundred and fifty yards of shoeless women'.