Book Review: Making History

MakingHistoryby Michael D. Pederson


Making History
Stephen Fry
Random House, 380 pp.

This is the third book from actor/writer Stephen Fry. Making History uses time-travel and alternate realities (without becoming science fiction) to tell an amusing story of fate, determinism, and morality. Fry s firat book (The Liar, 1991, Soho Press) was a brilliant piece of comic insanity. In Making History, Fry has toned down both the comedy and the insanity but still provides an entertaining, philosophical read.

Making History plays with the most popular subject in the alternate history genre—Adolph Hitler. Fry uses the “history is immutable” theory (i.e. if there were no Lincoln then someone else would play a similar role) as the framework for his story. The main characters are Michael Young, a Cambridge history student who has just finished his thesis on the early life of Adolph Hitler and Leo Tuckermann, a physics professor obsessed with guilt over Nazi Germany (his father had been a senior medical officer in the Auschwitz death camp). The two concoct a plan to prevent Hitler from being born. The mechanics of time-travel aren’t important to the story; in a movie they would have cut to a three-minute montage showing the heroes developing time-travel to a soundtrack of Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Fry uniquely conveys this by writing the entire section in screenplay format.

The book is at its most entertaining when Young wakes up in the strange new Hitler-less world that he has created. After failing to fit in to this new world he discovers that the Nazi party without Hitler’s manic impatience and messiah complex is a more efficient and nastier creature. The fun of the book is in the details of a well thought out alternate reality so I won’t reveal any surprises here. In the end, our hero has to set things back to the way they were while discovering love and learning a few things about himself along the way. Good stuff.


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