On Alternate History Fiction

Gesilayefa Azorbo
2 min readSep 2, 2016


Mindblowing cover art by John Liberto

So I finished the book I was reading yesterday (sans interruption, this time, lol). I loved it so much I wrote a Goodreads review about it (and I barely even use my Goodreads account!)

But because I count that review towards my month-long goal of writing and publishing something everyday, I’m reposting it here.

#sorrynotsorry (:

United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas is a visceral, beautifully realized alternate history envisioning a world in which Japan invaded America during World War II using an unprecedented secret weapon, freed the Japanese-Americans imprisoned in internment camps, and proceeded to conquer much of the rest of the world afterwards.

While the story moves back and forth in time to serve the narrative, the main action takes place 40 years after these events, when Ben Ishimura — a military censor in a society whose media culture is comprised largely of propaganda video games celebrating Japan’s various military victories under the Godlike rule of the Emperor — discovers that the remnants of an American resistance styled after the founding fathers and calling themselves the George Washingtons are distributing an illegal video game which has its players envision a world in which the United States won WWII.

The story grapples with questions about truth, history, belief and loyalty — and the lengths to which people will go for the sake of an idea. Flawed, complex, unpredictable characters, unflinching depictions of violence without being gratuitous, a fully realized world that’s just a few steps out of sync with the world we know as the “real world”, and tight, incisive, yet deeply evocative writing all make this an incredible read. And for me as a first-time reader of Peter Tieryas’ work, it’s enough to make an instant fan out of me.

Also, check out more of John Liberto’s incredible, eyewateringly-good concept and cover art on Gizmodo Japan (don’t worry, Google Translate is awesome :p )