The Alteration

Kingsley Amis
The Alteration Cover

The Alteration


Alternate History novels have always been pretty interesting to me, whether the classic "What if World War II" had gone the other way of Phillip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, or having the alteration to history occurring further back like in Keith Robert's Pavane.

Kingsley Amis' 1976 Alternate Fiction novel The Alteration asks (sorry for the mild 38-year-old spoiler here) what if The Reformation hadn't occurred? How would our modern world (modern being the 1976 the book was published) look like?

The novel follows a ten-year-old protagonist called Hubert Anvil, a talented singer who is chosen by his church authorities to be altered (castrated) so as to protect his God-given talent from the damage puberty may bring it.

The novel follows Hubert as he attempts to decide whether he would like the procedure or not - looking at the world in general and attempting to find a rational solution to his dilemma.

The Altered world of 1976 lives largely under Papal control, although there is a cold war in existence between the Christian and Muslim world. A free country of sorts exists over part of our America, but even it doesn't work quite as well as one may hope.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is Hubert's love for Alternate fiction stories (including The Man in the High Castle and a cleverly renamed Pavane), allowing Amis to acknowledge previous benchmarks in Alternate history (there are a number of similarities between the key historical event and contemporary worlds of The Alteration and Pavane).

An interesting read all around - not sure if I'd revisit it, but glad to have made its acquaintance.