A BETTER WORLD'S IN BIRTH!, Howard Waldrop (Golden Gryphon, No ISBN, $15.95, 51pp, tp) July 2003. Cover by Nicholas Jainschigg.
The novella or novelette length chapbook has come well and truly into its own the last few years, providing a regular venue for a series of outstanding stories that would otherwise have had trouble finding a home. A Better World's in Birth!, a new story by long-time Texas National Treasure, Howard Waldrop, set in Dresden in 1876, details the investigations of one Comrade Rienzi, from the People's Department for Security, who has been charged with the task of investigating the alleged appearance of ghostly manifestations of People's Revolutionary leaders Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, and Richard Wagner. As Waldrop says, "A spectre is haunting Europe" and it's up to Rienzi to determine why.
A Better World's in Birth! is typical of his post-1990 work. It combines the cool tone and setting of "The Effects of Alienation" and the density of allusion of "You Could Go Home Again". It is, as always, beautifully written, and meticulously researched, and requires readers to possess more historical knowledge than the US Census suggests is typical of most college graduates. If the past year has marked any kind of watershed for the alternate history, then arguably the writer who most deserves to benefit from that with a wider readership is Texas's favorite son. Now . . . where's that next collection?
— Jonathan Strahan, Locus, June 2003