Sea Lion Press
With another tranche of high-quality titles recently being released, not only on Kindle but many in paperback form as well, Sea Lion Press appear to be going from strength to strength and I couldn’t be happier – both as a reviewer and as an avid reader of the alternate history genre. There are a huge number of indie alternate history/counter-factual history titles on the market at the moment, but almost without exception they are either poorly written, poorly explained, or devolve into rants and conspiracy theories that make you regret picking something up in the first place. Sea Lion Press and its authors may have only appeared on the scene within the past few years, but it’s rapidly become obvious to this reviewer that the publishers high-quality writing, editing and graphical design is exactly the kind of shot in the arm that an often stale and moribund genre needs.
The first of Sea Lion Press’ latest titles to be reviewed is T’Yorkshire Assembly by Jack Tindale, co-author of the peerless Agent Lavender and several other SLP titles that will be reviewed in the future. Mr Tindale is also responsible for the covers for all SLP publications, simple but arresting designs that never fail to catch the reader’s eye, and this latest title is no exception, featuring a striking coat of arms designed for the titular assembly that is at the heart of this latest story. As the author highlights in his own introduction to the piece, regional devolution is an issue that is no longer a ‘dirty word’, and indeed in Our Timeline (OTL), regional devolution was granted to the area of Greater Manchester with an elected mayor and various powers available to it. The creation of a devolved Yorkshire Assembly, or the ‘Yorkshire Reich’ as the protagonist amusingly refers to it at one point during the story, is therefore hardly a flight of fancy. Indeed, it follows in the footsteps of another SLP title, Zonen, in what I like to call the ‘subtle alternate history’ subgenre – stories set in timelines that have had significant but not world-shattering changes: regional devolution versus a Nazi-controlled Europe, and it is all the more enjoyable for it.
Tindale takes as his starting point the idea that there was greater support for the concept of regional devolution under the Blair government, and that after a closely-won referendum on the issue, Yorkshire Devolution was achieved, with a regional Assembly being formed in Bradford. T’Yorkshire Assembly itself is essentially a travelogue, of the kind that you might see in the Guardian or Independent, with the narrator conducting a series of interviews with key figures associated, positively or negatively, with the Yorkshire Assembly and the wider concept of regional devolution in the UK. It’s a clever way of writing a short story, allowing the author to showcase a variety of viewpoints about the devolution and how it has affected both the region and the UK as a whole; it also allows Mr Tindale to create some fantastic pen portraits of various alternate-versions of British politicians.
Figures both obscure and well-known populate the pages of T’Yorkshire Assembly, and all are very well-written, highly engaging and form the core of the story. Perhaps my favourite is Mr Tindale’s take on George Galloway, who while still coming across as a firebrand and a political opportunist, also shows some surprising views on Unionism and separatism. Another favourite is Lord Alan Sked – in OTL a one-time leader of UKIP, in this reality a Crossbench Peer. Not only does the figure of Sked allow Tindale to invoke some fascinating criticism of Yorkshire devolution, and also the wider Federalisation of the United Kingdom that has been set off by the creation of the Yorkshire Assembly, it also allows a brief glimpse of the wider world; a deft, off-hand comment about Lord Sked having to vote on airstrikes in an area of the world that is usually outside of British concerns, simultaneously demonstrates that while the world is still going on as usual, certain things have also changed in this timeline.
In conclusion, T’Yorkshire Assembly is an excellent piece of counter-factual fiction, focusing on a relatively small but highly significant change in history that looks set to have far wider implications, both for Yorkshire and the United Kingdom. It is well-written, competently edited (which may sound like damning with faint praise, but is actually a rarity in the genre) and left me as a reader wanting to know more about this timeline and what its future holds. At a mere £1.99 at time of printing, T’Yorkshire Assembly is well worth the time of any discerning reader of alternate history.