This week’s SF Gateway Editors’ Choice comes, controversially, from the 21st century: Cowboy Angels by the Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick and John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning author Paul McAuley.
It is 1984 in the United States of America. Not our version of America, but an America that calls itself the Real, an America in which the invention of Turing Gates has allowed access to sheaves of alternate histories. For ten years, in the name of democracy, the Real has been waging clandestine wars and fomenting revolution across multiple Earths, freeing versions of America from communist or fascist rule, and extending its influence across a wide variety of alternate realities.
But finally, the human and political costs have proven too high, and new President Jimmy Carter has called an end to war, and is bringing troops and secret agents home. Some, however, don’t want to follow orders . . .
Adam Stone is called out of retirement when his former comrade, Tom Waverly, begins to murder different versions of the same person, mathematician Eileen Barrie. Aided by Waverly’s daughter, Linda, Adam hunts for his old friend across different sheaves, but when they finally catch up with him, they discover that they have stumbled into the middle of an audacious conspiracy that plans to exploit a new property of the Turing Gate: it will change not only the history of the Real, but that of every other reality, including our own.
Combining elements of noir, alternate history and conspiracy thriller to produce a compelling and action-packed race across parallel realities, if you put Sliders and 24 into an atom smasher, the resulting particles might look a lot like Cowboy Angels.