Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Diziet Sma, Dec 1, 2017.
Have a wonderful holiday! Are you meeting up with Santa or with the 13 mischievous Yule Lads?
Thanks Neither. Taken the Mrs for her 40th .. left little'un at home!
Well, Happy Birthday, Mrs Tom TB!!
Just picked up Lest Darkness Fall (1939) by L. Sprague de Camp last night because I felt like something light. I think this is the first alternative history book I'm reading. I can't remember anything else from this sub-genre except for a Howard Waldrop story, "The Ugly Chickens", about a quest for the potentially not-extinct Dodo in the backwoods of the Mississippi. But that tale had the lightest of 'alternate history' touches, so much so that it read like a contemporary story of an ornithologist's field-related investigation. de Camp's book is overt alternate history: an archaelogist from the 1930's time-slips into 6th century, Ostrogoth-ruled Rome, when the capital of this new Ostrogothic Kingdom of the western half of the empire is in Ravenna, as it has been so for over a century even before the fall of Rome. And so far, I can say that it is really, really enjoyable with unexpected touches of great humour. Martin Padway, our academic-hero, has already introduced a brandy distillery, and is now 'inventing' the printing press.
There are a number of things I really like about the story so far. The careful attention de Camp has paid to language; differences between classical Latin and a more vulgar spoken-form extant circa a century after the fall of Rome, what he describes as the Latin half-way mark between that of Cicero's and Dante Alighieri's time periods. Rome's depiction as a true metropolis with many different kinds of foreigners living in it. And Padway's practicality, being the academic that he is, in immediately securing himself a banker who can extend him a line of credit, a lawyer well-versed in the situations and status quo of foreigners within the western half of the 'empire', and a money exchange, from where he can acquire local currency in exchange for the brass-/nickel-rich Italian Lire coins he still had in his pockets.
Finished Lest Darkness Fall last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and I blazed through the short book over two evenings. For a nearly 80-year old magazine story, this fantasy holds up well. It's more concerned with setting the scene than it is with characterisation, but the peculiarities of the characters still come through. And it's really quite funny without explicitly attempting to be a comedy. There are some classic scenes: the meeting with the Bishop, the realisation of how bloodthirsty his temporary fiance is, the haggling for interest rates, the inter-bureaucratic fight over whether the right to torture for sorcery falls within local Roman jurisdiction or state police authority in Ravenna, etc. I actually liked pretty much all the characters in the story.
De Camp really knows his history, and he sets the scene very well in less than 200 pages. The story is set over a year from 535-536 A.D., when Justinian I decides to invade the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy to unite the two empires. And the leader of the campaign is the famed Thracian general Belisarius. Martin Padway, after initially starting a distillery to make some money, introducing the printing press and starting a newspaper called the Romana Tempora, and re-vamping the entire banking system by introducing double-entry bookkeeping, finds himself more and more involved in political matters, until he finally resolves that his purpose must be to stave off the millennium of darkness that is to come. I definitely recommend this fun book!
I am having a nice surprising read of an old (1996) novella by Neil Asher. It's called The Parasite and it is about a comet ice miner who gets something additional to his ice on his last mining job. I really couldn't put it down yesterday, almost finished it too fast.
I'm not reading at the moment. Too many distractions while on holiday. I'm busying myself cooking as there always seems to be a horde of family and friends visiting. And there is also quite a bit of happy, cheeky drinking at the odd times too. Not that it bothers me in the slightest...
@Elvira, did you finish the M. J. Sullivan fantasy you were reading? How was it if you did?
I have only read the first book in Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations #1-2) and it is what it is: an uncomplicated, fantasy romp, well paced and with charming main characters who make you overlook its simplicity and some of the big plot holes.
I read somewhere the definition of Popcorn as a literary genre, and I believe this is what Theft of Sword precisely is: comfort reading.
I enjoyed more Sullivan's Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1) It is a bit derivative but nevertheless very engaging,
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