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by Eric Flint And David Drake
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Eric Flint and David Drake's alt-history epic devoted to real-life Byzantine butt-kicker Belisarius has reached part three--Destiny's Shield--and this installment finally busts loose with some serious head-to-head. Everybody's favorite general is leading an outnumbered Roman-Persian force to check Malwa aggression in the east, forced to action by the fiends' sea-borne invasion of the Tigris-Euphrates delta and their subsequent siege of Babylon. For those unfamiliar with the series, this what-if puts the Malwa Empire in control of the Indian subcontinent thanks to diabolical assistance from across time, granting their forces superior strategy and advanced weaponry. But the ever-canny Belisarius is equal to the challenge, with no small help from a telepathic crystal named Aid that acts as both adviser and seer.
The writing tandem of Flint and Drake still proves strong--relative newcomer Flint (Mother of Demons) seems well-paired with military-SF powerhouse Drake, creator of "the meanest bunch of mercs who ever nuked a world for pay" (that'd be Hammer's Slammers, natch). The two offer up their usual dose of meticulous historical detail and realistic, mud-and-blood combat and tactics. Throw in some time-bending fun like Belisarius's "invention" of the Knights Hospitaler and phrases like "fire in the hole," and you know you're in for a good time. (Of course, if you're new to the series, check out the first book, An Oblique Approach.) --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Following up An Oblique Approach and In the Heart of Darkness, Flint and Drake continue their primitive warfare series set in a Roman empire that has been changed by the arrival of a time traveler. Known as "Aide," this crystalline entity, when held in the hand of the Roman general Count Belisarius, reveals enough of future technology and history that the Roman army in A.D. 531 is equipped with rockets and portable cannons, and supported by a network of semaphore towers. Ostensibly, Aide's motive is to help the Romans change the course of history by defeating their enemies, the Malwa, based in India, so that, in the distant future, Aide's people will not be enslaved by "the Great Ones." The Romans do alter the future through their actions, but the authors neither address the larger implications of time-travel paradoxes, nor reveal any of Aide's deeper motives. Instead, they dwell on the rather straightforward adventures of Belisarius, who leads the Roman army against the Malwa; his wife, Antonina, who spearheads the development of Roman weaponry; and the eight-year-old Roman emperor, Photius. The battle scenes and strategies are as expert as expected in a book with Drake's name on it, but the ending, though superficially winding up the series, has an inconclusive feel, as if there's at least one more episode to come. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The invasion of Persia by the Malwa army forces an alliance with the rival empire of Rome's Eastern Empire. Aided by a crystalline intelligence from the distant future that grants visions of what may come to pass, the legendary Roman general Belisarius and his strategist wife, Antonina, wage a series of battles on land, at sea, and in the intrigue-ridden courts of the world's most powerful empires. Drake's consummate skill as a creator of military sf and Flint's historical expertise come together in a historical fantasy with sf overtones. The third in a series of novels that includes In the Heart of Darkness, this volume should appeal to fans of alternate history.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Third entry in an established military/historical SF series (An Oblique Approach and In the Heart of Darkness, not seen). In a.d. 531, the blinded Roman Emperor Justinian's wife, Theodora, is Empress Regent for young Photius, son of the outstanding and charismatic General Belisarius and his wife Antonina. In the remote future, a race of crystalline entities is locked in a time-war with the mysterious ``new gods'' who intend to destroy their enemies by rewriting the past. The crystals have sent a messenger, Aide, back in time to advise the Romans; from a pouch around Belisarius's neck, Aide offers Belisarius telepathic glimpses of the future that existed before the new gods interfered. The new gods have sent their own avatar, a cyborg called Link; using the Malwa of India as its tool, Link intends to conquer the world and thus change history. The cyborg has already introduced rockets, grenades, and siege cannon. In turn, Aide shows Belisarius how to develop even better armaments. First on Link's hit list is the Persian Empire. Overmatched, the Persians are reduced to begging their old enemies and rivals, the Romans, for help. Belisarius swiftly agrees to the alliance, and leading his army in person, he enters Persia, where Emperor Khusrau, beset by both the Malwa and civil war, hopes to defend Babylon. Quasi-history and politics deftly and colorfully set forth, with battles lovingly and realistically depicted. 'Tis a pity the dialogue's often conspicuously awful. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
EVIL FROM BEYOND TIME
The Malwa Empire squats like a toad across 6th century India, commanded by ruthless men with depraved appetites. The thing from the distant future that commands them is far worse.
AN ADVISOR WITHOUT A BODY
Those who oppose the purulent Hell the Malwa will make of Earth have sent a crystal, Aide, to halt their advance. Aide holds all human knowledge -- but he cannot act by himself.
A CHAMPION FOR ALL TIMES
Count Belisarius, the greatest general of the age and perhaps of all ages, must outwit the evil empire -- and then, when there is no longer room to maneuver, to meet it sword-edge to sword-edge, because,
no matter what it costs
EVIL CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO RULE MEN!
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