Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another world, another time, in the Age of Wonder...

As regular readers know, I dearly love good historical fiction. One period I wish was visited more often is the very dawn of civilization, along the fuzzy demarcation between the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age.

Having finished Harry Turtledove's Between the Rivers, I pulled out the only other book I have that takes place in a roughly contemporaneous time, Wolves of the Dawn, by William Sarabande. Instead of Mesopotamia, this one takes place on the British Isles and attempts to put historical flesh on the bones of Celtic legends, making real people of Balor and Cethlenn, Nemed and Morrigan. Against a Chalcolithic background of Beaker Folk trading posts and Aegean merchants, the story feels plausible and the characters seem real. I've had my copy for many years and read probably four times and it's starting to deteriorate and I started to worry a little because it had been out of print for years. It was a relief to check Amazon the other day and see that it's back in print; I think I'll get a fresh copy so I don't have to worry about the cover falling off this one.

One of the few other stories I've read that is set in this time period is David Drake's short "King Crocodile", set in a small village in Egypt immediately after the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt and told from the point of view of a retired officer in Menes' army. It's available in the anthology Vettius and His Friends.


Borepatch said...

I haven't run across any with good characters. Both Mitchner's "The Source" and Rutherfurd's "Sarum" don't dwell on long on the old times, which might be good because neither can really make good characters.

Then again, I find I read a lot less fiction these days. I may try your suggestion, though - it might be a lot more up my ally.

jetfxr69 said...

Sigh, Borepatch beat me with another suggestion. I was coming to suggest "The Source". It's "episodic", so characters are only important for their episodes, which don't really interact, so it feels like a book of novellas rather than a normal Michener novel.

Ken said...

There's always Stonehenge: Where Atlantis Died, by Harry Harrison and Leon Stover, but I wasn't particularly impressed by it.

I haven't worked my way back that far, though: I have just gotten to where I like classical-period and later Bronze Age historical fiction (Gates of Fire, The Imperial Governor, Eagle in the Snow).

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Clan of the Cave Bear doesn't count for Dawn of Civilization fiction does it? I'll sit back down now.

og said...

At least you can use the information you gather being a history geek to have a conversation with..... someone.

Imagine having that space in your head stuffed with the mathematics of N dimensional geometers as it pertains to the movement of objects in virtual space. Only six people on earth understand it, and they ain't speaking to one another. The geeker you go, the lonlier it is.

Robb Allen said...

Great... Now I have this stuck in my head.


roland said...

yeah, what Robb said.

Tam said...

Robb, roland,

My work here is done. :D

ExUrbanKevin said...

Another world, another time, this land was green and good until the crystal cracked.

TheAxe said...

Have you read Andre Norton's Time Traders?

GuardDuck said...

Take a look at Sam Barone.

I picked up no. two in his three book series set in 2500bc mesopotamia.

Was a good and fast read, I plane on eventually getting the other two.

Peter said...

How about a story about the time when the First Cat walked into an Egyptian farming village and announced "Things are going to be a bit different around here from now on"?

And then dropped his butt on the ground, stuck a back leg straight up in the air so he could lick his privates, simply because he could.

Carl H said...

Might not be quite the period you're looking for, but here's a good time to suggest 'Lord of the Silver Bow' by the late David Gemmell. Well done trojan story (first of 3 or 4 - he died in the process of writing the last one). Highly recommended.

Another good historical series, 'the Oathsworn' viking/Rus novels, first one is 'The Whale Road.' Robert Low.

Finally, The Latro books by Gene Wolfe. Premise is a Latin soldier gets wounded at 'the Hot Gates' and cursed by a Greek Goddess, he loses his memory every day so he writes everything important on a scroll daily - we piece his life together from the scroll. Latro in the Mist + Soldier of Sidon. Highest recommendation, there's really nothing like these.

Bob H said...

You could try S M Stirlings "Island in the Sea of Time". First of 3 where the Island of Nantucket and the USCG training ship Eagle go back to the time of Odysseus...

Brad K. said...

New Jovian Thunderbolt,

I will see your Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean Auel), and raise you one Valley of Horses - which I enjoyed best of all of them (I quit with Shelters of Stone, just in case she kept dragging . . um, . . writing more in the sequence.

Wasn't it Gear that wrote the prehistory counterpart in North America?


I know, I have mentioned Leo Frankowski before, and 12th century Poland isn't anything like pre-bronze age. Kind of a takeoff on a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Twain) - is Frankowski's Cross Time Engineer and the following novels. A guy with a backpack of seeds brings on the industrial revolution a few centuries early, complete with bunny clubs (Pink Dragons).

Now, if you will excuse me, I am in the middle of re-reading Patricia Brigg's Moon Called.


Mikael said...

Random book suggestions, none of which precicely fit your criteria, but are close, or in one case, covers something nobody else covers.

The Way of Wyrd - Brian Bates
Christian priest becomes the apprentice to a celtic sorceror, I don't recall timeframe, late roman I think. Kind of an odd one, but interesting.

The Great Thirst - Willam R Duggan
A greatly enjoyable read about south africa during the boer war era, seen from the eyes of an african tribesman.

Wolf of the Plains - Conn Iggulden
Probably the most mainstream on this list, about Genghis Khan, first in a series... absolutely riveting read, I went through the rather thick book(700ish pages) in a single sitting, about 6 hours or so.