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March 19th, 2005

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04:27 pm - Current reading
For the past few months I've been slowly going through Harry Harrison's "Hammer and Cross" trilogy. I've finished the first two books, "The Hammer and the Cross" and "One King's Way", and have just started the third, "King and Emperor".

The series is an alternate history of Europe in the Dark Ages -- late ninth century A.D. -- a history where Nordic paganism does not necessarily lose the battle for the minds and hearts of Northern Europeans. An offshoot of Norse paganism called "the Way" mounts an effective challenge to the Roman Catholic church, and also to some of the more brutal traditions of its mother-religion.

The books contain scenes of great brutality at times (rape, torture, maiming), but in service to the plot and character, so while I find those parts distasteful, I accept them as part of the story, not gratuitous add-ons. There aren't a lot, but they do contribute quite a bit to the atmosphere. I'm presuming Harrison did research to back up his writing, so I found the origins of the modern-day boat christening to be quite interesting, as well as other little touches the author threw in here and there.

One of the most interesting things in this series is the active role the Norse gods play in the lives of the characters. They have their own distinct personalities, based so far as I can tell on tradition, and their behavior coincides with the lore as I know it, although more scholarly Asatruar might find things that I missed -- I'm not an "Edda-thumper" after all . . .

I'm much more familiar with Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat" series of books -- I've read many of them over the years, with great pleasure. It's nice to be reading an alternate history though -- it's a genre of science fiction that isn't as popular as "hard" SF, but I like the "what if" quality of it -- that to me IS the heart of Science Fiction. "WHAT IF Christianity had not spread throughout Europe as completely as it had? How would things be different?" is as valid a science fiction premise to me as "WHAT IF people could travel from star system to star system?" Others' opinions may differ, of course, but it is a pleasure for me to see an alternate history being done by one of my favorite "hard" SF authors. (Even IF it is classified as fantasy :P )
Current Mood: lazylazy
Current Music: "Der letzte Ritter" by Unto Ashes

(2 seeds eaten | Eat a pomegranate)


[User Picture]
Date:March 19th, 2005 10:25 pm (UTC)
You should check out his two classic (and hysterical) SF parodies: "Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers" and "Bill the Galactic Hero". But pee first - we don't want any accidents.
[User Picture]
Date:March 19th, 2005 11:00 pm (UTC)
~~ does spit-take at reading last sentence of your comment ~~

Thanks for the laugh there!

I'll go look for those books at my local B&N next shopping trip. Thanks for the tip!


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