Book Review: Arcadia by Iain Pears (Three Stars)


Book Review: Arcadia by Iain Pears

Three Stars

“Outrageous coincidence was more normal that carefully formed, reasoned action.”

Excellent world building. Complex time-travel plot with 60s England focus. Having one character a later member of the famous Inklings is a nice touch, including his depreciation of his more talented friends.

“You go and sit down and contemplate your own genius for a bit, and come through when you think you can stand straight.”

The narrative suffers from too many point-of-view characters. The many threads finally come together, but the first hundred pages is heavy going. Extra credit for finishing it all in one go.

“You may have got that from The Wizard of Oz. You steal ideas from everyone.” “I do?” “Yes.” (Pears also borrowed from Fahrenheit 451.)

While the women characters are well differentiated, the men all sound alike. Not sure why one character’s narrative was in first person while Continue reading


Book Review: Lincoln’s Bodyguard by T. J. Turner (Three Stars)

Book Review: Lincoln’s Bodyguard: In A Heroic Act Of Bravery Saves Our Beloved President! John Wilkes Booth Killed In Act Of Treason by T. J. Turner

Three Stars

“Our stories are already written. We had yet to act them out.”

More alternate history than historical fiction. Turner rooted his tale in the events of 1865 but, rather than allowing the consequences of Booth’s failure to spin off naturally, he tries to get history “back on track” in this seven-years-later novel. The story follows the mixed-blood guard whose intervention provides the book’s title, though curiously all that action happened five years before the current story.

“The life pulled from his body as his maker took possession of his soul.”

A good story and a fun read, but the history is unconvincing. The whole Lamon-Norris-Barons subplot seems contrived and ananchronistic. The real reconstruction struggle should have provided the necessary villains and heroes without introducing a Hunger Games-esque Lottery and labor unionism as motivators. The western separatist movement rings true.

“Death creeps quietly behind a man.”

The details were well-researched and gave a good feeling for the time and place, except for transportation. The horses pulled faster and longer than real horses, the trains were faster as well, and even afoot the people covered prodigious distances quickly. Standard fantasy fare, but knocks the reader out of the historical feel. Quibble: when he surrendered to Sherman on April 18, 1865, Confederate general Joe Johnston had about 21,000 men, not 90,000 as reported here. On the other hand the “bushwhacker” insurgent campaign in Missouri throughout the war follows the pattern Turner suggests.

“Sometimes even death has to wait.”


Book Review: The Paladin by George Shipway (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Paladin (Walter Tirel Book One) by George Shipway

Three Stars out of Five

Enjoyable historical fiction set in the eleventh century. Shipway goes the extra league to incorporate the vocabulary and events of the period. Meticulously researched details of chivalry and warfare. His storytelling draws the reader right into the action.

Unfortunately too much study and reading of history sometimes spoils the fun of what might otherwise be an enjoyable story. In this case, the reader detects so many historical anachronisms that it is as if this is an alternate history, rather than historical fiction. For example, linked mail is manufactured in a nineteenth century manner. Mounted archers, while common in the Middle East and Asia. Arabian horses … in Normandy … in quantity. Finally, a thoroughly modern, worldly cynic in the person of a supposed Moor from Spain, who exhibits no evidence of Moorish religion or nobility of that day.

The texts needs one more proofreading, as typographical errors abound.

Despite all that a fun read.