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Long winded reviews

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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The High Crusade

The High Crusade - Poul Anderson The idea that earth can resist an alien invasion is fairly ludicrous given that the aliens would have to travel light years across the universe to get here, so their level of technology and weaponry must be vastly superior to ours. Poul Anderson, a scifi legend, was well aware of this, and he carefully created an amusing scenario where such a thing is at least plausible. Anderson was a versatile author, books like Tau Zero and Brain Wave and The High Crusade are all very different (not to mention his non-genre and nonfiction works).

The premise is fairly straight forward. In 1345 AD a huge spaceship lands in Ansby, a small village in Lincolnshire just as Sir Roger de Tourneville an English knight was raising an army to fight a war with France. This is a scout ship from the Wersgorix Empire who are always looking to expand their dominion. As luck would have it their technology is so advance that they have forgotten how to fight hand to hand and falls prey to the English soldiers who stormed their ship and basically hacked them all to death except one rather shady character named Branithar. Thinking that the "flying ship" will give them a huge advantage over the French Sir Roger orders Branithar to fly the ship to France, Branithar readily agrees but activate the pre-programmed autopilot to take them to the nearest Wersgor colony instead.

In spite of the rather farcical premise the book is very enjoyable, it is more humorous than the other Anderson novels I have read (well, I have not read that many of them). Fans of the ultra hard sf Tau Zero will be disappointed if they are expecting more in that vein, those looking for a quick read entertaining sci-fi romp are in for a treat. The book is written in the first person, narrated by a monk who follows Sir Roger on his space adventures. The medieval style English is wonderful, I can not vouch for its authenticity of course but it is very amusing to read especially when describing alien technology. For example:

"I have studied the principles of their star maps a little, sire," I answered, "though in truth they
do not employ charts, but mere columns of figures. Nor do they have mortal steersmen on
the spaceships. Rather, they instruct an artificial pilot at the start of the journey, and
thereafter the homunculus operates the entire craft."

Ha! Love that stuff! The main alien race the Wersgorix are a little old school in that they are blue skinned bipeds who communicate through vocal speech and gestures, thus conveniently facilitating the establishment of communication. Other alien races show up later who are less like anthropomorphised creatures but really not all that strange by today's sci-fi standard. You may find that the idea that a bunch of medieval Brits resisting and conquering alien races with vastly superior technology ridiculous. It is basically done through bluff and bluster, with a lot of luck thrown in:
"But how could that be, sire?" asked Sir Owain. "They‘re older and stronger and wiser than
"The first two, granted," nodded the baron. His humor was so good that he addressed even this
knight with frank fellowship. "But the third, no. Where it comes to intrigue, I‘m no master of it
myself, no Italian. But the star-folk are like children."
In any case Anderson has written the book and developed the characters with such skill that you are likely to be swept away by the story and jettison your incredulity out the window.

Tremendous fun and takes no time at all to read, a must.