Conqueror Hardcover – Aug 7 2007
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About the Author
Stephen Baxter is the pre-eminent SF writer of his generation. Published around the world he has also won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton. He lives in Northumberland with his wife. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book concludes with one of the most famous appearances of Halley's Comet, during the time when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, establishing the Norman dominance of Britain. The author deftly weaves characters through interactions with Harold and William, allowing us a ringside seat during this epic battle. The book also weaves the characters into another actual historic occurrence, a Viking chieftan's funeral and ship burial as recorded by a contemporary Arab observer. (This burial did occur and was also adapted into a scene in the movie "The 13th Warrior" with Antonio Banderas.)
The only downside to this book is that each of the novelettes is a separate story, so that the reader becomes engaged with the characters only to come to the end of their particular saga, moving on to the next century's descendants and their life and times. In the process, however, one gains a consciousness of how time unceasingly marches forward in one's own ancestry, as we each have our brief time upon the stage of history.
(I believe this is the best book of the four-part series. In fact, it could be read/appreciated alone.)
While this volume of the series can be read alone, it is better starting with the first installment. In century-spanning style, we watch how opportunities arise at various points which could have resulted in a sea change in human history....but (perhaps)didn't.
Baxter obviously has carefully researched the surroundings and background of the various places and times he discusses (focusing mostly on what is now Great Britain), and manages to follow a family tree from generation to generation in a rather novel and interesting way. As always, his descriptive powers are unmatched in modern-day SF. Highly recommended
"Conqueror" begins in the same way that "Emperor did", with a new prophecy (although uttered at the end of "Emperor") that shapes the actions of the characters who try to divine and use it for their own ends. Like "Emperor", it is set in Great Britain, although this is a Britain shaped by waves of post-Roman invaders such as the Danes and Angles, as well as the full advent of Christianity. Baxter reveals his story through separate story arcs that take place in sequential periods of time (such as 793 AD, 1064 AD, and so forth), although the characters in the arcs are usually connected by either family or contact.
The historical detail in this novel is rich and, to the best of my knowledge, reasonably accurate. Baxter uses this to create some very good imagery, both mundane and terrible (one scene describes a particularly gruesome and savage act of brutality by one of his characters). Although the characters are still mixed in quality, virtually all of them are fleshed out well, and even the weakest of them is stronger than the weakest-constructed characters in "Emperor".
Like its predecessor, this novel is still largely historical fiction; rather than showing a changed past and changing future, it mostly shows the key events where changes might have occurred due to the effect of the prophecy, even if they do not end up doing so. The mysterious force called "The Weaver" remains as shrouded in mystery as he/she/it was at the beginning of the series, and the nature of the intervention in time's tapestry remains largely an attempt to shift what would otherwise be a real historical time-line.
This is probably the best novel in the "Time's Tapestry series". While I would not recommend it to anyone who has not read "Emperor", it is overall a solid book.
The mixing of accurate history with the ScFi expectation is an addictive read. I look forward to the final installment of the Tapestry series.