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Crystal Empire Paperback – Jun 9 1988

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (June 9 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586200436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586200438
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11.2 x 4.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
L. Neil Smith is most noted for his libertarian works. This novel is a bit different. It may be a study or lesson in libertarianism but if so I missed the lesson. That is not to say the novel is boring or not worth the read. Far from it. This is an alternate history novel and one done very well.
In L. Neil Smiths future the Europeans and Christians or gone due to a plague which was far more demonstrous then the one encountered in our timeline. This is a very similar premise to what Kim Stanley Robinson used 15 years later in his "Years of Rice and Salt". Smith does it better. In this novel the event change had a clear plot purpose where as in Robinson's novel I never quite got the point.
A densely written novel which requires careful reading and can not be skimmed through. If you give the novel the effort is deserving of you will enjoy the encounter. A worthy novel which should come back into print.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9cce3cf0) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Peter Dykhuis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
L. Neil Smith is most noted for his libertarian works. This novel is a bit different. It may be a study or lesson in libertarianism but if so I missed the lesson. That is not to say the novel is boring or not worth the read. Far from it. This is an alternate history novel and one done very well.
In L. Neil Smiths future the Europeans and Christians or gone due to a plague which was far more demonstrous then the one encountered in our timeline. This is a very similar premise to what Kim Stanley Robinson used 15 years later in his "Years of Rice and Salt". Smith does it better. In this novel the event change had a clear plot purpose where as in Robinson's novel I never quite got the point.
A densely written novel which requires careful reading and can not be skimmed through. If you give the novel the effort is deserving of you will enjoy the encounter. A worthy novel which should come back into print.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ceda8f4) out of 5 stars Saracens and Vikings in the Wild West Nov. 30 2015
By robby charters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
It's the alternative universe that would have been had the Black Plague completely wiped out Europe, enabling the Muslims to complete their conquest of that continent. There are two competing Muslim empires, the Sarasen Jewish Empire in Rome, and Mogul Arab Empire in the East. The Americas remained largely unknown to Europeans apart from a very small group of Vikings who had settled along the East Coast. What's left of Christianity is a pitiful blood cult followed by a few of the American Vikings, hardly recognisable as such by our world's frame of reference. The rest of what our world calls the Americas is controlled by the Aztec empire whose development hadn't been impeded by the arrival of the Spaniards, its technology augmented by the arrival of Chinese adventurers. They are the Crystal Empire.

Sedrich, the son of Sedrich begins the first chapter as a boy who, like his blacksmith father, likes to invent things. Oln Woeck, the local priest of the blood cult, doesn't approve of new inventions. He controls most of the town both through coercion and manipulation -- that is, everyone but Sedrich Owaldsohn and his family. Sedrich Senior is honoured as a local hero, and is not fooled by Oln Woeck's religious mumbo jumbo. The first section of the narrative follows young Sedrich into manhood as he learns to use his father's great sword and develops a relationship with his neighbour's daughter, Frae Hethristochter. Oln Woeck also has designs on young Frae, and manipulates his father into promising her to him. According to the culture, a marriage is only official when a baby is conceived, so young Sedrich and Frae do it in secret. The evil Oln Woeck still gets the upper hand, and in the end, Sedrich has to flee the village, minus his left hand, his father and lover both dead, and not knowing if the new born child survived or not.

Ayesha is the young princess of the Caliph of Rome. At night she has strange dreams of winged flying machines, noisy metal carriages on wheels, and battles fought with powerful weapons the likes of which didn't exist in her world. Her father is fighting a war against the Caliph of the Mogul-Arab Empire, and things don't look good. His only hope is to solicit the help of the unknown emperor of the Crystal Empire. He hopes that by offering his daughter to him, he will send help in the form of his weird and wonderful technology. So Ayesha is sent, accompanied by her aged teacher, Rabbi David Shulieman, the adventurer Machamet al Rotshild, and a number of others, off to the other continent.

How they all meet is a part of the engrossing narrative, but the party that nears its destination includes not only Princess Ayesha and her retinue, but also Sedrich Sedrichson who has now been living for many years with the native tribes, and, much to Sedrich's chagrin, the evil, shifty, Oln Woeck.

Then, they accost the unknown. I'll just give out one detail, hoping it's not a spoiler: the Chrystal Empire gains it's advantage by spying on other alternative universes and learning their technology.

The characters are all well drawn and the story takes many an interesting turn. Well worth the read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cee3ca8) out of 5 stars L Neil Smiths Most Amazing Story Ever. May 12 2013
By Steven Vandervelde - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Chrystal Empire is an outstanding example of parallel history. Smith demonstrates both the depth of his understanding of history and an amazing ability to construct an alternate version of events based on one major event that changes everything. I studied history. Much of real history is a horror story. In that regard Smith does not hold any punches. He created a horrifying alternative and a protagonist to meet it head on.
HASH(0x9cee35f4) out of 5 stars L,amour on LSD Aug. 13 2014
By W. Keller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It,s like Louis L,amour took way too much acid , stated channeling Robert Howard, and wrote an alternative historical fiction novel. I mean in a good way.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cee35ac) out of 5 stars Probably my favorite alternate history novel July 6 2007
By J. R Weaver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have a very strange relationship with this novel, and more specifically, its author. L. Neil Smith is probably one of the most recognizable libertarian scifi authors around. I personally find libertarianism ridiculously naive, and since the majority of Smith's books deal with libertarian themes, I have a hard time taking them seriously or enjoying them.

The Crystal Empire, however, is not one of those. It is an alternate history novel, pure and simple. As another reviewer said, if there was a libertarian message in this one, I missed it. Thankfully.

The plot deals with the adventures of Sedrich Sedrichson, a native of a small Vinland-ish settlement in eastern North America - one of the last remnants of European culture in this world, founded by people fleeing a Black Plague that almost completely decimated Europe. Sedrich has been tasked with delivering the daughter of the Caliph of the Saracen-Jewish Empire, which dominates most of Europe, to her future husband, the god-like emperor of a strange and amazing Sino-Aztec empire in the far west of America.

Sedrich is a pretty sympathetic character, as is Ayesha, the Caliph's daughter. Their interaction, their chemistry, is great, and their story is evocative of the best of classic literature. If Shakespeare collaborated on an alternate history novel with George RR Martin, this might be the result. Yes, it's that good, in my opinion.

So... an author whose works and personal philosophy I find idiotic has managed to turn out what is probably my favorite alternate history novel, one which I re-read every couple of years. Very odd. At any rate, if anyone out there has been turned off of Smith after his Probability Broach universe novels, I urge you to give this one a try, and possibly Henry Martyn, also by Smith, which is fairly decent as well.

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