Review: Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure

2940011486357_p0_v2_s260x420 Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure by Mark Lord.

Chivarly: A Jake Savage Adventure is a short story that elegantly examines the concept of chivalry. Like so many idealised concepts, that of the noble warrior can be destroyed by the reality of war or the aftermath. Stories of battle more usually depict the bravery of the mounted soldiers who lead the charge, the strategy, the cunning and, if you’re lucky, the blood and the gore. Medieval battle was horrific. Even the smallest wound could turn septic and kill a man. Not many stories cover what happens after. The filth and more lingering varieties of death: aforementioned wounds and privation. An army of any size requires vast quantities of food. They can leave the countryside stripped and starving. That’s the setting of this short story.

Desperate for food and warmth, a small band of English soldiers make for a castle behind a deserted French village. They suspect the remaining villagers are holed up there, along with any supplies. The promise of shelter from the rain is motivation enough. A lone knight guards the bridge. A lady sits in a pavilion behind and it is she who warns off the English soldiers. The knight is curiously silent, but soon proves deadly.

Invited to duel the knight, the English quickly abuse the notion of chivalry. The archers, Jake Savage among them, are ordered to attack first. When their arrows apparently have no effect, men are sent onto the bridge two at a time. The knight cuts them down like wheat. Jake is directed to find another way around the bridge.

At this point in the story, it becomes obvious there is an element of fantasy at play. Arrows appear to slip through the knight’s armour and his sword is wickedly sharp and accurate. The English become more desperate. Jake does find a way around the knight and a way to stop him. It is in the aftermath of this skirmish that Jake proves he is more chivalrous than the knight leading the English band.

Mark Lord is the author of several adventures in alternate history. His interest in both history and fantasy are obvious in this story. He also edits ‘Alt Hist’, a magazine of historical fiction and alternate history. ‘Chivalry’ is the first story of his I have read and liked it a lot. Aside from his choice to play with the definition of chivalry, I also liked the setting, that of the aftermath of battle. I don’t think it is covered enough, which is a shame as the ashes of war give rise to some of the most history and alternate history tales I have read.

Written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.

Review: Universes

Universes by Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter has been on the periphery of my awareness for years. I have read one of his stories, only one, a novella called Starfall. I enjoyed it and meant to read more. When he published Flood and Ark, I added them to my wish list. Both were exactly the sort of novel I love: post-apocalyptic adventure followed by an exodus to new planets with all the inherent science and problems. Shamefully, I have yet to read either.

When given the opportunity to read Universes, a collection of short fiction from three of Baxter’s universes, I noted that three of the stories were set in the Flood/Ark universe, and subsequently snapped it up. Short stories are a great way to taste the flavour of an author and sample one of their universes. In addition to three stories set in the Flood/Ark universe—one previously unpublished—there are two stories in the Jones & Bennet universe and another three in the Anti-Ice universe. All universes involve hard science and characters devoted to investigating it—which appears to be a trademark of Baxter’s writing. Given he has degrees in mathematics and engineering, it’s hardly surprising.

For the uninitiated, the Jones & Bennet stories are during the cold war era. Chapman Jones and Thelma Bennet work for an organisation known as DS8, or the UK Ministry of Defence Secretariat 8. They investigate un-catalogued phenomena and unusual life forms. Myths and legends. Anti-Ice is an alternate history setting where nineteenth century Earth receives a gift from the stars—a comet bearing anti-matter and alien life forms. The discovery and exploitation of these powers a new industrial revolution and steam powered rockets!

Continue reading “Review: Universes”

Review: Alt Hist Issue 4

Alt Hist by Mark Lord

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The fourth issue of Alt Hist magazine features six stories of horror, history and fantasy:

Restless by Dylan Fox set in the 1860s onboard a fleet of British ironclad warships steaming towards China.

Kleine Menschen by Eric Jackson is a historical fantasy story set in World War II Germany.

Feast of Faith by Shane Rhinewald explores the struggles of common soldiers during the First Crusade who don’t have enough to eat.

Three Months of Summer by Svetlana Kortchik is a love story that happens during the German occupation of Ukraine in 1942.

The Stork by George Piper is a backwoods horror that will scare and surprise you.

Battalion 202: A Blinded Falcon and Battalion 202: Into the Darkness by Jonathan Doering are two alternate history stories about the British resistance to a German invasion of Britain.

Continue reading “Review: Alt Hist Issue 4”