Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Mongoliad


By Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Cooper Moo and Mark Teppo.

As is obvious from the list of authors, this is a collaborator undertaken by several writers together, and as explained on Wikipedia, it is a part of a bigger project, though it can be read as a stond alone work (which is what I have done). I'd been hearing hints and been reading people rave about this trilogy for quite a while, and since I have enjoyed several of Neal Stephenson's books, I ordered them (used) from Amazon and looked forward with some eager anticipation.

The rumour mill would have it that given an interest in reenacting mdieval European fighting techniques, Stephenson, Bear etc were creating a work which would shed light on the forgotten aspects of European fighting history. This alone was a warning light so brght that for a long while I hesitated to buy the books. I don't mind North Americans enjoying their fantasies, but I am very sceptical when it comes to Americans percpetions of history - they always seem to view the past as a variation of their own present, cherry picking odd facts from here and there to create an illusion of the past which fits their preconceptions. For some reason I thought perhaps Neal Stephenson had risen above this. Either I was wrong, or he was swamped by his co-collaborators. Either way, this trilogy (and the length of it should have been warning enough) is yet another American confusion.

Don't get me wrong, the story isn't terrible, its just very long winded, rather pointless as a consequence, and it cherry picks shamelessly. For my own part, I was partially entertained by the inclusion of several of my own subjects of interest; historical groups, facts and dates that I have explored in books and on Wikipedia - for the creation of role playing games and skirmish battles. Since I already knew who the Livonian Sword Brothers were, I didn't need to be introduced to them, nor did I much care for the way they were portrayed. I didn't mind it, but I wasn't impressed either. There were other details liek this, dotted through out the book, which whilst I understood why they were there and why the authors had chosen them, the execution of the story was not good enough to justify all the historical hacking and short cuts.

In short, this trilogy is a good enough read unless you are expecting it to deliver what it promises.

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