Book: In the Heart of Darkness by Eric Flint and David Drake

Excellent second book in an alternate-history series

Eric Flint and David Drake
In the Heart of Darkness
Baen, 1998
ISBN: 0-671-87885-9
463 pages
Out of print; available online for free. At the moment used copies of the paperback seem to command a premium over the $6.99 cover price

In the Heart of Darkness is the second book in the "Belisarius" series of alternate-history novels. I quite liked An Oblique Approach, the first book in the series. I'll admit that I was slightly annoyed because I didn't realize that it was the first book in a series until I had nearly finished it. This book, similarly, has no outside indication that it's part of a series. I suppose that it could be read independently, but you'd be better off starting at the beginning of the series.

The book begins in 530 C.E. and Justinian is emperor of the Byzantine empire. Those folks called themselves Romans but were Christian, spoke Greek, and were ruled from Constantinople. Justinian is single-mindedly pursuing an attempt to re-conquer the western part of the empire (including Rome) that had long since been lost to barbarians such as my ancestors.

What Justinian doesn't know is that there's a terrible threat to his empire from an empire in India. The Malwa are receiving some sort of help from beings from the far future and they have become very powerful. At the beginning of the first book of the series, Justinian's general Belisarius (a historical figure) receives a crystal that contains some sort of intelligence that he can communicate with and which was sent by some other beings from the far future in an attempt to give the Byzantine empire a chance against the Malwa.

As An Oblique Approach ended, Belisarius along with some soldiers and Ethiopian allies were off to India as guests of the Malwa. The Malwa, presumably aware that they would soon fight Belisarius, were eager to get the measure of their enemy. Belisarius, also aware of the upcoming battles, was eager to do the same. Belisarius's wife, Antonia, was left at their estate to manage a research project into the gunpowder weapons that the Malwa already have and his crystal was able to provide some information about.

This book follows those two threads to a satisfying conclusion. It's the second book of a six-book series so you can imagine that there's rather more sneaking and plotting than large and decisive battles. But the book is entertaining throughout and exciting pretty often. We also learn a little more about the beings from the future that are competing to alter history in different ways. There's one bit that involves hiding elephants (though very small ones) that I found a bit improbable, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book.

Posted: Wed - April 25, 2007 at 06:57 PM   Main   Category: