Monday, March 14, 2016

"Clash of Eagles"

Alan Smale writes science fiction and fantasy, currently focusing on alternate history and historical fantasy. His novella of a Roman invasion of ancient America, "A Clash of Eagles," won the 2010 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He applied the Page 69 Test to Clash of Eagles, the first book in a trilogy set in the same universe, and reported the following:
As we arrive on page 69 of Clash of Eagles, the 33rd Hesperian Legion is in the midst of a pitched battle with the warriors of Cahokia, the great mound city on the banks of the Mizipi River. And my Roman hero is about to realize that he’s getting a whole lot more than he bargained for.
Something had become abundantly clear to Praetor Gaius Marcellinus: these people were not neophytes at war. The Cahokiani were a tribe – a nation – that had faced large-scale armed assault before, from the savage Iroqua, perhaps, or from even fiercer tribes that the Romans had not yet encountered.
Maybe I should back up a bit. It’s 1218 A.D., and we’re in a world where the Roman Empire never fell. The Norse have sailed the Atlantic and discovered a new continent, and Gaius Marcellinus is the veteran general tasked by the Emperor with spearheading an invasion of this strange new land.

Marcellinus has been sent to search for gold. He doesn’t think he’s going to find any. But he does find trouble. In the thirteenth century the Mississippian Culture is at its zenith, and its greatest city is Cahokia, a metropolis of tens of thousands of people and hundreds of giant mounds, on the Mississippi where St Louis currently stands.
A flaming arrow hit a hut that so far had remained unexploded, and it lit up like a torch. Greek fire, thought Marcellinus. [The Cahokians] had independently discovered Greek fire hundreds of years after the secret was lost on the Roman side of the Atlanticus[…]
Marcellinus has come a long way already, but he still has a lot to learn about Nova Hesperia, its incredible landscapes and its many peoples. Ultimately, the future of his whole world will depend on what he discovers, and the actions he takes. On a much more personal level he will also learn many things about himself, and about family and community. But at this precise moment, he has more pressing problems:
The infantry at Marcellinus’s end of the line was now within bow range of the enemy. This time the Cahokians loosed a salvo of arrows first, a ragged torrent of sticks that scattered harmlessly off the tall Roman shields. The men of the First and Third cohorts jeered, drew, and sent a focused wave of metal-tipped death into the midst of the Cahokiani…

But then, with a titanic roar the world changed again.
And now we’re on page 70.
Visit Alan Smale's website.

--Marshal Zeringue