The first novel of the Administration series fits with Dorothy L. Sayers's subtitle of one of her novels: "A Love Story with Detective Interruptions"The first novel of the Administration series fits with Dorothy L. Sayers's subtitle of one of her novels: "A Love Story with Detective Interruptions" – provided that one treats the word "love" broadly. It's the tale of a torturer and an opponent to torture trying to best one another and being a little too interested in each other to make for an easy power play. Then fate intervenes in the form of a corpse.
At the time of the merger with Investigation, Toreth had been at the Interrogation Division for a year and he'd enjoyed his work. However, it hadn't taken him long to see where the brighter future lay. He'd worked hard to win a place in the first round of appointments for the newly created post of para-investigator, a job that theoretically combined the skills of both investigator and interrogator.
Interrogation was a profession that had certain basic requirements. Primarily, the ability to hurt people, sometimes kill them, and not care. Plenty of interrogators had applied for the conversion course, and few had made it. The successful ones were on the more socially adept end of the spectrum – those who could be let near citizens of the Administration without the precaution of a damage waiver. At the time, Toreth had heard the term "high-functioning" used.
Or, as Sara put it in her less tactful moments, the difference between paras and interrogators was that the former weren't quite so dead behind the eyes.
"Frontier Wolf" is part of a series by Rosemary Sutcliff about a family that lives in Britain from Roman times to the Middle Ages. "The Eagle of the N"Frontier Wolf" is part of a series by Rosemary Sutcliff about a family that lives in Britain from Roman times to the Middle Ages. "The Eagle of the Ninth" (1954), the first volume in the series, is the most famous of Sutcliff's novels, but "The Eagle of the Ninth" was written during her early years as a writer, while "Frontier Wolf" was penned during the years when she had reached her full flowering as a historical novelist.
The plotline is simple: Centurion Alexios Flavius Aquila, in the arrogance of his youth, leads his soldiers into disaster. As punishment, Alexios is sent to the frontier above Hadrian's Wall and placed in charge of a fort full of "the scum and the scrapings of the Empire," as one character puts it. The unrespectable Frontier Scouts - or Frontier Wolves, as they are nicknamed - have a reputation for killing off commanders whom they dislike.
Then a crisis arises. Alexios's life now depends on the loyalty of his men . . . and his men's lives depend on his loyalty to them.
"Alexios, walking beside Phoenix, remembered the still summer night when he had come that way, following the old Chief to his Death Place, the Clansmen sniping this way and that along the firmer ground between the winding waterways and sky-reflecting pools. The flaming torches and the mourning throb of the drums, and the lingering late northern sunset casting its golden cloud-streamers across the sky. He supposed they were on the same track now. He must suppose it; must trust to the men with the lime-daubs between their shoulders. 'When they join the Family, they bring their loyalties with them,' Gavros had said, but he felt how it might be with him, new loyalties pulling against old, if he knew the secret and sacred ways and was being asked to betray them to men of other tribes who did not."
Into this simple tale, Sutcliff pours in everything that makes her great as an author: Careful attention to detail when describing Roman military society, British native society, and the world of nature. The ability to sum up a character's personality through a few well-chosen words. A gift for understatement that heightens rather than diminishes drama. A lyrical tongue. She caps all this off with an ending that is surprising, yet wholly satisfying....more
If you hate spoilers, wait till the end of the novel to read its prologue, "Before the Curtain." The prologue reveals a major event in the novel.
The nIf you hate spoilers, wait till the end of the novel to read its prologue, "Before the Curtain." The prologue reveals a major event in the novel.
The naval war scenes - and particularly the event mentioned in the prologue - were chillingly authentic and wonderfully written. If the novel had centered primarily on scenes like that, I'd have given it five stars. But the overall plot meandered, and the only theme seemed to be "War is hell." The friendship between two of the male characters deserved more screen time than it received. The heterosexual subplot, alas, was filled with cliches. The minor characters were interesting, but because there were so many of them, we barely got to know them before they were whisked offstage. I really wish an editor could have sat down with the author and helped him tighten the plot, because the author was working with excellent material, and his well-done scenes will remain etched in my memory....more
A dramatically compelling narrative paired with magnificent scholarship - a rare treasure. Here's an excerpt, concerning the British Commander-in-ChieA dramatically compelling narrative paired with magnificent scholarship - a rare treasure. Here's an excerpt, concerning the British Commander-in-Chief:
"Kitchener's own sense of isolation at GHQ had reached a climax. Even with his 'band of boys', he found ordinary human contact impossible. Only 'the Brat', Captain Frank Maxwell, VC, his fair-haired young ADC, had found a way to Kitchener's heart, if heart it was. 'He is awfully shy,' the Brat wrote home, describing K. 'He really feels nice things, but to put tongue to them . . . he would rather die.' Exactly what K felt for the Brat will never be known. There was the odd incident when K, who normally detested being photographed, insisted on being taken sitting docilely beside the Brat. (To the Brat's embarrassment, he made a 'vile fuss about my appearance. "Good heavens, your hair's all over the place."') At any rate, the Brat was the apple of K's eye. As a kind of jester at Kitchener's court, he was allowed to take liberties forbidden to senior generals. 'We are now High Commissioner of South Africa,' the Brat wrote home in May, and explained: 'In talking at or to K., we always say "we made a speech", "we drew so much pay", "we are this or that".' Of course, this did not endear the Brat to the rest of the staff ('Poor boy, I fear his brain is not his strong point'), which further appealed to the Chief's oriental sense of humour.
"K had also acquired another pet: perversely, he had insisted on rescuing two baby starlings that had fallen down the chimney of his bedroom at GHQ. One died. He made the GHQ staff, to their intense disgust, put the other in a cage and look after it. Even the Brat's sense of loyalty was strained by this chore - and by the sight of the Chief fussing about worms all day, and chirping at the starling through the wire, and rolling his porcelain-blue eyes at the little beggar, leaving the war to look after itself. In due course, the bird escaped - while the Chief was on a visit to Pietersburg - to the consternation of everyone at GHQ. The Brat was told to draft the telegram to prepare K for this shock. 'C-in-C's humming bird . . . broke cover and took to the open. Diligent search instituted; biped still at large. Mily. Secy. desolate; ADC in tears. Army sympathizes.' On his return, K seemed to take the matter stoically. But he rushed through the accumulation of two days' telegrams, then organized a great drive ('a small army of staff officers, menials and orderlines', grumbled the Brat) to hunt down the missing bird. It was found at 7.00 p.m., having taken refuge in a neighbour's chimney - but not before the Chief himself was covered in mud, 'having repeatedly fallen prone in wet flower-beds'. Earlier, K remarked breathlessly, 'I've never been so fond of that bird as since it's been loose.'" ...more