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The Peshawar Lancers

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,529 ratings  ·  183 reviews
A spray of comets freezes human progress in the 1870s.

Now the British Empire and All the Russias each rule half the world.

Everyone predicts a showdown-but no one can predict the role that one man, spy and hero, double and triple agent, will play...
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Roc Hardcover
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  2,529 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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The Shayne-Train
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must say, that was a pretty rollicking alternate-history adventure!

A meteor or some such falling heavenly body strikes the earth at the end of the 1800's. All technological progress halts, and the world is thrown screaming back into the Middle Ages as nuclear winter makes coastal locations uninhabitable. So the British Empire moves itself to India, and becomes the leading world-governor.

This is perhaps the best explanation for a world existing in a quasi-steampunk situation, dontcha think?
Dec 09, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I should have realized when the blurb on the back of the book praised its "world-building" and "action" that that meant there would be no:

-Remotely sympathetic or even interesting characters
-Dialogue that was consistent from page to page
-Plot that made even a lick of sense

I respect the steampunky British Raj atmosphere that Stirling created, but the clunky writing, as well as the other issues listed above, just killed this for me.

For example: Stirling is so concerned with not saying "he" or
Duffy Pratt
This book highlights both Stirling's strengths and weaknesses. His main strength is the power of his underlying ideas, and the depth with which he has thought them out. The premise is that the entire northern hemisphere basically got wiped out by meteors in the 19th century, but Britain managed to relocate some of its population and retain its power base -- in India, Australia, and South Africa. Flash forward 250 years, but with technology lagging behind, and resources much different than they ...more
Andrew Ziegler
Aug 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tom Nixon
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Peshawar Lancers is a rip-roaring, swashbuckling tale of Alternate History rooted firmly in the tradition of Rudyard Kipling and other 19th Century 'adventure' writers such as H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Set in a world where the planet was devastated by a spray of comets in the mid-1870s, the world of The Peshawar Lancers is a far different one from ours today. Empires still rule the world, with the British Empire, now centered in Delhi being the major power. Our hero, Captain ...more
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found The Peshawar Lancers to be very easy to fall into. S.M. Stirling is very talented at creating believable and fully realized worlds; you can really tell how much thought and research goes into them.

This book in particular deals with an alternate history where man's technological progress was halted in the 1870's by an asteroid colliding with the Earth. Flooding, long winters and cold summers, starvation, mass migration, cannibalism, and disease follow. Fast forward to 2025 where the
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
I was initially rather off-put by the incredibly James Bond-i-ness of the protagonist. Athelstane King, home on leave after a wound to the designated hero area aka shoulder, has sex with his sexy sexy concubine who promptly gets fridged by assasins so he can appropriately swear revenge. I rolled my eyes.

It picks up, though. Oh, he never gets any less Marty-Stu. But it turns out that it's just that Stirling doesn't do deep characters, really at all. But at least Athelstane is not the only one.
The Peshawar Lancers is... extraordinary.
It started like any old historical, very familiar ground to anyone coming across Flashman or the Kipling-Corbett path... then you realize it's not a history adventure at all, but a fantasy world steeped in cannibal horror, futurecasting, and forced eugenics. Then it flips over into a faux-Victorian, inventor-scientist (complete with plucky heroine!) steampunk world with dirigibles, transistors and babbage engines... and if this is sound like a horrific
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This could have been an amazing book. The premise is a little unusual - the earth is struck by a series of meteors, causing a miniature ice age. Western civilization essentially collapses, and British society relocates to India. Against this backdrop of severe cultural/social upheaval, there is a mysterious assassination plot afoot.

But the author, I felt, really lets you down. The characters tended to be flat and stereotypical. The basic plot was very simplistic (I foresaw every "twist" by the
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was quite excited to read this when it was selected as a Bookclub pick, the only alternative history that I've read so far mainly focused on events altering during the Second World War.

The set up is that a huge meteor shower hit the northern hemisphere during 1878.
The book is set in 2025 where the worlds climate has recovered and the majority of the population now live in the South Pacific.

What I practically loved about this book was the clash of cultures, you had placed such as Oxford and
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This singleton is set in the year 2025, but not in our future. The premise is that a shower of comets hit Earth in the 1860′s, pushing civilization to the brink of extinction both by the impacts themselves and related general cooling. The British Empire relocated its seat to Delhi, and the story takes place in what is India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in our timeline. The Empire is ruled by the Angrezi Raj, or King-Emperor.

This is classic swords and horses adventure. Very gripping, with some great
Lianne Burwell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Pryor
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars, really. Magnificent, absorbing world building. Imagine if a giant comet storm hit the earth in Victorian times, necessitating a wholesale exodus to India. A hundred and fifty years later, the Raj endures. SM Stirling builds a fascinating, consistent imaginary society, full of detail - and this may be my hesitation about the book. The narrative, and the characters, buckle a little under the overwhelming wealth of detail which does add to the texture of the story, but slows down the ...more
Tim Martin
_The Peshawar Lancers_ by S. M. Stirling is an interesting alternate history by one of the most prominent authors of this sub-genre of science fiction. The setting is very unusual, one that I have never encountered before. In 1878, either a series of comets or one large comet that broke up impacted the Earth over a space of twelve hours, devastating Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, and North America, with millions dying from blast damage and tsunamis and later many more from starvation, disease, ...more
S.M. Stirling is a master of alternate worlds. In his Nantucket trilogy, the island of Nantucket and all its inhabitants get mysteriously transposed with the island’s bronze-age counterpart and must figure out how to live in this strange new–or old–world. In his Emberverse series, Stirling explores what happens to the world left behind by the disappearance of Nantucket, a world where the laws of physics–specifically, energy reactions–are now completely changed. No more gunpowder, no more ...more
Luke McCallin
I love alternate history novels. The basis of this one was interesting--a series of comets strike the earth in the 1870s, largely destroying civilisation in the northern hemisphere. Led by the British, the surviving European states move south, into Africa and the Indian sub-continent. One of the results, a century later, is a hybrid Anglo-Indian Raj where the British and their Indian subjects have, under the pressures of survival, forged an interesting superpower that faces off with a resurgent ...more
Delightful Steampunk Romp In An Alternate Future of India

S. M. Sterling evokes Rudyard Kipling, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling in this delightful alternate history view of a revived British Empire in the aftermath of a series of devestating cometary impacts on late 19th Century Earth. Comparing Stirling to Rudyard Kipling and other writers of Imperial Raj fiction seems most apt, since this novel is essentially an early 21st Century recounting of the "Great Game" played
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I have been fascinated with India under the Raj since I read M.M. Kaye's _The Far Pavilions_ when I was 14. I am also a huge fan of alternate-universe histories and fantasy. Well-written steampunk is an absolute plus.

Needless to say, _The Peshawar Lancers_ (pronounced peh-SHOWER, not PESH-a-war) fulfilled all of this and more.

This is my first Stirling novel, so I can't compare it with any others, but I can tell you that it reminded me, at various times, a great deal of both Kaye and Kipling. I
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Just discovered this author, though he's apparently been around for a long time. He seems to write primarily in the alternate history subgenre, and he's very good at it. I have some problems with some of his premises (in this one, a psychic bred by a fallen Russian empire figures prominently and important plot points revolve around her; this takes it into the realm of fantasy, which I think was unnecessary), but once you choke them down, the rest of it is well-written, fully realized and very ...more
Jeffrey Ogden Thomas
Dec 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SciFi + India fans
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Rick Dunlap
Swashbuckling alternate history about the jewel in the crown -- India -- serving as the home of the British empire. Good page-turner adventure, with little character development but lots of evocative scenery and implausible coincidences. The mix of Hindi and English is particularly fun to read, for anyone familiar with both languages.
I read this years ago, before I moved to India. It was just a sort of pulp fiction novel. But since I returned from India, it is a lot more fun to read and imagine
Jan 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Don't do it. Just don't. Not bad enough to put down (in fact it was oddly compelling) but not good enough to actually enjoy. The feeling of release as i finished the last page was overwhelming. This book needed an editor in the worst way -- it was a 500 page book that was about 200 pages too long. Which makes me think that maybe one of Stirling's earlier books, back when he was probably forced to listen to an editor, might be enjoyable. but i'm not going to test that theory anytime soon.
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rollicking adventure

An excellent, thrill-a-minute adventure story, set in a fascinating alternate timeline. The Senate universe is well thought out and constructed, and the characters are a lot of fun. The only problem was I kept getting cravings for Indian food and don't have any restaurants nearby! :-)
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stirling is very focused on language and customs, and some that requires knowledge on the part of the reader that I didn't have, even after just reading Monsoon, which was about the Indian Ocean area. The story was ok, but it was nothing very great.
Moe  Shinola
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great concept, fair execution. Stirling is good, but the concept is so good I was left wishing he was a better writer. This is not a slam, you will probably enjoy this, I just thought it could be better.
Karen Crecelius
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book............................. I have purchased multiple copies and given them away to friends. ( Book crack, the first taste is free) and it's an amazingly well crafted story that entices and enthralls. If only there were more in this universe........
Susanne Winterhawk
Alternate history of what the world could be like if a swarm of meteors hit most of the northern continents in the 1880s. It had swashbuckling, women's lib, airship adventures. What more could you want?
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Fun ride. And a very interesting background world.
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy
This is a fascinating alternate reality. The adventure is fun but the realization of his vision is fascinating.
Hatton Greer
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot. I have read quite a few of his series, and I liked the character and worlds he has created here better than some of the ones he has chosen to make into a series.
Rudyard Lynch
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
God, this book is the most fun I've had in a very long time. The story's set in a world in which a comet started an ice age in the 1870s which slowed down civilization for over a hundred years. The alternate history world seemed quite realistic, with the exception of America collapsing into anarchy after the comet's strike. I mean it's kind of hard to destroy a continent sized nation with 80 million people. There are supernatural elements that kind of jump the shark, but it made the story more ...more
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Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.

(personal website: source)

I’m a writer by trade, born in France but Canadian by origin and American by