Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The High Crusade

Rate this book
In the year of grace 1345, as Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville is gathering an army to join King Edward III in the war against France, a most astonishing event occurs: a huge silver ship descends through the sky and lands in a pasture beside the little village of Ansby in northeastern Lincolnshire. The Wersgorix, whose scouting ship it is, are quite expert at taking over planets, and having determined from orbit that this one was suitable, they initiate standard world-conquering procedure. Ah, but this time it's no mere primitives the Wersgorix seek to enslave; they've launched their invasion against free Englishmen! In the end, only one alien is left alive; and Sir Roger's grand vision is born. He intends for the creature to fly the ship first to France to aid his King, then on to the Holy Land to vanquish the infidel. Unfortunately, he has not allowed for the treachery of the alien pilot, who instead takes the craft to his home planet, where, he thinks, these upstart barbarians will have no choice but to surrender. But that knavish alien little understands the indomitable will and clever resourcefulness of Englishmen, no matter how great the odds against them. . .

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1960

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Poul Anderson

1,414 books936 followers
Pseudonym A. A. Craig, Michael Karageorge, Winston P. Sanders, P. A. Kingsley.

Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories. He received numerous awards for his writing, including seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards.

Anderson received a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota in 1948. He married Karen Kruse in 1953. They had one daughter, Astrid, who is married to science fiction author Greg Bear. Anderson was the sixth President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, taking office in 1972. He was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America, a loose-knit group of Heroic Fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies. He was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Robert A. Heinlein dedicated his 1985 novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls to Anderson and eight of the other members of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy.[2][3]

Poul Anderson died of cancer on July 31, 2001, after a month in the hospital. Several of his novels were published posthumously.

* Time Patrol
* Psychotechnic League
* Trygve Yamamura
* Harvest of Stars
* King of Ys
* Last Viking
* Hoka
* Future history of the Polesotechnic League
* Flandry

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,217 (29%)
4 stars
1,535 (37%)
3 stars
1,056 (25%)
2 stars
227 (5%)
1 star
54 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 348 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
February 4, 2017
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, tells the unlikely but still somehow plausible tale of an alien invasion of earth in the 1300s.

The aliens made a cosmic blunder by messing with an English baron and his fiefdom. What ensues is a story that must be read to be believed and it is hard to put down. While reading this I could not help but recall scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, especially the scenes with Michael Palin as the lord of the castle in the swamps, saying, “Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who.”

One of the great things about this book is the humor, never far from the surface, but tucked in, like a tongue in a cheek, allowing the narrative (made all the more entertaining by being told from the perspective of a learned friar) to chronicle a truly unique and imaginative adventure.

Also I cannot help but compare and contrast this story with Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (from which it must have gained inspiration) and to Eifelheim, Michael Flynn’s 2006 novel (which may have gained inspiration from The High Crusade). This book also has a similarity with Asimov’s Foundation (first published in 1951) series, though nowhere near its scope.

An energetic, light and entertaining adventure story, very original in its design, well written and smoothly paced; Anderson has also crafted a subtle examination of diplomacy and war, while satirizing human nature as it is used in a metaphor by an alien race!

Or this is just a fun book, nicely done.

Profile Image for Nataliya.
743 reviews11.8k followers
April 27, 2023
Rounding up on the reread. It’s silly and tongue-in-cheek and strangely entertaining.
Your regular garden-variety Englishman in 1345 had a few things to worry about: the Hundred Year War, the general conditions of life in the not-so-pleasant Middle Ages, and - if they had a working crystal ball - the merciless arrival of the Black Death in three short years.

None of these worries normally included traipsing through the galaxy on a captured spaceship ("Lo! It was as a miracle!"), fighting the aliens' advanced technologies with lances and trebuchets, and reshaping the galaxy in accordance with the customs of feudal England on a crusade "for the glory of God, the honor of England, and the enrichment of us all!"
“However, many a sober, trustworthy man-at-arms swore that he saw the holy knight ride down the Milky Way in a foam of stars and impale enemy ships on his lance like so many dragons.”

Credibility? Who needs credibility when you can have medieval warriors in space??? This book is such fun, built on the same premise that possessed the creators of 'Cowboys vs. Aliens' and our eternal desire to root for the obvious likeable underdog. But the underdog here - the savvy Baron Roger de Tourneville - has an unexpected advantage over the technologically superior aliens; the advantage borne out of human capacity for intrigue and good medieval capacity for an all-out brawl.
“Where it comes to intrigue, I’m no master of it myself, no Italian. But the starfolk are like children.
And why? Well, on Earth there’ve been many nations and lords for many centuries, all at odds with each other, under a feudal system nigh too complicated to remember. Why’ve we fought so many wars in France? Because the Duke of Anjou was on the one hand the sovereign king of England and on the other hand a Frenchman! Think you what that led to; and yet ’tis really a minor example. On our Earth, we’ve perforce learned all the knavery there is to know."
Ah, the 'knavery'. The easiness with which Sir Roger springs complicated politics and clever intrigues onto the unsuspecting aliens already baffled by the confusing nature of these 'Englishmen' fighting force shields with smile cutting weapons, bragging of what seems to be centuries of space explorations and tales of amazing genetic engineering with all their 'highborn' talk, and strange rituals that seem to give them strength and power. The power of bluff and bravado so alien to the non-English space creatures. What chance did they ever have against Sir Roger and his crusaders?
“An ancestor of mine, by the name of Noah, was once admiral of the combined fleets of my planet.”

"Our lords have extensive foreign possessions, such as Ulster, Leinster, Normandy — but I'll not weary you with a catalogue of planets."
I alone noticed he had not actually said those counties and duchies were planets.
Yes, on the first glance the adventure is silly enough to have been turned into a mainly comedic and not well-made film in the 90s. But that's superficial take on it, believe me. Where it shines is the beautifully woven in humor. The narration done in the stiff devoted hero- and god-worshipping style of a cleric Brother Parvus accompanying Roger de Tourneville on the space crusade works so well when, as the events unfold, it begins incorporating the lines that would have been right at home in 'Star Wars' or such, as the knights and serfs and our monk get a hang of navigating the vast universe at supersonic speeds, shooting laser guns and hanging out with all kinds of space aliens, combining technology and superstition, medieval euphemisms and advanced technology, all told through the prism of sheer bravado and space lore.
“But we have one prisoner, Branithar, who speaks Latin—”
“I would not say that, sire,” I interrupted. “His declensions are atrocious, and what he does to irregular verbs may not be described in gentle company.”
It's a pleasantly compact story, nicely quick-paced due to such short length, never getting sidetracked and never steering from the straight narrative path. It's a refreshing break from the world of doorstopper-sized tomes. It's quite worth the few hours you'll spend on it.

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
January 19, 2019
I had a certain idea about what this book was to be about before I read it. I'm a fan of Poul Anderson and some of the previous novels were so rich with history and research that I just had to finally read THIS:

1345 English knights under Edward III encounter first contact with aliens.

Awesome, right?

Well, imagine my discomfort and disappointment when it was pretty much a gloss-over for the actual history bits and we're left with the standard romantic Chivalry crap. And the aliens are peaceful. Ish.

I readjusted my expectations, let the text speak for itself, and lo-and-behold... I still had fun. Especially when these English knights are LOST IN SPACE and defeating alien strongholds and saving alien princesses. :) :)

It still has all the Chivalry crap, but now it's a tongue-in-cheek 'Doc' E E Smith space opera that feels a lot like Farscape.

As I read these later parts, I kept giggling at the thought of a full tv series like this. Modernized, of course. The novel did come out in 1960. So just think, a fully culturally accurate update of post-Crusades Europe co-opting spaceships... spoiling for a new Crusade, only focused on a much more dangerous alien foe...

Isn't that AWESOME? Let's get our historians out for this one. Do it RIGHT. :)
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews428 followers
March 14, 2019
-Como pulp de otras épocas, llamativo.-

Género. Ciencia ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. En el libro La Gran Cruzada (publicación original: The Great Crusade, 1960), el padre Parvus pone por escrito sus experiencias al servicio del barón de Tourneville cuando, a mediados del siglo XIV y mientras reune tropas inglesas para ayudar en la lucha contra los franceses en la Guerra de los Cien Años, un enorme objeto volador se posa en sus dominios. Tras encargarse de los demonios de su interior, Roger de Tourneville muestra interés en la nave y en sus aplicaciones bélicas. El interrogatorio de uno de los demonios supervivientes, que se hace llamar Branithar, ofrece información sorprendente pero, a todas luces, falsa para los ingleses.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Ron Sami.
Author 3 books81 followers
March 6, 2022
It's a peppy fusion of fantasy and space opera with a fair amount of humor and parody.

Plot. Rating 4
The plot is simple but develops rapidly. Most of the plot moves are due to a large share of comic grotesque. Characters get out of the most difficult situations with the help of luck, arrogance, and courage. The plot is fascinating and contains some unexpected twists due to the resourcefulness and bravado of one of the main characters. The final plot twist resolves the intrigue that has been going on since the beginning of the book.

Characters. Rating 5
The characters are very colorful; although, they do not develop in this short book. I think the book has two main characters, Baron de Tourneville and Brother Parvus. Both are excellently shown, but I especially liked the Baron. His vanity, cunning, insane courage, as well as his self-confidence and optimism, aroused my admiration.
The secondary characters also are well portrayed and add variety to the plot.

Dialogues. Rating 5
Great humorous dialogues. The book is full of witty gags where the characters' medieval notions of piety, valor, and chivalrous romance clash with alien technology.

Writing style. Rating 4
The book is easy to read and fun. I liked the descriptions of the religious beliefs and customs of the fourteenth century. There are farcical dramatic events at the end of the book which somewhat reduce the crazy fun of the book.

Worldbuilding. Rating 4
The alien races are well described. However, the main advantage of the book is a rather thoughtful depiction of the war of a medieval army with swords, bows, and arrows against an alien civilization with bombs and lasers. Although some of the story’s grotesque and ridiculous indulgences work in favor of the English forces, Baron Tourneville nonetheless conducts a competent, albeit insane war, successfully bluffs and uses propaganda, and skillfully applies Divide and Conquer diplomacy.

Conclusion. Overall rating 4
This is a hilarious book that is partly a parody of the greed, piety, and vanity of medieval war dogs.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews780 followers
April 10, 2016
The idea that earth can resist an alien invasion is fairly ludicrous given that the aliens would have to travel light years across the universe to get here, so their level of technology and weaponry must be vastly superior to ours. Poul Anderson, a scifi legend, was well aware of this, and he carefully created an amusing scenario where such a thing is at least plausible. Anderson was a versatile author, books like Tau Zero and Brain Wave and The High Crusade are all very different (not to mention his non-genre and nonfiction works).

The premise is fairly straight forward. In 1345 AD a huge spaceship lands in Ansby, a small village in Lincolnshire just as Sir Roger de Tourney illegal, an English Knight, was raising an army to fight a war with France. This is a scout ship from the Wersgorix Empire who are always looking to expand their dominion. As luck would have it, their technology is so advanced that they have forgotten how to fight hand to hand and fall prey to the English soldiers who stormed their ship and basically hacked them all to death, except for one rather shady character named Branithar. Thinking that the "flying ship" will give them a huge advantage over the French Sir Roger orders Branithar to fly the ship to France, Branithar readily agrees but activates the pre-programmed autopilot to take them to the nearest Wersgor colony instead.

In spite of the rather farcical premise the book is very enjoyable, it is more humorous than the other Anderson novels I have read (well, I have not read that many of them). Fans of the ultra hard sf Tau Zero will be disappointed if they are expecting more in that vein, those looking for a quick read, and an entertaining sci-fi romp are in for a treat. The book is written in the first person, narrated by a monk who follows Sir Roger on his space adventures. The medieval style English is wonderful, I can not vouch for its authenticity of course but it is very amusing to read especially when describing alien technology. For example:

"I have studied the principles of their star maps a little, sire," I answered, "though in truth they do not employ charts, but mere columns of figures. Nor do they have mortal steersmen on the spaceships. Rather, they instruct an artificial pilot at the start of the journey, and thereafter the homunculus operates the entire craft."

Ha! Love that stuff! The main alien race, the Wersgorix, are a little old school in that they are blue skinned bipeds who communicate through vocal speech and gestures, thus conveniently facilitating the establishment of communication. Other alien races show up later who are less like anthropomorphised creatures but really not all that strange by today's sci-fi standard. You may find that the idea that a bunch of medieval Brits resisting and conquering alien races with vastly superior technology ridiculous. It is basically done through bluff and bluster, with a lot of luck thrown in:
"But how could that be, sire?" asked Sir Owain. "They‘re older and stronger and wiser than we."
"The first two, granted," nodded the baron. His humor was so good that he addressed even this knight with frank fellowship. "But the third, no. Where it comes to intrigue, I‘m no master of it myself, no Italian. But the star-folk are like children."
In any case Anderson has written the book and developed the characters with such skill that you are likely to be swept away by the story and jettison your incredulity out the window.

Tremendous fun and takes no time at all to read, a must!
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
March 26, 2012
The aliens landed in Medieval times and were ready for an easy conquest of a backward world...till the knights rushed the ship and got inside and the aliens were defeated..and the ship lifted off in auto-pilot....

The plot sounds a bit hokey but it made such a good story. I think it could have made an ever better one, but my imagination took the original and ran with it. Fun, enjoyable, imaginative, original (nothing like it then and only variations since). As I said I like it. If it were written today it would probably be the first in a long running series. (There actually were a couple of follow up stories). I think you'll enjoy this one.

While the plot may at first seem a slight eye roller (and Anderson does place his tongue in his cheek a bit here) within the story's own logic it works quite well. Remember that depending entirely on "superior technology" doesn't always work (just ask the British about the Battle of Isandlwana America/French about the ultimate outcome in Nam, the Russians about Afghanistan...General Custer, and so on). Poor leadership, overconfidence, lack of back up all can allow "local forces" to win over technological superiority.

The Aliens here seem to suffer from all the above.

With a seriocomic take on the story this novel looks lightly at some serious subjects and tells an enjoyable tale.

It's a good story. I like it.
Profile Image for Alissa.
614 reviews85 followers
November 6, 2019
A thought-provoking “celebration” of the Englishman laced with tongue-in-cheek glamour and sprinkled with a deftly handled satire on contemporary superpowers and societies.

The book is short and there's a great deal of action and witty humor, it gets a bit more philosophical towards the end but I finished it in one sitting with ease.
An intergalactic mega empire scouts for new planets to dominate and one of his spaceships lands in 1345 Lincolnshire, England, where even “the lowliest serf looked up from his acre and dreamed of freeing the Holy Land and picking up a coffer of gold on the way”. What was a routine mission soon becomes the aliens’ worst nightmare.
The plot is linear and tightly focused and it fits the subtlety of the book's themes just fine: I liked the story direction, but it’s the unfolding that is source of constant entertainment. I’ve never read anything by Poul Anderson before, but I soon trusted him, the prose, the narrative structure and the setting premises themselves make the whole adventure sound plausible.

The story is truly humorous, original, absurd and full of boldness, bravado and deceit, centered around a space jacquerie uprising led by a medieval noble knight. I'm a fan of England, a sucker for the Hundred Years' War (the earlier part at least) but I find anything related to gunpowder already too modern to bear; fact is, this book is so enthralling I got hooked immediately: knights and blue aliens? Livestock to confound airborne patrols? Archery and spacecraft? Heavy chivalry pitted against tanks? A whole village traipsing in the space and the main problem is how to calculate Easter?

The characters feel authentic, like the forlorn baroness, the ambitious young knight or the rambunctious archer (no way a good book about Englishmen in the middle-ages can miss an archer!) and then of course the catchy protagonists: Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville, the man of war, takes circumstances in stride and seizes the bull by the horns, while Brother Pelvus, the narrator, the man of religion, tries to understand the implications of their actions, but both apply the filter of their culture (with the right mix of superstition, crusading spirit and hard-life experience) on the events, to utterly hilarious consequences and unexpected results.

“The clinching proof of my reasoning is, that I’ll cut anyone who argues further into dogmeat.”
Actually, I felt that in his crude way my master had grasped truth. In my spare time I would recast his logic into proper syllogistic form, to make sure;

Very soon it gets so charming that I started to find logical everything I read, and internally it was for sure! Add into the fray a super powerful alien society grown complacent in their own superiority, a few surviving subjugated civilizations, some practical English diplomacy and… Oh, now I just loved reading this.

“And why? Well, on Earth there’ve been many nations and lords for many centuries, all at odds with each other, under a feudal system nigh too complicated to remember. Why’ve we fought so many wars in France? Because the Duke of Anjou was on the one hand the sovereign king of England and on the other hand a Frenchman! Think you what that led to: and yet ‘tis really a minor example. On our Earth, we’ve perforce learned all the knavery there is to know.”
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
June 21, 2012
I love Poul Anderson. It amazes me that he can write such masterful and complex works as The Broken Sword and something as silly and fun as The High Crusade, and make both equally enjoyable to me. The basic premise of this book is medieval Englishmen from around the time of the crusades, in space, brazening it out and taking over the universe. It is all dealt with very lightly, but there's still moments that are touching and emotionally compelling too -- Lady Catherine's words at the end of the story, for example.

One of my favourite bits:

"We have one prisoner who speaks Latin -- "
"I would not say that, sire," I interrupted. "His declensions are atrocious, and what he does to irregular verbs may not be described in gentle company."

Just, awesome. Ridiculous, but awesome.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,257 reviews185 followers
October 20, 2020
Не е било възможно средновековният човек с тогавашните “технологии”, а да не говорим за познанията на науката и нагласите на ума, да вземе, че да покори космоса.

Обаче героите на Андерсън не го знаят! Е, те не влагат и в понятието Космос съвременния му смисъл. И тъй като не знаят, че е невъзможно, го правят. Побеждават превъзхождащ ги високотехнологичен извънземен враг, летят между звездите и завладяват космическа империя. Съпътствани, разбира се, от вечните дрязги кой да води бащина дружина, кой да получи по-тлъстия пай от плячката (и как да формулират понятието “плячка” в случая), как се подкарва космически кораб без магия или поне подходящата молитва, може ли да се живее без любов... И след като са претрепали потресения враг, идва ред и на мисленето. Защото ако първо мислеха, щяха да са а) наши съвременници и б) много мъртви.

Една от най-забавните приключенски фантастики, които съм чела, при това кратичка. Жалко, че Андерсън е малко превеждан у нас.
Profile Image for Michael Jandrok.
189 reviews343 followers
April 5, 2019
I’ve been making a sincere effort over the last couple of years to play “catch-up” with a number of books that I somehow missed over the years. Look, let’s face it, we are mortal beings, and there is no way that we will ever be able to read all of the books that we want to read in a lifetime. It’s a good problem to have when one has an overflowing “to-read” pile, but it does make picking the next adventure tough sometimes.

I have always had an affinity for classic science-fiction, but there is such an overwhelming amount of material out there produced by wide variety of different authors. I’ve read a lot, don’t get me wrong, but I have also missed a bunch over the years. So I came upon Poul Anderson’s “The High Crusade” recently and thought to finally give it a go. Originally published in 1960, it’s one of Anderson’s most popular books, and has been reprinted numerous times since its initial appearance in Astounding magazine. “The High Crusade” was nominated for a Hugo award in 1961, adapted into a role-playing game by TSR (Gary Gygax’s company...yes, the same TSR that published Dungeons & Dragons) in 1983, and spawned a movie version of the story in 1994. Anderson himself didn’t think much of the movie, and I really don’t feel a strong need to seek it out.

I ended up ordering a BAEN BOOKS hardcover printing on AbeBooks. It looks like it might be the original first edition, but the front matter doesn’t indicate it as so. Oddly enough this is a hard little book to find in the used book stores. I guess it’s one of the Poul Anderson books that people tend to keep in their home libraries.

The plot itself is very straightforward and simple. It is the Year Of Our Lord 1345 in the small English settlement of Ansby. Sir Roger, the Baron de Tourneville, is preparing to march against France in support of his King, Edward III. His preparations are disturbed, however, by the quite unexpected arrival of an alien spaceship, an emissary of a violent and parasitic race known as the Wersgorix. The blue-skinned and demonic looking invaders are quickly mistaken to be an apparition of Hell Itself on Earth, and the aliens almost pull off their typical trick of frightening and cowing the residents of the planets they wish to conquer and colonize. What the Wersgorix failed to account for was, of course, Sir Roger and his men-at-arms, who quickly decide to attack the “blue-faces” with all of the might of a British military garrison of the time. The aliens are quickly slaughtered, all but one, and the ship secured in King Edward’s name.

The Wersgorixian captive, Branithar, manages to learn enough Latin to be able to converse with one of Sir Roger’s band, the monk known as Brother Parvus. Parvus also serves as the narrator of the story. As the British learn more about what they have conquered, Sir Roger hatches a plan to use the spaceship to quickly subdue France, then use it to fight in the ongoing Crusades in the Holy Land. The entire village of Ansby is thus relocated to the alien vessel, whereby Branithar tricks the unfortunate English and sends them on a one-way journey to an outlying Wersgor colony, the planet Tharixan. It is there where Sir Roger must hatch his most ambitious and outrageous plans yet, praise be to God and the banner of England.

From there, the book is a rollicking and gently humorous ride as the Baron de Tournville and his gallant men and townsfolk work to defeat not only the Wersgorixian Empire, but to spread English influence to the stars.

This is a short book at 181 pages, almost more of a novella than a true novel. I had been somewhat under the impression that this book was something along the lines of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail In Space,” and there might be a bit of that going on here, but to think of it that way does the story a small disservice. There is humor to be found here, yes, but “The High Crusade” works on a lot of different levels, and I want to give it its fair due in this review. In truth, there is a LOT going on in the undercurrents of the plot. It works as a tale of science-fiction laced with broad fantasy elements, but there are also threads of honor won and lost, of brave deeds and foul, doubt and deceit, to be found in these pages. Anderson paints his characters with a broad brush, as you might expect in a book of this short length, but no one seems out of place nor acts in any way that we would not expect them to. The author was smart to give us a believable alien cast, and the whole thing just unfolds as a fun and energetic story that reads fast and never loses sight of its core ambitions. Ah, to be Sir Roger, with an unheralded opportunity to capture a universe in the name of God and Crown……Pax Britannica to the Stars.

Ultimately, a book of this sort succeeds or fails based on its sheer entertainment value, and I will admit that I was pretty entertained by “The High Crusade.” It’s a well-deserved and time-honored science-fiction classic authored by a SFWA Grand Master, and I think you’d do well to add this to your shelf. I really don’t know why I waited so long to unearth it, but I’m really glad that I did. I’ll leave you with a few of the lines of the text that made me smile, so you can get a better idea of what you might be getting into……

“At the moment, all was triumph. Red-splashed, panting, in scorched and dinted armor, Sir Roger de Tourneville rode a weary horse back to the main fortress. After him came the lancers, archers, yeomen - ragged, battered, shoulders slumped with exhaustion. But the Te Deum was on their lips, rising beneath the strange constellations that twinkled forth, and their banners flew bravely against the sky.

It was wonderful to be an Englishman.”


“I didn’t think much o’ those shells we had,” Red John went on. “Why, the things didn’t weigh no more’n five pounds. We’d trouble rigging the trebuchet to cast ‘em only those few miles. And what could they do, I wondered, but burst with a pop? I’ve seen trebuchets used proper, laying siege to French cities. We’d throw boulders of a ton or two, or sometimes dead horses, over the walls. But, well, orders was orders. So I m’self cocked the little shell like I’d been told how to, and we let fly. Whoom! The world blew up, like. I had to admit this was even better to throw nor a dead horse.”


Sir Roger grinned all over his face. “‘Twas easy to do,” he said when his captains praised him. “I needed but to inquire the way in which things are done hereabouts, which was never secret. Then the star-folk tumbled into snares which would not have fooled a half-witted prince of Germans.”

“But how could that be, sire?” asked Sir Owain. “They’re older and stronger and wiser than we.”

“The first two, granted,” nodded the baron. His humor was so good that he addressed even this knight with frank fellowship. “But the third, no. Where it comes to intrigue, I’m no master of it myself, no Italian. But the star-folk are like children.”

Profile Image for Joseph.
681 reviews86 followers
December 1, 2021
Not actually a comedy, but you can see Anderson's tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

Inexplicably, I had never previously gotten around to reading this, despite being aware of it for, well, multiple decades; and now that I did finally sit down with it, it was a lot of fun.

The curtain opens on 14th century England, in the village of Ashby, where the locals are just going about their day-to-day business when an enormous spaceship full of hostile aliens lands; but mere firearms and energy weapons are no match for doughty English steel and clothyard shafts! And, long story short, Sir Roger de Tourneville (as recorded by his amanuensis Brother Parvus) drags his entire village, men, women, children, horses and kine, onto the ship, although rather than using it to free the Holy Land from the infidels, they find themselves lost amongst the stars, encroaching upon the interstellar empire from whence the ship was originally dispatched.

Altogether improbable, but if you have a couple hours to kill on a Saturday afternoon (possibly with a lovely beverage or two to hand), you could do much worse.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books472 followers
February 8, 2017
Re-read with my sisters January 18, 2017. SO GOOD, PEOPLE <3 <3 <3

(For more on why you really ought to read this joyous book, see my full review!)


Read August 27, 2016.





Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books580 followers
November 12, 2010
The late Poul Anderson was one of the giants of the SF genre (actually, he wrote in all of the speculative genres) in the later 20th century, and this work is certainly a classic. (It's also the only Anderson novel that I've read, though I've enjoyed several of his short stories as well.)

With one of the most original premises (accurately set forth in the Goodreads description above) that I've ever encountered, Anderson uses a mildly humorous tone in much of this book, but it has its serious side, too. If one grants the assumed situation, the plotting isn't as impossible as some readers might think; the author understands that in warfare between high-tech and low-tech opponents, ALL of the advantages aren't always automatically with the former. Technology has its limits and its blind spots; extreme overconfidence and forgetfulness of the basics (which more primitive warriors are a lot more apt to remember!) can be deadly; and courage and confidence make a difference. Anderson also has a good understanding of social and cultural dynamics, an easy-to-read, freely flowing style (at 181 pages, this is a pretty quick read, with never a dull moment), and good character development, within the limits of the novella length and the basically event-driven storyline. Sir Roger and Brother Parvus, for instance, are likable characters, as is Red John Hameward; One-Eyed Hubert is a minor masterpiece, and Lady Catherine has the grit that action heroines are made of. Our narrator here is a monk; and while Anderson pokes gentle fun at some of the more superstitious aspects of medieval Catholicism ("How shall we observe Lent and Easter, with two moons morris-dancing about to confuse the issue?" a perplexed Brother Parvus cries), his treatment of basic Christian belief is actually very positive. (Though my understanding is that he didn't profess any faith himself, some of his short fiction also exhibits an understanding of, and sympathy towards, Christian beliefs.)

This was a book I read aloud to my wife, who enjoyed it as much as I did. While I'd certainly recommend it to SF fans, I think it would also appeal to a good many general readers --and would be a good introduction to the genre for newbies who aren't necessarily up for "hard" SF.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,005 reviews1,116 followers
October 26, 2020
During the long summers without playmates at grandmother's cottage in southwest Michigan, I drew and read a lot when it was too lousy outside to spend a day with my dog, Jimmy. The beach, though nearby, had lost its charm after the first days of summer. There was none of the aesthetic concern for having a good tan which became a motivation in adolescence. If I joined the folks down there at all, I'd mostly read, only stepping in the water to cool off on the hottest days. Sometimes, however, I'd retreat up the hundred-odd stairs in the wood alone to have the house to myself while the old ones talked and sunned themselves.

I recall reading Anderson's 'The High Crusade' on such a beautiful day--the folks on the beach, me alone in the bedroom shared with my eight-years younger brother, Fin, the afternoon and early evening sun pouring through the windows. This is a great book, I thought, a really funny one--besides, I was learning about the Middle Ages and that was interesting in itself. None of the treatments of the period in school were half as much fun, not even the children's edition of Malory with its romantic illustrations.

It is quite something to vividly remember reading a book forty-seven years ago, to remember the day, the thoughts, the basic plot. The ones remembered are often famous, like H. G. Wells novels, the kinds of stories one hears about again and again, refreshing the memory. Anderson's little tale, however, is obscure, nothing I can remember ever hearing about or even talking about (though I bet I recommended it at some point back then). The memory is pristine, precious.
Profile Image for Juho Pohjalainen.
Author 5 books252 followers
July 31, 2019
A scout ship of a peaceful starfaring empire unwittingly lands on a small world inhabited with savage, primitive, hateful apemen, constantly at war with their own kind for any petty excuse. The apemen proceed to kill everyone, take over the ship, and take over the galaxy in a campaign of bloodshed. No one is happy with this.

This is one of the more comedic stories Poul Anderson wrote, with an absurd premise that one can stomach largely because it's never remotely taken seriously, though I'm not sure how much of the human attitudes and the implicit alien peacefulness were a part of the joke. Oftentimes I had trouble telling whom I was supposed to sympathize with, so I gave up and just focused on the few good laughs it offered me. It's quite well-written and most of the characters have a personality trait or two as well.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,549 reviews32 followers
February 4, 2019
So what happens when you take a bunch of medieval knights and men-at-arms into space? They begin to conquer like any good nobleman would. Great SiFi book by one of the masters, very recommended
Profile Image for Aleksandar Janjic.
131 reviews21 followers
May 7, 2022
Пол Андерсон, који се из саму њему знаних разлога зове Поул а не Паул, као сваки нормалан Пол којег знамо, бар колико је мени познато пише углавном прилично озбиљне научнофантастичне ствари. Међутим овом приликом нешто му је изгледа кврцнуло у мозгу, па је саставио не-баш-сасвим озбиљну причу о групи Енглеза из четрнаестог вијека предвођених срчаним Бароном де Турневилом који случајно забасрљају на непријатељску планету и тамо се успјешно обрачунају са ванземаљском расом која већ вијековима успјешно терорише читав свемир. Ако вам се чини да се ово захтијева прилично велику суспензију невјерице да би се прогутало, потпуно сте у праву. Међутим, суспензија невјерице је много лакша за извести од суспензије досаде, а ово дефинитивно није досадна књига.

Радња је отприлике оваква: У неку енглеску селендру сручи се ванземаљски свемирски брод, за који се испоставља да припада супермоћној освајачкој раси коју сам споменуо горе. Енглези окупирају брод и одлуче да њиме отплове прво у обрачун са Франзуцима, а онда у Свету Земљу у Крсташки поход. Међутим, лукави ванземаљски антагониста подеси координате за планету на којој његова раја имају некакве базе, очекујући да ће његови лако изаћи на крај са овом примитивном земаљском руљом. Испоставља се потпуно супротно, тако да Енглези, помогнути лукавством, спретношћу, брзим учењем и интервенцијама аутора књиге, успијевају да се супротставе неупоредиво развијенијој цивилизацији и начисто их избламирају на њиховом терену.

Како прича и не планира да буде превише озбиљно схваћена (па није ово, до ђавола, Артур Кларк!), онда и нема смисла превише ревносно тражити длаку у јајету и критиковати њену нереалистичност. Оно што, међутим, можемо да критикујемо, јесте нефлексибилност и нефункционалност приповиједања једне овакве приче у првом лицу. Како приповједач не може баш да буде на свим мјестима у исто вријеме, превише често читамо његове детаљне описе догађаја којима није присуствовао, или разноразна оправдања других да га позивају без пријеке потребе да свједочи нечем што они тренутно раде. Заправо ми и иначе није јасно што ли људи толико воле да пишу у првом лицу.

Ако сте читали мој претходни текстић, о књизи Хидинг ин тхе Миррор Лоренса Крауса, могли сте да примијетите да сам са великим неоправдавањем реаговао на његово лупање о томе како се тек захваљујући Колумбу открило да је Земља округла. Овде имамо нешто слично. Наш главни лик, брат Парвус, иначе најначитанија особа у регији, потпуно је запањен кад од заробљеног ванземаљца сазна за облик Земље и то проглашава за "јерес" или нешто слично. Очигледно, та суманута идеја како су људи у средњем вијеку и даље мислили да је Земља равна толико се укоријенила у колективну свијест да се људи и не труде да испитају њену тачност. Ако би се за неког необразованог сељака мооооооооооооооооооооооожда и могло наћи неко оправдање, за начитаног фратра Парвуса сигурно да не може (ако ништа друго, човјек у његовој позицији сигурно је морао читати Тому Аквинског, који округлост Земље спомиње потпуно успут, као нешто што је опште познато свима). Такође, спомиње се и тзв. право прве брачне ноћи, наводна средњевјековна пракса која је најблаже речено врло сумњиве аутентичности и овакве ствари донекле разбијају имерзију, али срећом све је то на самом почетку књиге, тако да кад то пребродимо остаје чиста забава до краја.
Profile Image for Manuel Alfonseca.
Author 73 books148 followers
January 13, 2023
ENGLISH: Interesting sci-fi novel about a Medieval English village whose dwellers stop an extra-terrestrial invasion and then proceed to invade the alien empire.

There is a scientific-historical error in this book. The narrator, Brother Parvus, does not know that the Earth is round, but he knows well the philosophy of Aristotle. Both things are incompatible. Everyone who knew Greek philosophy during the Middle Ages knew that the Earth is round. If this had been attributed to Sir Roger de Tourneville, it would have been credible. As it is, it must be considered an important mistake.

ESPAÑOL: Interesante novela de ciencia ficción sobre un pueblo inglés de la Edad Media cuyos habitantes detienen una invasión extraterrestre y proceden a invadir el imperio alienígena.

Hay un error científico-histórico en este libro. El narrador, el hermano Parvus, no sabe que la Tierra es redonda, pero conoce bien la filosofía de Aristóteles. Ambas cosas son incompatibles. Todo aquel que conocía la filosofía griega durante la Edad Media sabía que la Tierra es redonda. Si se lo hubiese atribuido a Sir Roger de Tourneville, habría sido creíble. Tal como está, debe considerarse como un error considerable.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books265 followers
January 6, 2022
Highly entertaining and it was a stroke of genius to have it narrated by the little priest.
Profile Image for Jack.
410 reviews10 followers
June 6, 2012
Okay... he wrote this one for fun. It has a Monty Pythonish meets Black Adderishly flavored absurd plot; A scout-ship/UFO from Wersgorix, crash-lands in the fields of the bumbling Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville who is trying to raise an Army to head off to the Crusades to "kill Saracens and bring back a fortune in gold and silver." Mostly to bring back the fortune.

de Tourneville is almost a stereotypical jock, more concerned with the sport of killing Saracens than in wooing his beloved. But there is only one survivor from the crash and the alien states that the Wersgorix intend on taking over the planet and wiping out humanity or making them slaves. The Baron, however, captures the alien and intends on using the ship to fly his army to the Holy Land and win Victory for Christianity. As the Baron, his bumbling Captain of the Armory, his fiancee, a few dozen soldiers, villagers and the village Friar board the ship, they trip a lever and it sends them on automatic pilot back to the Alien Planet. There, they decide that these creatures are also infidels and they battle them, using tactics from the twelfth century to defeat the much-advanced aliens in a comical battle where the Baron's people underestimate the capabilities of the Aliens and the Aliens vastly over-estimate the capabilities of the Humans.

This was a laugh-out-loud book and I did at several points (well, being involved in RenFair, a history nut as well as a religious studies nut made it all the more sweet). This book is a wonderfully light read of the absurd. What's humorously worse is that they made a movie of it, starring John Rhys-Davies (of Indiana Jones and LOTR fame). If you can find it, I'd recommend reading and watching.
Profile Image for Philipp.
618 reviews180 followers
March 30, 2017
Straight out of Golden Age SF:

Lo! It was a miracle! Down through the sky, seeming to swell monstrously with the speed of its descent, came a ship all of metal.

A spaceship lands in Britain in 1345 right in front of Sir Roger and his knights. The aliens are invaders as their blasters make clear, but they don't intimidate the British, who think they're either being attacked by a French trick or demons. They quickly kill all invaders and leave earth on their space ship, hoping to use it to attack the French, and then to liberate the Holy Land with its power, but unfortunately they land on the nearest home planet of the aliens. Most of the story is about how the British knights use cunning and brute force to take over the whole planet, after which they go on to take over most of the alien empire.

And because it is Golden Age SF, everything is way too easy - this particular intergalactic empire is inept at pretty much everything including hand-to-hand combat, freed alien planets immediately and easily join the rebellion instead of asking for food, death is comic relief, and of course the book is never taking itself too seriously, as it should be:

"He does not speak any known language, my lord," I said.
"Nonsense! All demons know Latin, at least. He's just being stubborn."

If you enjoy gallant enormous practically invincible knights romp through space while decapitating aliens and praising the Lord, go for it!
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews331 followers
April 21, 2010
This novel is a wonderful romp. In 1345, Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville repels blue-skinned aliens who land their ship in his pasture. He boards his forces and the entire village of Ansby on the ship and demands a captured alien take them to France to join the English king. Instead the alien takes them to his planet where he's sure the Earthmen will be easily disposed of. Except... Well, you'll have to read.

The novel is great fun--a short, fast-paced read told as the first person account of Brother Parvus, a monk from the town's abbey. It's a witty sword and science adventure tale with tongue firmly in cheek, likable well-drawn characters and touches of romance in a smooth, light-hearted style.

Anderson may have "better" novels, certainly more serious ones, but I think none that are more fun. Anderson is one of my favorite authors in both science fiction and fantasy. If you're interested in his fantasy, I loved both The Broken Sword and Three Hearts and Three Lions--high fantasy works that don't read like Tolkien retreads. Among his science fiction novels I've read and loved by him are Harvest of Stars and its sequel, The Stars Are Also Fire.
Profile Image for Derek.
1,237 reviews8 followers
November 16, 2015
The velocity of the plot is remarkable. Within ten pages the invading aliens had been pummeled and the English were on their way to the stars, and from there on their way to conquest. Its later half reaches too far and too fast as Anderson hurries toward the endgame of a space empire modeled on European empire.
Profile Image for Carol Storm.
Author 28 books182 followers
August 15, 2012
I read this book as a kid and liked it a lot, because there were lots of battle scenes and the medieval knights really conquer the aliens.

At the time I didn't understand why this story wasn't a huge success like STAR WARS or LORD OF THE RINGS. Now I think I see what's missing.

1.) No Underdog to root for. The English as a group are underdogs, but the main character, Sir Roger deTourneville, is too much of a super duper football hero. (Someone else called him a stereotypical jock.) He's not a character who has to fight for respect, like Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins. All respect has been handed to him. He's the Baron. And he never makes any mistakes, except not pimp-slapping his wife Catherine around page six. Which brings us to the second problem,

2.) No Love Story to die for. Sir Roger is married to Lady Catherine, and Lady C. is an absolute disaster as a character. She's mean, whiny, bitchy, shallow, self-centered, and cowardly. And yet we're supposed to believe Roger and Catherine love each other, and "everyone" wants them to be together at the end! The main villain in the story is not the tough, stubborn alien Branithar (who's actually a lot more sympathetic than the human characters) but a foolish knight who falls madly in love with Catherine and turns evil just to win her favor! And that brings us to the third problem . . .

3.) No Villain to hiss at. The main plot of this story is not the war with the aliens, but the love triangle between Sir Roger, Lady Catherine, and Welsh knight Sir Owain Montbelle. Now even as a teen I understood this was the author's take on real-life courtly love in medieval Europe. Problem is, Sir Owain is just not villain material. He's no Darth Vader. He's more like Jake Spoon in LONESOME DOVE, if that. You don't care for one minute if the lover boy and the baby doll are making goo-goo eyes at each other. Sir Roger would be better off without both of them. And so would everyone else!

4.) Narrator with No Brain. The story is told by Brother Parvus, a local monk who is either a total suck-up or an idiot. Everything Sir Roger does is great, great, great. Lady Catherine is weak and spoiled, with a nasty temper, but she is a Lady and Sir Roger Loves Her. Sir Owain Montbelle is not a bad man, he's just confused! Brother Parvus is meant to be a Christian who always forgives. I think. But he comes across as much too dumb to know what's going on. He makes C3PO look like Yoda.

And so, witn an empty-headed narrator, no underdog to root for, a truly repellent love interest, and a villain who's weak and silly rather than dark and menacing, THE HIGH CRUSADE is a space epic that drifts aimlessly from one epic battle to another.

Profile Image for Nate.
483 reviews20 followers
August 8, 2014
The premise of this book made it an instabuy for me; a bunch of rough Hundred Years War era English dudes preparing to cross the channel and fuck up the French when this alien lands and starts being a total dick. The soldiers do the predictably human thing and slaughter the hell out of him and his buddies. Then they take over the ship and are forced into flying to the aliens' homeworld by a sneaky use of autopilot by the alien captive. I don't even remember what the hell these aliens were called...it was something silly and unimportant. The book is like 140 pages, so it's a guaranteed fast read. Sound good to you? Then check this out. Just make sure to lose your cool card before you do, because this is some silly stuff.

Anderson does treat the subject relatively seriously, though. One of the most impressive things I can say about this book is that it's often not that ridiculous. The author has a clear knowledge and fondness for the middle ages and it shows quite often. It's nice to not see the humans in the story as idiotic inferiors to the advanced alien race--I mean, they react realistically to it when it shows up by thinking it's demons and shit like that. That said, when the invaders' intentions are clearly shown to be hostile the home team shines, defeating the aliens time and again not only in spite of our relative primitivism but because of it. To say too much would be spoilery, but I definitely enjoyed the lightness to this book. It's a bit tongue in cheek and campy as sci-fi of this period often was, but in a completely enjoyable way.

This was my first Anderson and I dug it. I'm glad, because the guy apparently wrote about two hundred books over the course of his lifetime and they seem to be about varied ideas and topics. The brevity of the book was a good thing, as well. We all love our twenty-pound hardcover bricks that make War and Peace look puny, but there's certainly something to be said for tiny, ratty paperbacks that can fit easily in your pocket and can be finished in a sitting or two. Another great thing Anderson did for me was to inspire me to check out some contemporaries and generally get back into sci-fi after a bit of a hiatus, which is awesome. I have Brain Wave somewhere and I'll definitely be reading that one soon.
Profile Image for Jason.
94 reviews40 followers
August 11, 2015
The trickster-hero character is a type whose roots go all the way back to the Ancient Greek comedies. The conceit is that a man of inferior status with a glib tongue and a ready boast could talk the gods themselves into giving up their own kingdom. This may be Poul Anderson's favorite character type, and here he appears as a Medieval lord called Sir Roger who, one day, finds himself having to defend his 14th century village from an alien invasion. The book follows Roger's exploits and successes as, armed with audacity and deceit and not much else, he defeats an evil galactic Empire in order to set up a more benevolent Feudal system. Of course, in order for Roger to succeed at this, Anderson needs to make the evil blue aliens dumb as a post, but never mind that. This is a wish-fulfillment fantasy, and the novel very early on communicates its intention to be taken as a fast-paced diversion, rather than a serious war story.

Given that intention, the book contains some very nice touches. This is, in other words, better than it needs to be. It's funny, but not dumb. It's quick and punchy, but not haphazard. Poul Anderson clearly has control over both his narrative and his tone. The biggest surprise for me was that, despite the implausibilities we need to accept in order to follow along, the story does, ultimately, invite us to take it semi-seriously. About 30 pages from the end, the plot dares to veer into something weightier, and suddenly we're dealing with a love triangle, a betrayal, a secret deal with the enemy, and blackmail. All of this is done with a light touch, but also a bravely straight face, and I found myself actually caring a little about these cardboard characters. Nearing the end, you may find yourself caught up in the character intrigues in a way you never would have expected even halfway through the book.

This is not a serious drama, of course, but neither is it outright satire or slapstick. The tone is not Monty Python or Mel Brooks, but something a bit more grounded than that, a silly, joyful, occasionally emotionally involving adventure with a brain in its head and a wink in its eye. It'll take you only a few hours to read, and it's definitely worth that time.
Profile Image for Anne Beardsley.
258 reviews19 followers
July 23, 2017
How was this so much fun? Usually I don't even care for science fiction!

In the year 1345, a band of aliens land a scout ship outside an English village, in a preliminary to conquering the planet.
They aren't used to dealing with metal-wrapped madmen who are bold enough to shoot anything full of arrows and who consider themselves free men. They aren't used to dealing with people who don't know how to give up.

It's lovely.
Funny, exciting, human, a little touching, endlessly interesting and constantly taking me by surprise.

And dear Mr. Anderson got the medievals right!
Profile Image for Joshua.
370 reviews18 followers
March 26, 2017
Wonderful blend of sci-fi and mediaeval history. Completely plausible response of real Knights to alien invasion. A really fun read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 348 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.