Dorian's Reviews > An Oblique Approach

An Oblique Approach by David Drake
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Aug 30, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: other-ebooks
Read in August, 2012

This is a review of the entire six-book alt-historical military fiction series (there does not appear to be an omnibus edition that I can attach it to, sigh).

It's very much light literature: there is a science-fictional justification for the authors' mucking about with their historical setting, but it's silly and not really very important anyway. I strongly suspect they basically went "wouldn't it be cool if we could give the great Belisarius gunpowder technology and see what he'd do with it", and then thought up this silly back-story to (a) justify this and (b) provide him with a suitable enemy (since giving a general technology and no-one to use it against would be kind of pointless).

Anyway, never mind the justifications. In 6th-century Constantinople, Belisarius is the greatest general of the Roman Empire. And he's got gunpowder. And the Malwa dynasty of India is nasty and wants to take over the world, so he'd really better stop them (they have gunpowder too). And off we go into...well, I'd almost call it a romp, except romps don't usually involve massive body-counts.

But still. There's an awful lot of fairly graphic violence, and people being killed in really unpleasant ways, and illustrations of the awfulness of the Malwa (one of their main generals is nick-named "the Vile", which pretty much tells you most of what you need to know right there). But there's also lots of noble behaviour, and codes of honour, and displays of mercy. And politicking, and intrigue, and wise-cracking (lots of wise-cracking), and geography. And loads of really great characters.

I never had any real fear that Belisarius et al might fail, or even be especially impeded in their task. And they don't and aren't. It's just not that kind of story. It's fluff. Fluff with blood and guts, yes, but fluff just the same. And it has two attributes that are relatively rare in military fiction: it has a great deal of humour, and it passes the Bechdel test.
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