Review of 'Emperor'

Emperor by Stephen Baxter
Book 1 of the Time's Tapestry series

emperor.jpg I picked up this book as I am a fan of Stephen Baxter with his hard Science Fiction stories thinking that this would be another, perhaps involving time travel. I was mistaken. It is not.

4 BC and a woman going into labour starts speaking Latin which turns out to be a prophesy telling of the history for England over the coming centuries. AD 55 and the Roman army under Julius Caesar is invading an England that consists of scattered and disorganised groups of natives. The primitive English put up a futile and ultimately ineffective resistance to the might of the Roman empire. The army quickly spreads westward across the country. Moving forward to the 2nd century, the Romans under Hadrian have now settled England and look to building a wall across the north of the country to not only keep out the barbarian hordes but also to occupy an army that has grown complacent and lax over time. A man supplying stones for the wall now being built gets caught up with some Romans who have obtained the prophesy to decipher what it has to say about the future of the Romans in England. The prophesy is lost. In the forth century the wall is now built and a boy is taken from a gold mine on whose back is part of the prophesy, now long lost, but the portion that talks of the death of the current Emperor Constantine. The boy is key to the future of the world but which way will the key turn?

An interesting take on the Roman invasion which I found quite interesting and, dare I say it, educational. Baxter is quite the story teller that is for sure though I have to admit I always had in the back of my head whether the story would take a turn for the fantastic (not giving anything away – it doesn't). My understanding of history not being too great so I am not sure how much here is fabrication or based on reality but it seems quite real to me. I can't say this is a page turner and it has to be said that with the book split up into chapters often centuries apart any characters you learn to understand in one chapter are long gone only a few pages later. Ultimately this meant that the book is quite disjointed with only the obvious common thread of the prophesy holding everything together. To be sure there is of course a set up for the books to follow though I am not sure I will be reading them.

As is typical in many of Baxter's book the often uninteresting characters did not grab me as much as the story and ideas of the story which is quite interesting but not particularly engaging. To me it like a retelling of a story or which we all know the ending.

Rating:

Review Date: 2016-11-20


Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Gollancz

Publication Date: 2006

ISBN: 9780575079229


Other reviewed books by Stephen Baxter: