Amazing Stories

Book Review: The Alexander Inheritance by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett

So its been a while since I last reviewed a book on Amazing Stories. My day job has been extremely busy lately, but I’ve gotten a reprieve recently so hopefully I can return to putting out more reviews and I’ve decided for my return to tackle The Alexander Inheritance by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett.

The Alexander Inheritance is set in the same shared universe as Eric Flint’s 1632, where an arbitrary advanced alien race known as the Assiti send a West Virginia coal mining town to the middle of Germany during the Thirty Years War. This time the Assiti have sent a cruise ship called the Queen of the Sea to the Mediterranean Sea shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. Stranded over two thousands years in the past, the crew and those few passengers with knowledge of the time period make the way to Egypt since it is one of the more “civilized” places in reach, although that is a generous term for the place.

This is an era where human sacrifice is still common in Europe, slavery is an accepted part of every day life, most women are barely considered anything more than property and those few “democracies” that exist are nothing better than feudal oligarchies. On top of that, Alexander’s empire is collapsing without his presence to keep his ambitious generals in line. Still the passengers of the Queen of the Sea don’t have much of a choice. They have few weapons, dwindling food and no friendly ports available to provide them with the raw materials they need to survive or build a new life for themselves. Thus, whether they like it or not, they need to intervene in the civil war brewing in the Greek world.

Alexander the Great’s empire is one of those failed dreams that alternate historians can’t help but revisit. Although he is just another ambitious warlord when judged by modern standards, Alexander was sort of an idealist for his time, what with his plan of uniting all of the different cultures under one nation. There is also no doubt he was a charismatic leader since he managed to keep his soldiers following him all the way from Greece to India. That all said, Alexander never did have any real plans on how to manage his conquests and rectifying this failure fuels many a discussion on alternate history forums across the Internet.

Thus its nice to see a novel backed by one of the biggest names in alternate history publishing bring the idea to a wider audience and, to be fair, The Alexander Inheritance does an amazing job with its world-building. I liked how the authors made use of all of the technology found on a top of the line cruise ship and what kind of abilities your average cruise ship passenger can bring to the table. Meanwhile, all of the cultures of the Mediterranean Sea seemed historically accurate and plausible based on my limited understanding of the classical era (although there was one moment where a character from the past referred to Byzantium as Constantinople, despite that city not being named that for several centuries later). All in all, the world-building of The Alexander Inheritance was good.

Unfortunately, that is all The Alexander Inheritance excels at. Characters were bland, which at times made them hard to keep track of. There were two characters from the past whose names were so similar that at times I confused the two. Meanwhile, the dialogue was stilted at times, there were many instances of “tell” instead of “show” and the story sort of just ended without any real conclusion. Its likely they are hoping this story will spawn multiple follow-up novels like 1632 did, but I’m not sure I’m all that interested in reading them.

There was also a weird moment where a Carthaginian was defending child sacrifices to a modern American…and the American couldn’t come up with a valid argument about why killing children is a bad thing. I mean generally Flint and company are good at writing eye-opening moments about the past and our misconceptions of it, but seriously? There really was no good argument against child sacrifice except for the straw man approach they showed in the novel? Not that I always agree with the group, but was there honestly no one on that cruise ship who was pro-life and could come up with a reasonable argument about why sacrificing children is bad for a society?

What is disappointing is that I know Eric and Paula are good writers (I haven’t read anything by Gorg so I can’t comment on his writing ability), but The Alexander Inheritance reads more of an outline of a book that was never fully finished. Perhaps with a bit more rewrites this could have been a decent Island in the Sea of Time-esque tale, but sadly that is not the case. If you are a big fan of Eric Flint and his Assiti Shards multiverse, you will probably enjoy The Alexander Inheritance just fine. If not, go read 1632 and its sequels instead.

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