Friday, November 25, 2011

The High Crusade: Review

The High Crusade by Poul Anderson is an interesting historical novel meets science fiction mash-up. Medieval knights are preparing to go to war against France when a strange metallic "sailing" ship descends on them from the sky. Little blue men from another world come boldly down the exit ramp with their awesome ray guns...fully prepared to easily subdue the "barbarians" of this backward planet. But the little blue men have not reckoned with the bravery and hand-to-hand combat prowess of the men of England. And soon Sir Roger, Baron of Torneville has led his men to victory over the demons from the air. He takes one of the aliens captive and forces him to help his men learn to fly the strange ship so he can end the war with France more quickly. The alien double-crosses him and sets the ship on auto-pilot for his race's nearest planetary outpost--thinking that on their home ground his people will certainly carry the day. But, again, he has misjudged the tenacity of the English and soon Sir Roger and his men are on a High Crusade among the stars.

Almost sounds like the plot of a 1950s B movie doesn't it? It's a quite remarkable use of an outrageous premise--that men clad in chain-mail and armed only with swords and lances and maces and shields could overpower beings with laser pistols and nuclear-type armory. But Anderson makes it work. There are great space-age long bow battles, nuclear warheads tossed by catapults, parlay and treachery, and all in the name of the King and Country and the Church. It's a fast-paced, quick read that is more about the adventure than the characters. Fun and light--three stars.

This one has been sitting on my TBR shelf since (can it be true?) August 1996. Gathered up back in my hard-core science fiction days, but never read. I put it on the list for Adam's 2012 TBR Challenge (over at Roof Beam Reader) because of that very fact. Thought it about time I got down to business and cleared it off the shelf. Now that I have, I can say that I've officially finished the Challenge. Go me!

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