Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review - The Mongoliad Book 1

Neal Stephenson speaking at Google,
Neal Stephenson speaking at Google, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve been wondering if Neal Stephenson has decided to write a best seller of every genre’.  Diamond Age is cyberpunk. The Baroque Cycle is picaresque. Reamde and Crytonomicon are action/adventure.  Anathem is science fiction/fantasy.  If we see a romance and a murder mystery come from his inventive pen, we’ll know that my conjecture is indeed correct.

In a way, Mr. Anderson is crowdsourcing his latest work, with the first book of The Mongoliad Trilogy recently published with co-authors Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey and Cooper Moo.  Or perhaps he has seen the commercial success of Game of Thrones, and is creating the script writing team for the series.  (His books would be rather complicated to turn into a movie.  A Lord of the Rings series would be more appropriate.  The Baroque Cycle would have to be a series.)
I continue to view him as the most creative and inventive author writing today.  This first volume is set in the medieval era and focuses on conflict between Mongols and Western Europeans.  As with many of his prior books, a big list of characters is introduced, with multiple plot lines that experienced Anderson readers know will eventually converge.  Based on volume one I would characterize this as action fiction.  A thinly veiled Knights of the Round Table plans to take on one of the sons of Ghenghis Khan (Ogedei– Khagan-or Khan of Khans) with the goal of causing a retreat of the Mongols from what otherwise seems likely to become the complete occupation and sacking of all of Europe.

Protaganists from Volume I. are Cnan, a member of a clan named The Binders, a kind of stealthy gypsy band, and Gensukh, a Mongol warrior, sent from his officer position in the field by his father, to the court of Ogedei Khan, overlord of the Mongols.  Cnan ends up entangled with the knights, using her tracking and hiding skills as a scout and occasionally as a one-woman diversion. 

While there is action, the first segment of the series clearly is stage setting.  Keep the book handy; you will need to refresh your memory as to the legion of characters and chapter endings before opening Book 2.

I haven’t read anything by Stephenson that I wouldn’t recommend.  The Mongoliad is no exception.

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