Monday, 26 May 2014

Bibliophilia: The Mongoliad: Book One – Neal Stephenson & Friends

The Mongoliad: Book One – Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, E.D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo and Mark Teppo

The only author out of this mob I knew was Stephenson, consistently one of my favourites. I don’t know the degree to which all the authors contributed, but it doesn’t feel like the work of 7 writers. Whether some were just there to add their knowledge of fighting techniques to make them sound plausible, whether they each inhabited one of the main characters, and one person did the plot outlining – I’m not sure. It seemed quite cohesive to me. 

Set in 1241, about a dozen western fighters, each drawn from a different fighting discipline, set out on a journey to assassinate Ögedei Khan, the son of the famous Genghis, in an effort to prevent the spread of the Mongol horde into Western Europe, and suffering the same ravages that befell Asia.

Running parallel to that is the story of 
Gansukh, a young Mongol warrior sent to Ögedei’s court by one of his brothers, in an effort to try to persuade him to stop drinking himself to death. Gansukh’s only real experience is riding horses on the steppes and slaughtering his opponents. He is inexperienced at navigating his way through the politics and treachery of the court, so he is assigned a tutor, Lian.

Gansukh’s fish out of water story is perhaps easier to relate to for the reader. The European champions, knights and warrior monks, maybe because of their numbers, aren’t quite as easy to 
distinguish or identify with. Their characters do flesh out a bit more as the story progresses, but it takes some time.

All in all I really enjoyed it. It’s fiction set against a historical backdrop, an epic quest with medieval fight scenes that are very well described and moves along at a good clip. 

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