Conquistador [NOOK Book]


A new alternate history of America from the author of The Peshawar Lancers, the bestselling novel the Chicago Sun-Times called "a pleasure to read" and Harry Turtledove hailed as "first-rate adventure ...
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A new alternate history of America from the author of The Peshawar Lancers, the bestselling novel the Chicago Sun-Times called "a pleasure to read" and Harry Turtledove hailed as "first-rate adventure all the way."

1945: An ex-marine has discovered a portal that permits him to travel between the America he knows-and a virgin America untouched by European influence. 21st century: The two realities collide...

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This novel of alternate history occurs in an America still unconquered by Europeans. In 1946, ex-marine John Rolfe VI blunders through a portal into a mind-bending pre-1492 mirror image that he can scarcely understand. Engaging from the first words of the prologue to the finish.
The Washington Post
Stirling is a facile and interesting writer. Politically, he seems to be a right-winger who admires authority. But he also sounds like an environmentalist, and many lyrical passages in Conquistador celebrate nature. He is thus one of the few writers who can be enjoyed by both greens and gun lovers (his heroine delights in doing one-handed pushups and smelling the "nutty whiff" of gun oil). But he is also a serious student of history, and his analyses of how Alexander the Great's extended lifespan changed the world are quite ingenious. Conquistador is first-rate sf adventure fiction, the start of what should prove to be a very entertaining series. — Martin Morse Wooster
Publishers Weekly
One adjustment to his radio sends John Rolfe VI, a descendant of the Virginia colonist, from 1946 into a California New World never touched by white men in Stirling's (The Peshawar Lancers) mesmerizing new novel. Having discovered the Oakland Gate that allows one to switch secretly between worlds, Rolfe and a passel of army buddies found New Virginia, a Southern Agrarian "pirate kingdom," and proceed to build wealth and power on both sides. Stirling cleverly switches between vignettes of New Virginian history since 1946 and the "present" of 2009, when a neo-Mafioso is plotting to take over Rolfe's "theme park of perverted romanticism run amok." In this luscious alternative universe, sidekicks quote the Lone Ranger and Right inevitably triumphs with panache. What more could adventure-loving readers ask for? (Feb. 4) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101043936
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/4/2003
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 91,700
  • File size: 764 KB

Meet the Author

S.M. Stirling

S. M. Stirling is the author of numerous novels, both on his own and in collaboration. A former lawyer and an amateur historian, he lives in the Southwest with his wife, Jan.

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Read an Excerpt


A Novel of Alternate History
By S.M. Stirling

Penguin Group

Copyright © 2003 S.M. Stirling
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0451459083

Chapter One

Los Angeles

June 2009


I joined the Department of Fish and Game because I couldn't be a soldier anymore and I hate cities, Tom Christiansen thought, the Berretta cold and unforgiving in his hands. It didn't have the heft of an assault rifle, which would have been comforting right about now. God is an ironist.

He and his partner were crouched behind the rear door of a car not far from the SWAT team; the FBI agent was up beside the front wheel. It was a typical early-summer day in LA; the ozone was enough to fry the hairs out of your nostrils, his eyes hurt from the smog that left a ring of dirty brown around the horizon, and the nearest vegetation was a tired-looking palm a block away, if you didn't count weeds growing through cracks in the pavement. It was better than going after holdouts in the Hindu Kush, but that was about all you could say for it.

"Leave the `Freeze!' and `Hands up!' stuff to our esteemed colleagues of the LAPD, a.k.a. `those fucking cowboy assholes,' Tom," the FBI agent said quietly, glancing over at him. She was a thin, hard-looking black woman named Sarah Perkins. "`Game wardens shot dead in LA bust' doesn't make a good headline."

Tom nodded, grinning; it was an expression that came easily to his face. He was a broad-shouldered, thick-armed, long-legged man three inches over six feet, dressed in T-shirt, a Sacramento Kings jacket and jeans, with battered hiking boots on his feet. His short-cropped white-blond hair topped a tanned square-cut face and a straight nose that had been broken and healed very slightly crooked a long time ago. He looked every inch the east-Dakota Norski farm boy he'd been born thirty-two years ago, down to the pale gray of his eyes. A very slight trace of Scandinavian singsong underlay his flat Midwestern accent, despite the fact that his great-grandparents had left the shores of the Hardangerfjord a hundred and thirty years before. The wheat country north of Fargo hadn't attracted a whole lot of newcomers since then.

"Ever hear what happened when they sent the LAPD to find the rabbit that attacked President Carter, back when?" he said softly.

Just sitting and waiting before action let you get knotted up inside. Gallows humor was the only sort available on a battlefield, but that was when you needed to break the tension.

"I'll bite," Perkins said.

"Well, the LAPD went into the woods, and half an hour later they dragged out a grizzly bear by its hind feet; it didn't have any teeth left and both its eyes were swollen shut. And it was screaming over and over, `All right! I'm a rabbit! I'm a rabbit!'"

She snorted laughter, quietly, and without taking her eyes off the target. Tom exchanged a silent glance with his partner, and Roy Tully grinned back. It wouldn't be tactful to mention the other part of the joke-the FBI burned down the whole wood and shot everything that came out on the grounds that "the rabbit had it coming."

And there was no real reason to complain, even if working for Fish and Game was more like soldiering than he'd anticipated; he was a cop, sort of-he was part of the Special Operations Unit; the SOU was the enforcement branch of the DFG. That made him smile a little too; SOU, DFG, FBI, SWAT, LAPD, the alphabet soup of police bureaucracy. Still, guys like him were as necessary as the scientists and administrators; without them there wouldn't be any condors left, or eagles, or cougars, and Lake Tahoe would be ticky-tack all the way 'round, and the whole of California would look like this. If that meant he had to crouch here next to a crummy little warehouse of rusting sheet metal in South Central LA, hoping he wouldn't get shot and frying his sinuses when he could be hiking in the Sierras breathing air colder and cleaner than crystal, or canoeing in Glacier National Park, or even just taking a break to help out on his brother's farm back in North Dakota, then so be it.

The SWAT troopers' heads came up; something was going on, and they were getting the word through their ear mikes. He'd never liked the Imperial-Death-Star-Nazi look of the black uniforms they insisted on, like hanging out an "Oooooo, AIN'T WE BAD!" sign, but they had good gear.

There was a loud whump from within the warehouse. Flames shot out of windows at the rear-he could tell by the plumes of smoke-and the big sheet-metal doors at the front slammed outward as they were struck by an invisible fist of hot dense air; the clerestories on the roof shattered upward in a weirdly beautiful shower of broken glass, glinting in the harsh sunlight. Smoke followed seconds later. It wasn't a big explosion, but it had obviously been linked to incendiaries; flames were licking out as well.

Subtlety might be a problem with the LA cops, but firepower and straightforward kick-ass aggression were things they did well; they all charged forward, M-16s and machine pistols at their shoulders. The other teams would be going in from around the warehouse, and the snipers were ready on the flat roofs of the neighboring buildings. The troopers went through the doors, leaving them swinging and banging-and almost immediately there was a second explosion, the sound much lower and sharper.


Tom wasn't sure if that was him or Tully or Perkins; they all reacted identically too, getting up and running toward the door. He found that comforting. Running toward trouble wasn't always the right thing to do, but people with that reflex were generally the ones you wanted around you when things got rough.

There were two policemen down just inside the door, one limp, the other putting a field bandage on his own leg.

"Fire set off something," he said. "Rodriguez is OK, I think."

"Good pulse, no bleeding, no concussion," Perkins confirmed, peeling back an eyelid and pressing her fingers to the man's throat.

She and Tully helped the man with the wounded leg, swinging arms over their shoulders and carrying his weight between them; they were about the same height, five-six or so. Tom stooped and lifted the unconscious officer in a fireman's carry, rising easily under the hundred and ninety pounds of man and gear-he was even stronger than he looked, and that load was fifty short of his own body weight. The waiting paramedics ran up to take the injured men, so that was all right; sirens of several types were screaming or yodeling nearby.

Tom scooped up a Colt Commando carbine someone had dropped as they went back in. This was the interior loading bay of the warehouse, with nothing in it but oil stains and orange paint on the concrete. There were two sets of stairs along the walls leading up to the higher interior floor, and two big orange-painted vertical sliding doors buckled and jammed in their frames. Smoke was coming out of those, but up near the top-that meant most of the fire was going out the roof for now. The dull roar was getting louder with every heartbeat, though, and the heat of the combustion was drying the sweat on his face faster than it could come out of his pores. Perkins nodded at him, and the three dashed through, ducking under the twisted sheet metal. There hadn't been any shooting, and he could hear the members of the SWAT teams calling to each other.

It took a few seconds for what he was seeing inside to sink in. Piles of crates, boxes and bales ... And piles of tusks. Elephant tusks, a couple of hundred of them. Walrus tusks. The fire had the piles between him and them, but he pushed into the smoke, close enough to confirm what the heavy burnt-leather reek had told him. The skins were polar bear, and grizzly, and tiger, and sea otter-stacks of them, hundreds at least.

"Oh, my God!" he said, acutely aware of the utter inadequacy of the words. "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"

That wasn't up to the occasion either, but it did a better job of expressing how he felt. Tully's amazing flow of scatology and obscenity was a little better, and more sincere than usual-the smaller man's Arkansas accent was notably thicker.

The SWAT team came back, coughing and crouching as the smoke grew heavier and came closer to the floor. One of them held a big cage, with an even bigger bird jammed into it, something like an enormous vulture, thrashing and screeching hoarsely. A really enormous vulture ...

An adult California condor.

Tom felt his teeth show in an involuntary snarl of rage. There weren't more than a couple of hundred of those in the whole world, and only a captive breeding program had saved them from complete extinction. This one warehouse could have pushed a couple of species halfway to the brink! The rising shuddering roar of the fire, the rumble of sheet metal buckling and twisting, the ptank! as rivets gave way, all seemed to pale before the thunder of his own blood in his ears.

The officer in charge of the SWAT team grabbed him as he tried to push farther in; the offices were in a glassed-in enclosure up against the far wall, and it was there that any evidence would be found.

"No use!" he shouted, flipping up his face shield. "They must have had some warning-the charges there went off first. We took everything we could find, but I think there's thermite planted here that hasn't gone off yet, and sure as shit someone drenched the place in gasoline. Out of here before someone gets killed!"

They did, retreating before the billowing rankness of the smoke made by things not meant to burn. The leader of the SWAT team pulled off his helmet, coughing and rubbing at a gray-and-red mustache.

"Son of a bitch!" he said, as they dodged aside to let the first wave of firemen wrestle a hose forward. "I didn't think there was that much ivory in the world," he said, grinning through smoke-smuts. "These must be some seriously energetic smugglers you're after."

"There are only two hundred forty-seven condors in the world," Tom said grimly. "That one your people got out is one half of one percent of the entire goddamn species. Congratulations on that, by the way."

"Oh," the LA policeman said, then nodded to them and walked away.

"Also Known As," Perkins muttered.

"As the bear said, I'm a rabbit," Tully said, his grin making his face look even more like a garden gnome's than usual. "Guy must have been a marine." Perkins raised her brows, and Tully went on: "Marine-Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential."

Tom took a deep breath, not even minding the air much-or that Tully had stolen the Ranger joke. Anger seemed to burn the impurities out of his system. "You know what makes me really mad?"

"No, Tom, what makes you really mad?" Perkins said.

The evidence had been set up temporarily in the back of one of the LAPD vans; the condor was farther in, in shadow with an improvised cover thrown over the cage, and seemed to be all right except for being agitated. And rather smelly; condors were naturally carrion eaters, and messy diners at best. The rustling of the great bird's wings inside the confining cave gave a slithering undertone to the murmur of the growing crowd, the noise of the fire and the firefighters' machinery. The LAPD evidence team were at work with their Baggies and tweezers, making sure everything was preserved properly, and taking continuous video as they did.

"My father and the potholes, that's what makes me angry."

Perkins's thin eyebrows went up; she noticed that she still had her 9mm in her hand and put it back in the holster at the small of her back and let the thin polyester jacket fall over it again.

"Told you my dad farmed, didn't I?" Tom said; she nodded, and he went on: "Well, up in the Red River Valley, the land's flat as a pancake-a lot of it had to be tile-drained before it could carry a crop; it's naturally swampy all through the spring and fall. Some of it's still in these little isolated marshy lakes, we call 'em potholes. And it's on a big migratory bird flyway. Millions of birds depend on those potholes to get to and from their breeding grounds. Problem is, after you've drained them, those potholes are prime land ... and there's not a farmer in the world who can afford to pass up another hundred acres, even if he's farming twenty sections, which Dad wasn't. The bigger you are the bigger your debts get. So we're coming back from duck hunting one fall; one of those sunny crisp days, with a little haze on the horizon, the wheat's in but some of the sunflowers are still nodding in the wind.

"And I'm on top of the world because it's the first time I've been allowed to take a shotgun out with Dad and my brother Lars and we've each gotten a couple of mallards, and it's been the best goddamned day in my life. And we stop at a crossroads and talk to a neighbor-who did farm twenty sections-and he says that if he was Dad, he'd have drained that pothole for his kids' sake, not wasted it on ducks."

Perkins looked at him a little oddly. "What did your father say?"

"Nothing, until the neighbor was on his way. Then he turned to us, Lars and me, and smiled, and said: `And if I did drain it, you boys would never get to see the ducks going over in the fall, or go hunting with your kids. Better than getting a motorbike for Christmas, eh?'"

Tom kicked the wheel of the van, remembering the rough hand tousling his hair, and the smells of pipe tobacco and Old Spice he'd always subliminally associated with his father.

"Dad worked himself to death keeping that farm going, but he wasn't going to steal that from his grandsons. And now some son of a bitch had that place stuffed to the rafters with the carcasses of animals maybe nobody will ever see again except on a recording, and for what? For money to shove candy up his nose, to give some hooker a diamond, to buy some three-a-dollar Third World politician."

He very carefully did not slam his fist into the side of the van, letting the fingers unclench one by one. "Sorry," he muttered, embarrassed by the outburst; he normally wasn't a very verbal man.

Perkins patted him on the shoulder as she came up to his side. "Hey, that's more emotion than has ever been shown in Sweden before," she said. "No, it's all right, Christiansen. Every good cop has got to have a little passion in them about something in the work, or they burn out. Your passion is critters and trees; that's OK. I like collaring scumbags: this bunch, terrorists back in the war, whatever. Our passions coincide." A grin. "Don't tell my husband I said that."

"Yah, you betcha," he said, with a relieved snort.

They moved over to the van, where the specialists had completed their work; the yellow tape was up, and uniformed police were keeping the crowds back. Tully took out a piece of the beef jerky he always kept in a pocket and tried to interest the condor in it; the big bird just cowered lower in his cage, which was quite an accomplishment, since he essentially filled it.


Excerpted from Conquistador by S.M. Stirling Copyright © 2003 by S.M. Stirling
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 20, 2009

    A Good Alternate Universe Saga

    S.M. Stirling uses a variation on the "Alternate Universe" that I have not seen before. He adds in real world politics and greed to the mix. Hypothesizing how real people might hide the gateway while continuing to expand upon it use using highly trained "Gate Security Operatives" is a pleasure to read.

    The sexual tension is kept at a level that enhances the story without getting in the way. Blending the events on "First Side" and in the "Commonwealth of New Virginia" works well and allows us to see the reasons behind policies and events as they unfold.

    Lastly the statements made about the destruction of native populations to the plagues and illnesses of modern man was a strong statement about man's ability to rationalize right and wrong while securing the poperty and land of others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2008

    Good idea but poor finish

    Stirling has some great ideas but has trouble keeping them going for the entire book. The basis of this book is very intersting and for 1/2 the book you are really drawn into it, then things slow to a crawl that the ending just can't make up for. I give the first 1/2 4****, but the second 1/2 just 2**.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2006

    great concept, interesting plot

    I wanted to like this book even more. it started out at a good, engaging pace as the events unfold and you learn about what is really going on, but it then gets really mired down in all the detail about the sorrundings and landscape details. gets to be a bit much with all of the on and on about the trees, valleys, flowers, lakes, plants, etc. first few times is not so bad, but everytime the characters are in a new area - different than modern times - but still in same general CA arear mind you, more and more detail about that location - as if we did not get the point already. lots of wasted pages on this fact - enough that it becomes noticable and distracting. becuase of that, it gets a bit slow about 1/3 into it until the end where it finally picks back up when the conclusion comes about. worth reading - but might start speed reading parts

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    Jag to miya

    Im at the book you posted in

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    Of course.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    Telia.... S T F U

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    *draws her knees up to her chest and leans her cheek on them*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2011



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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005

    Wonderful 'what if' story

    What would the world be like if we could start over? This book makes one think about life as we know it and the pitfalls to avoid if given a second chance. It also explores human nature in a paradise like setting. The first one hundred pages are a bit tough. But it becomes a 'can't put it down' story past that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2005

    Excellent - Makes you want more

    I truly enjoyed this book. Stirling can be spotty but when he is on, he is topnotch and this is one of his really good ones. The way he is going back and forth between timelines is interesting and I am looking forward to seeing how he keeps it believable. If you enjoy alternate history, this one is very good. Much better than some of Turtledove's recent stuff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2003

    Very good, but not great

    A book, to be great in my book, should impel me to reread immediately. This did not. I was not as engrossed in this as I have been in Stiring's Peshawar Lancers, or his Draka and Nantucket series. Perhaps this is because the setting and characters are not as exotic as the others aforementioned. That said, everything is believeable and interesting, both the characters and the society of New Virginia.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    delightful alternate history

    After receiving a battle-related injury during World War II, John Rolfe recuperates in Oakland, California. John works with a short wave radio when an explosion occurs that opens an entrance into an alternate earth. In this world Europeans never traveled to the equivalent of North America. Thus the continent remains environmentally clean and loaded with natural recourses unlike his birth world. Over the years, John and his descendants selects twenty-nine other families to work with him on exporting the riches of ¿New Virginia¿ without destroying the beauty of the place. In 2009, law enforcement officials raid a First Side (this world) warehouse in Los Angeles. The company worries that someone smuggled items through the gate, which if not stopped could lead to the industrial and governmental complex learning of New Virginia and raping its pristine landscape. John¿s granddaughter Adrienne tries to uncover the identity of the traitor while Department of Fish and Game Agent Tom Christiansen works a case that brings him into her sphere. Tom and Adrienne are attracted to one another, but neither trusts the other though they need to team up to stop the destruction of New Virginia. Fans of alternate history will appreciate the depth that S. M. Stirling imbues in his delightful new novel. The rich story line makes readers believers that other dimensions containing different earths exist because the key cast members come across as authentic in their dealings on both planets. Adding fun is that Tom and Adrienne love one another and share so much in common including mistrust and a need to find the Judas-like betrayer before Eden is wrecked. Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2003

    Stirling does it again

    S.M.Stirling is known for very well thought out alternate worlds. In his Draka series and again in his Islands in the Sea of Time series, he created two of the most plausible and enjoyable alternate Earths ever done. He lives up to his reputation with this tale of an alternate Earth where Columbus never discovered America. Instead we have a Southern Agrarian statlet from our Earth [or a near sister] founded through a superscience style dimensional gate. What follows is a combined spy story, action adventure tale and transdimensional travelogue that will fascinate anyone who enjoys fantastic world creation and fast paced action. As is typical for Stirling, it also features a female lead of strength, whit and interest as opposed to the usual genre love bunnie. A great read that can be nejoyed many ways and on many levels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2010

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    Posted October 7, 2010

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    Posted April 6, 2013

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    Posted November 11, 2009

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    Posted January 22, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2008

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