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Time's Eye (Time Odyssey Series #1)

Time's Eye (Time Odyssey Series #1)

3.6 78
by Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter

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Sir Arthur C. Clarke is a living legend, a writer whose name has been synonymous with science fiction for more than fifty years. An indomitable believer in human and scientific potential, Clarke is a genuine visionary. If Clarke has an heir among today’s science fiction writers, it is award-winning author Stephen Baxter. In each of his acclaimed novels, Baxter


Sir Arthur C. Clarke is a living legend, a writer whose name has been synonymous with science fiction for more than fifty years. An indomitable believer in human and scientific potential, Clarke is a genuine visionary. If Clarke has an heir among today’s science fiction writers, it is award-winning author Stephen Baxter. In each of his acclaimed novels, Baxter has demonstrated dazzling gifts of imagination and intellect, along with a rare ability to bring the most cerebral science dramatically to life. Now these two champions of humanism and scientific speculation have combined their talents in a novel sure to be one of the most
talked-about of the year, a 2001 for the new millennium.


For eons, Earth has been under observation by the Firstborn, beings almost as old as the universe itself. The Firstborn are unknown to humankind– until they act. In an instant, Earth is carved up and reassembled like a huge jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly the planet and every living thing on it no longer exist in a single timeline. Instead, the world becomes a patchwork of eras, from prehistory to 2037, each with its own indigenous inhabitants.

Scattered across the planet are floating silver orbs impervious to all weapons and impossible to communicate with. Are these technologically advanced devices responsible for creating and sustaining the rifts in time? Are they cameras through which inscrutable alien eyes are watching? Or are they something stranger and more terrifying still?

The answer may lie in the ancient city of Babylon, where two groups of refugees from 2037–three cosmonauts returning to Earth from the International Space Station, and three United Nations peacekeepers on a mission in Afghanistan–have detected radio signals: the only such signals on the planet, apart from their own. The peacekeepers find allies in nineteenth-century British troops and in the armies of Alexander the Great. The astronauts, crash-landed in the steppes of Asia, join forces with the Mongol horde led by Genghis Khan. The two sides set out for Babylon, each determined to win the race for knowledge . . . and the power that lies within.

Yet the real power is beyond human control, perhaps even human understanding. As two great armies face off before the gates of Babylon, it watches, waiting. . . .

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Time's Eye, the first book in Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter's Time Odyssey duology -- a companion series of sorts to Clarke's seminal Space Odyssey saga (2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey Two, et al.) -- is set on an Earth that has been inexplicably rearranged into a patchwork of different historical time periods. In the blink of an eye, the planet and every living thing on it no longer exist on a single timeline: United Nations peacekeepers from the year 2037 inhabit the same continent as Genghis Khan's Mongol horde, Neanderthals, and sabre-tooth tigers!

As refugees stream toward Babylon, a military chess match like the Earth has never seen ensues -- Genghis Khan versus Alexander the Great. A young Rudyard Kipling sums it up: "Here I stand at the confluence of history, as mankind's two greatest generals join in combat, with the prize the destiny of a new world." But as what's left of civilization struggles to start anew, small, floating orbs are seen to spread out all over the globe. Are they the surveillance devices of some advanced race? The eyes of God? Or something more sinister?

Time's Eye has been praised as the "2001 for the new millennium." And while it may not have the sensational response that 2001: A Space Odyssey did when it was first released in 1968, this novel is just as ambitious and just as mind-blowing -- and hard-core fans of Clarke's original Odyssey will love all the references to the monolithic classic. Paul Goat Allen

The New York Times
… the adventure is rousing, and I can't imagine anyone finishing this book and not wondering what comes next. — Gerald Jonas
Publishers Weekly
Clarke, with Baxter (Coalescent), probably the most talented of the former's several collaborators, have cooked up an exciting tale full of high-tech physics, military tactics and larger-than-life characters in the first of two novels related to the bestselling senior author's Space Odyssey series. In an awesome and unexplained catastrophe, the earth has been literally diced and put back together again. Each of the segments of terrain (and you can actually see the dividing lines between them) comes from a different era, some of them millions of years apart. As the novel opens, a 19th-century British army company, stationed on the Afghan-Pakistani border, captures an Australopithecine mother and child, just as a team of 21st-century U.N. peacekeepers crash their helicopter nearby. Later they join forces with Alexander the Great. Simultaneously, a Soyuz descent vehicle, having just left the International Space Station, crash-lands in the middle of Genghis Khan's army. Eventually, the armies of Alexander and the Khan converge on Babylon, the last remaining large city in Eurasia and a titanic battle seems imminent. Fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey will have fun with the many references to that earlier novel. Although not flawless, this is probably the best book to appear with Clarke's name on it in a decade. (Jan. 13) Forecast: Each copy of the book will include a CD-ROM "featuring a conversation with Clarke and Baxter, a complete novel by Baxter, and more," according to the publisher. This, plus a radio satellite tour with Clarke and print advertising in major markets, should ensure at least a run up genre bestseller lists. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The opening chapters of this book describe different groups of humans as they experience the "Discontinuity," an unexplained fracturing that leaves different periods sewn together in a temporal patchwork quilt. Several United Nations peacekeepers from 2037 fall in with a colonial British military regiment from 1885, and subsequently with the armies led by Alexander the Great, while a trio of Soviet cosmonauts-also from 2037-encounter Genghis Khan's fearsome Mongolian warriors. It is immediately clear that these forces will be pitted against one another, but the wait can be tedious. The historical detail is interesting, however, and the authors ultimately succeed in making the reader care about what will happen to these characters. An authors' note in this novel states that it is an "orthoquel" to Clarke's Space Odyssey books, taking similar premises in a different direction. Here, Clarke and Baxter explore two very familiar Clarke themes: inscrutable alien artifacts and alien intervention in pre-human intelligence. Some young adult readers, particularly those interested in science or history, might yet be intrigued by these ideas, just as this reviewer was when first encountering them in Clarke's earlier work. Librarians should be aware that rape and other brutalities are mentioned rather casually, although the "modern" characters are suitably horrified by the barbaric behavior they witness. Overall only the more sophisticated young adult readers likely will enjoy the thought experiment played out in this book by clashing various historical periods on the same earth. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; SeniorHigh, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2004, Del Rey, 337p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Amy Sisson
Library Journal
A large, round artifact makes its way through space to Earth and transports an Australopithecan female and her child far into the future. In addition, men and women from the present find themselves suddenly transported into the past. SF Grandmaster Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Baxter (the "Manifold" series; Evolution) have collaborated on a time-traveling companion series to the various "Space Odyssey" novels, this one concerned with the dimensions of time and space. Baxter's panoramic visions and Clark's lucid and precise storytelling combine to form a series opener that belongs in all sf collections. Highly recommended. [The finished book will include a bonus bound-in CD-ROM, featuring a conversation between the two authors, the complete text of Baxter's Manifold: Time, and more.-Ed.] Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second collaborative effort (The Light of Other Days, 2000) from these two individually famous authors, and first of a two-book series exploring the manipulation of time. In 2037, planet Earth is split into thousands of independent segments, from core to space, and then reassembled-but now each segment is from a different epoch! The oldest captures mother-and-daughter Australopithecines; others feature Neanderthals, Babylon, 1885 India, modern Chicago, and ancient Greeks. The newly stitched-together planet is wildly unstable, with volcanoes, earthquakes, storms, and dramatic climatic variations; in astronomical terms, it resides in the 13th century. Everywhere, mirrored spheres hover nearby, apparently watching. Three UN observers from 2037-Britisher Bisesa Dutt, American Casey Othic, and Afghan Abdikadir Omar-join forces with the survivors from 1885: Rudyard Kipling (yes, him), reporter Josh White of the Boston Globe, and British and Indian soldiers in the old fort of Jamrud on the northwest frontier; they pick up radio signals emanating from Babylon and decide to head there. Along the way they meet up with empire-builder Alexander the Great and his army, and join forces. Meanwhile, when a Soyuz capsule lands in Asia, its crew is promptly captured by Genghis Khan and his cruel, barbaric Mongol hordes; they also head for Babylon. Clearly, the spheres, or Eyes, have used their godlike powers to arrange the forthcoming battle, but to what ends? Are they merely voyeurs? Bisesa, who has a curious rapport with the Eyes, intends to find out. Curiously sloppy, with biographical contradictions and a rationale that's inconsistently applied: despite the many echoes of 2001, more spectacle thansubstance.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Time Odyssey Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Part 1


1: Seeker

For thirty million years the planet had cooled and dried, until, in the north, ice sheets gouged at the continents. The belt of forest that had once stretched across Africa and Eurasia, nearly continuous from the Atlantic coast to the Far East, had broken into dwindling pockets. The creatures who had once inhabited that timeless green had been forced to adapt, or move.

Seeker's kind had done both.

Her infant clinging to her chest, Seeker crouched in the shadows at the fringe of the scrap of forest. Her deep eyes, under their bony hood of brow, peered out into brightness. The land beyond the forest was a plain, drenched in light and heat. It was a place of terrible simplicity, where death came swiftly. But it was a place of opportunity. This place would one day be the border country between Pakistan and Afghanistan, called by some the North-West Frontier.

Today, not far from the ragged fringe of the forest, an antelope carcass lay on the ground. The animal was not long dead-its wounds still oozed sticky blood-but the lions had already eaten their fill, and the other scavengers of the plain, the hyenas and the birds, had yet to discover it.

Seeker stood upright, unfolding her long legs, and peered around.

Seeker was an ape. Her body, thickly covered with dense black hair, was little more than a meter tall. Carrying little fat, her skin was slack. Her face was pulled forward into a muzzle, and her limbs were relics of an arboreal past: she had long arms, short legs. She looked very like a chimpanzee, in fact, but the split of her kind from those cousins of the deeper forest already lay some three million years in the past. Seeker stood comfortably upright, a true biped, her hips and pelvis more human than any chimp's.

Seeker's kind were scavengers, and not particularly effective ones. But they had advantages that no other animal in the world possessed. Cocooned in the unchanging forest, no chimp would ever make a tool as complex as the crude but laboriously crafted axe Seeker held in her fingers. And there was something in her eyes, a spark, beyond any other ape.

There was no sign of immediate danger. She stepped boldly out into the sun, her child clinging to her chest. One by one, timidly, walking upright or knuckle-walking, the rest of the troop followed her.

The infant squealed and pinched her mother's fur painfully. Seeker's kind had no names-these creatures' language was still little more sophisticated than the songs of birds-but since she had been born, this baby, Seeker's second, had been ferociously strong in the way she clung onto her mother, and Seeker thought of her as something like "Grasper."

Burdened by the child, Seeker was among the last of the troop to reach the fallen antelope, and the others were already hacking with their chipped stones at the cartilage and skin that connected the animal's limbs to its body. This butchery was a way to get a fast return of meat; the limbs could be hauled quickly back to the relative safety of the forest, and consumed at leisure. Seeker joined in the work with a will. The harsh sunlight was uncomfortable, though. It would be another million years before Seeker's remote descendants, much more human in form, could stay out in the light, in bodies able to sweat and store moisture in fatty reserves, bodies like spacesuits built to survive the savannah.

The shrinking of the world forest had been a catastrophe for the apes that had once inhabited it. Already the evolutionary zenith of this great family of animals lay deep in the past. But some had adapted. Seeker's kind still needed the forest's shade, still crept into treetop nests each night, but by day they would dart out into the open to exploit easy scavenging opportunities like this. It was a hazardous way to make a living, but it was better than starving. As the forest fragmented further, more edge became available, and the living space for fringe-dwellers actually expanded. And as they scuttled perilously between two worlds, the blind scalpels of variation and selection shaped these desperate apes.

Now there was a concerted yapping, a patter of swift paws on the ground. Hyenas had belatedly scented the blood of the antelope, and were approaching in a great cloud of dust.

The upright apes had hacked off only three of the antelope's limbs. But there was no more time. Clutching her child to her chest, Seeker raced after her troop toward the cool ancestral dark of the forest.

That night, as Seeker lay in her treetop nest of folded branches, something woke her. Grasper, curled up beside her mother, snored softly.

There was something in the air, a faint scent in her nostrils, that tasted of change.

Seeker was an animal fully dependent on the ecology in which she was embedded, and she was very sensitive to change. But there was more than an animal's sensibility in her: as she peered at the stars with eyes still adapted for narrow forest spaces, she felt an inchoate curiosity.

If she had needed a name, it might have been Seeker.

It was that spark of curiosity, a kind of dim ancestor of wanderlust, that had guided her kind so far out of Africa. As the Ice Ages bit, the remnant forest pockets dwindled further or vanished. To survive, the forest-fringe apes would rush across the hazard of the open plain to a new forest clump, the imagined safety of a new home. Even those who survived would rarely make more than one such journey in a lifetime, a single odyssey of a kilometer or so. But some did survive, and flourish; and some of their children passed on farther.

In this way, as thousands of generations ticked by, the forest-fringe apes had slowly diffused out of Africa, reaching as far as Central Asia, and crossing the Gibraltar land bridge into Spain. It was a forward echo of more purposeful migrations in the future. But the apes were always sparse, and left few traces; no human paleontologist would ever suspect they had come so far out of Africa as this place, northwest India, or that they had gone farther still.

And now, as Seeker peered up at the sky, a single star slid across her field of view, slow, steady, purposeful as a cat. It was bright enough to cast a shadow, she saw. Wonder and fear warred in her. She raised a hand, but the sliding star was beyond the reach of her fingers.

This far into the night, India was deep in the shadow of Earth. But where the surface of the turning planet was bathed in sunlight, there was a shimmering-rippling color, brown and blue and green, flickering in patches like tiny doors opening. The tide of subtle changes washed around the planet like a second terminator.

The world shivered around Seeker, and she clutched her child close.

In the morning, the troop was agitated. The air was cooler today, somehow sharper, and laden with a tang a human might have called electric. The light was strange, bright and washed-out. Even here, in the depths of the forest, a breeze stirred, rustling the leaves of the trees. Something was different, something had changed, and the animals were disturbed.

Boldly Seeker walked into the breeze. Grasper, chattering, knuckle-walked after her.

Seeker reached the edge of the forest. On a plain already bright with morning, nothing stirred. Seeker peered around, a faint spark of puzzlement lodging in her mind. Her forest-adapted mind was poor at analyzing landscapes, but it seemed to her that the land was different. Surely there had been more green yesterday; surely there had been forest scraps in the lee of those worn hills, and surely water had run along that arid gully. But it was difficult to be sure. Her memories, always incoherent, were already fading.

But there was an object in the sky.

It was not a bird, for it did not move or fly, and not a cloud, for it was hard and definite and round. And it shone, almost as bright as the sun itself.

Drawn, she walked out of the forest's shadows and into the open.

She walked back and forth, underneath the thing, inspecting it. It was about the size of her head, and it swam with light-or rather the light of the sun rippled from it, as it would flash from the surface of a stream. It had no smell. It was like a piece of fruit, hanging from a branch, and yet there was no tree. Four billion years of adaptation to Earth's unvarying gravity field had instilled in her the instinct that nothing so small and hard could hover unsupported in the air: this was something new, and therefore to be feared. But it did not fall on her or attack her in any way.

She craned up on tiptoes, peering at the sphere. She saw two eyes gazing back at her.

She grunted and dropped to the ground. But the floating sphere did not react, and when she looked up again she understood. The sphere was returning her reflection, though twisted and distorted; the eyes had been her own, just as she had seen them before in the smooth surface of still water. Of all Earth's animals only her kind could have recognized herself in such a reflection, for only her kind had any true sense of self. But it seemed to her, dimly, that by holding such an image the floating sphere was looking at her just as she looked at it, as if it was a vast Eye itself.

She reached up, but even on tiptoe, with her long tree-climbers' arms extended, she could not reach it. With more time, it might have occurred to her to find something to stand on to reach the sphere, a rock or a heap of branches.

But Grasper screamed.

Seeker fell to all fours and was knuckle-running before she had even realized it. When she saw what was happening to her child she was terrified.

Two creatures stood over Grasper. They were like apes, but they were upright and tall. They had bright red torsos, as if their bodies were soaked in blood, and their faces were flat and hairless. And they had Grasper. They had dropped something, like lianas or vines, over the infant. Grasper struggled, yelled and bit, but the two tall creatures easily held down the lianas to trap her.

Seeker leapt, screaming, her teeth bared.

One of the red-breasted creatures saw her. His eyes widened with shock. He brought around a stick, and whirled it through the air. Something impossibly hard slammed against the side of her head. Seeker was heavy and fast enough that her momentum brought her crashing into the creature, knocking him to the ground. But her head was full of stars, her mouth full of the taste of blood.

To the east a blanket of black, boiling cloud erupted out of the horizon. There was a remote rumble of thunder, and lightning flared.

2: Little Bird

At the moment of Discontinuity, Bisesa Dutt was in the air.

From her position in the back of the helicopter cockpit, Bisesa's visibility was limited-which was ironic, since the whole point of the mission was her observation of the ground. But as the Little Bird rose, and her view opened up, she could see the base's neat rows of prefabricated hangars, all lined up with the spurious regularity of the military mind. This UN base had been here for three decades already, and these "temporary" structures had acquired a certain shabby grandeur, and the dirt roads that led away across the plain were hard-packed.

As the Bird swooped higher, the base blurred to a smear of whitewash and camouflage canvas, lost in the huge palm of the land. The ground was desolate, with here and there a splash of gray-green where a stand of trees or scrubby grass struggled for life. But in the distance mountains shouldered over the horizon, white-topped, magnificent.

The Bird lurched sideways, and Bisesa was thrown against the curving wall.

Casey Othic, the prime pilot, hauled on his stick, and soon the flight leveled out again, with the Bird swooping a little lower over the rock-strewn ground. He turned and grinned at Bisesa. "Sorry about that. Gusts like that sure weren't in the forecasts. But what do those double domes know? You okay back there?"

His voice was overloud in Bisesa's headset. "I feel like I'm on the back shelf of a Corvette."

His grin widened, showing perfect teeth. "No need to shout. I can hear you on the radio." He tapped his helmet. "Ra-di-o. You have those in the Brit army yet?"

In the seat beside Casey, Abdikadir Omar, the backup pilot, glanced at the American, shaking his head disapprovingly.

The Little Bird was a bubble-front observation chopper. It was derived from an attack helicopter that had been flying since the end of the twentieth century. In this calmer year of 2037, this Bird was dedicated to more peaceful tasks: observation, search and rescue. Its bubble cockpit had been expanded to take a crew of three, the two pilots up front and Bisesa crammed on her bench in the back.

Casey flew his veteran machine casually, one-handed. Casey Othic's rank was chief warrant officer, and he had been seconded from the US Air and Space Force to this UN detachment. He was a squat, bulky man. His helmet was UN sky blue, but he had adorned it with a strictly nonregulation Stars and Stripes, an animated flag rippling in a simulated breeze. His HUD, head-up display, was a thick visor that covered most of his face above the nose, black to Bisesa's view, so that she could only see his broad, chomping jaw.

"I can tell you're checking me out, despite that stupid visor," Bisesa said laconically.

Abdikadir, a handsome Pashtun, glanced back and grinned. "Spend enough time around apes like Casey and you'll get used to it."

Casey said, "I'm the perfect gentleman." He leaned a bit so he could see her name tag. "Bisesa Dutt. What's that, a Pakistani name?"


"So you're from India? But your accent is-what, Australian?"

She suppressed a sigh; Americans never recognized regional accents. "I'm a Mancunian. From Manchester, England. I'm British-third generation."

Casey started to talk like Cary Grant. "Welcome aboard, Lady Dutt."

Abdikadir punched Casey's arm. "Man, you're such a cliché, you just go from one stereotype to another. Bisesa, this is your first mission?"

"Second," said Bisesa.

"I've flown with this asshole a dozen times and he's always the same, whoever's in the back. Don't let him bug you."

"He doesn't," she said equably. "He's just bored."

Casey laughed coarsely. "It is kind of dull here at Clavius Base. But you ought to be at home, Lady Dutt, out here on the North-West Frontier. We'll have to see if we can find you some fuzzy-wuzzies to pick off with your elephant gun."

Abdikadir grinned at Bisesa. "What can you expect from a jock Christian?"

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Arthur C. Clarke is considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time and is an international treasure in many other ways, including the fact that an article by him in 1945 led to the invention of satellite technology. Books by Clarke–both fiction and nonfiction–have sold more than one hundred million copies in print worldwide. He lives in Sri Lanka.

Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge and Southampton Universities. Baxter is the acclaimed author of the Manifold novels and Evolution. He is the winner of the British Science Fiction Award, the Locus Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award, as well as being a nominee for an Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 16, 1917
Date of Death:
March 19, 2008
Place of Birth:
Minehead, Somerset, England
Place of Death:
Sri Lanka
1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics

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Time's Eye (Time Odyssey Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 reviews.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed Time's Eye - it's got action, science, and solidly developed characters. It's also got an ancient history battle royale between Alexander the Great and his army v. Genghis Khan and his Mongolian hoard. Time's Eye is the first in Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke's Time Odyssey series which takes place in the same universe as Clarke's 2001 stories. Inexplicably (at least initially), Earth is sliced up and stitched back together creating a mish-mash of timeframes. This scenario creates the opportunity for Baxter and Clarke to position a Genghis-Alexander battle for control over the new Earth (dubbed "Mir" by the remnant individuals from the 21st century). The story is broad in scope, with multiple storylines intersecting, connecting and culminating in a satisfying conclusion. While the ending isn't quite a cliff-hanger, it certainly sets up book 2 nicely. Time's Eye has the requisite amount of hard science and pseudo-scientific - and sometimes atheistic - philosophical musings. These are the elements that Baxter and Clarke fans anticipate in their works. The philosophical vignettes are tightly written, and rarely feel forced or out of context with the rest of the story. I was thankful that there wasn't too much rumination on the structure and specifics of time-travel. The characters are solidly drawn and the authors were able to make the "real" characters like Alexander the Great, some of Alexander's cohorts, and Rudyard Kipling who gets caught in the time shifts, believable and relatively cliché-free. In addition to the science fiction standbys of time travel and "those-that-watch-us-from-above", the book contains solid historical fiction elements, specifically when dealing with Alexander and the Mongols. The authors take time to detail battle strategy and tactics of each set of warriors as well as a brief history of their rises and falls. There are also shades of Baxter's Evolution while writing on the early hominids that get caught up in the time shifts. Overall, I strongly recommend this sci-fi / alternative historical fiction from two of the best in the business. I've got book 2 queue on my nook.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Baxter is an idiot regarding religion. Story premise very weak.
rmb7500 More than 1 year ago
A fascinating story of science fiction. It kept me highly interested in the story from beginning to end. For those who enjoy time travel stories, this is a must read.
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StoriesForLife More than 1 year ago
Some crazy rift in time-space has partitioned all the surface on Earth (and the space around it), leaving a patchwork of abrupt time jumps between patch of land and sea. After the initial shock and adjustment, the surviving life strives to adjust to the changes just as the planet attempts to correct it climate from the abrupt disturbances. A handful of peacekeepers, a trio of astronauts, and two conquerers from the past end up working towards the ancient city of Babylon to investigate a source of radio signal originating there. The two conquerers are Genghis Khan of the Mongols and Alexander The Great of the Greeks. Although each probably had his own share of blood-letting in actual history, Khan and the Mongols are depicted as little more than savage barbarians while Alexander and the Macedonians are depicted as a graceful prince leading a disciplined army. Such is the expectation of Western literature, I suppose. Oh. And did I mention the various mysterious stationary silver spheres (the titular "eyes") hovering above the ground throughout the planet? The story is not as awe-inspiring as other works of the two authors, probably due to the plot hovering around uninteresting stoic characters. I guess some historic figures are better left in the past.
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