Baxter produces something new and subtly different in the time travel genre. A multi-generational story of how an idea can permeate time and change the parameters of human existence…with a large cast of Romans, ancient Britons, and colorful settings.”—S. M. Stirling
“Epic historical fiction laced with a science fiction premise…a vividly convincing picture of a past world.”—SFX
“Strong imagination and a capacity for awe abound in the work of Stephen Baxter.”—The London Times Literary Supplement
"Formally audacious, constantly surprising, clinically subversive of the genre norms, cosmic irony always at hand to awe and undercut the reader."—Locus
"Baxter at his best."—The Guardian (London)
The Barnes & Noble Review
After a string of millennia-spanning science fiction epics -- the Manifold trilogy, the Destiny's Children saga (Coalescent, Exultant, et al.), A Time Odyssey (coauthored with Arthur C. Clarke), and more -- Stephen Baxter takes on the alternate history with an ambitious tale beginning in first-century Britain and involving an extraordinary prophecy that will play an unlikely role in the country's tumultuous future.
During a time of "great historical flux" -- the invasion and systematic conquest of Britain by Claudius, the birth and crucifixion of Christ, etc. -- a British countrywoman who is dying in the throes of chilbirth utters an unworldly prophecy in Latin, a language she has never spoken before. The foretelling, written down by a family member who has traveled abroad and is fluent in Latin, turns out to be eerily accurate. Is it divine intervention, witchcraft, or something even more improbable?
Baxter wrote numerous alternate histories early in his writing career (Anti-Ice, Voyage, et al.) but Emperor -- the first installment of his Time's Tapestry saga -- is written on another scale altogether. Spanning innumerable generations, featuring dozens of integral characters, and dealing with a multitude of themes (the influence of Roman culture, the destabilization of British traditions, the rise of Christianity, etc.), Baxter has managed to bring the mind-blowing magnitude of his sci-fi epics to this alternate history. Readers, however, may be a little less than thrilled by the book's decidedly lackluster ending. With many intriguing plotlines left unresolved, it's evident Baxter is taking this series somewhere: Exactly where will have to remain a mystery until the second installment, tentatively entitled Conqueror, is released. Paul Goat Allen
Excellent characterization and deft historical scene-setting lift this first of an ambitious new series from Philip K. Dick Award-winner Baxter (Sunstorm), which follows the passing of a prophecy across generations of a British and Roman family, whose members variously interpret its cryptic promise of freedom vis-a-vis the fate of both Britannia and later Christianity. The Latin prophecy, referring to three Roman emperors, is born in 4 B.C., along with the boy who becomes the British chieftain Nectovelin. Half a century later, Nectovelin's cousin Agrippina uses the prophecy to pique the curiosity of the invading Emperor Claudius, who brings her back to Rome. Later, her avaricious Roman granddaughter, Claudia Severa, capitalizes on the predictive words to persuade Emperor Hadrian to build the wall along Britain's northern frontier. An epilogue set at the dawn of the fifth century hints at the rebirth of the prophecy in a more modern form, providing fodder for the sequel. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Even as the Brigantian child known as Nectovelin struggled to be born, his mother spoke a prophecy in Latin that foretold a future linking her family with the future of Britain. Spanning the reigns of three Roman emperors—Claudius, Hadrian, and Constantine—the first volume in Baxter's (Mammoth) four-book alternate-history series follows the fortunes of a Celtic dynasty as it attempts to understand the cryptic words that hold tantalizing clues to its destiny and that of the world. Baxter's saga tracks the survival of an idea embedded in a prophecy. More concerned with events than individuals, though the characters are memorable, this sf family drama is a good choice for most collections.
First in a new alternate-history series from the author of Coalescent (2003). In 4 b.c., a woman struggling to give birth in ancient Britain begins babbling in Latin, a language of which she has no knowledge. Written down by a relative, her words prophesy the coming of three Roman emperors to the island. Nectovelin, the baby born that day, jealously guards the prophecy as an adult, although he can't read a word of it, while family members scheme to peek at the document and take advantage of its predictions. Sure enough, in the year 43, General Vespasian invades Britain with armies and elephants. Nectovelin fails to assassinate the Emperor Claudius, but his niece Agrippina takes advantage of Claudius's patronage to found a dynasty in Rome. In 122, quarryman Brigonius schemes with Agrippina's granddaughter to make money supplying the Roman army with stone to build Hadrian's Wall-but only if, as the prophecy states, the emperor decides upon a wall of stone rather than turf. In 314, Constantine the Great visits Britain, where another of Agrippina's descendants, Thalius, hopes to persuade the emperor to return to a pure, early form of Christianity. Eventually, in 418, with the Roman armies gone and the empire itself tottering, British warlords strive to impose law and order while keeping Saxon invaders at bay. Packed with dryly accurate historical detail and peopled with stock characters, the episodic, overextended narrative trudges along without any heartfelt social or political dimension.