This is the fifth book of Flint and Drake's "Belisarius" series, now finally available in softcover; I reviewed its four predecessors last fall. For those who've joined us since then, it's an alternate history series with a fun but goofy premise. Evil people from the far future have sent an artificially-intelligent computer called "Link" to Earth in the days of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and his highly-competent general Belisarius. Link's goal, naturally, is to so adjust Earth's history that its creators ultimately end up on top of the kind of world they like. Pursuant to this, Link has caused the founding of the Malwa Empire in India. The goal of the Malwa empire, naturally, is to take over the world in the most brutal and inhuman way possible, all under the guidance of Link. This is a series with White Hats and Black Hats, and the Black Hats (with the exception of a few misguided souls who eventually come 'round) are very Black indeed. It's not enough for them to have evil ends; they must have despicable means as well.
On the other side you've got General Belisarius and his happy, jovial crew of soldiers of all kinds. Belisarius is accompanied by another visitor from the far future, the crystalline entity called "Aide". Unlike the inhuman, emotionless machine-entity Link, Aide is funny, sarcastic, and caring by turns--but Aide is equally determined to see Link fail. Naturally, both Link and Aide give advanced technology and tactical tips to their teams. The difference is, of course, that fascist Link wishes to control the flow of information whereas Aide is happy to give Belisarius and his followers anything they can possibly use.
Unsurprisingly, competence, good humor, and the free flow of ideas is going to triumph over evil totalitarianism, and this is book in which we begin to see it happen. Like it's predecessors, it's a rollicking good time; the good guys beat the bad guys six ways from Sunday, the villains get theirs in suitably ironic fashion, and so on and so forth--though there are some surprises.
There will be at least one more book in the series, in which Link and the Malwa Empire will presumably be destroyed; it's to be called The Dance of Time.
If this sounds like anything you'd enjoy reading, I think you'll enjoy it quite a bit. I did.Posted by Will Duquette at October 27, 2002 10:38 PM