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Agent of Byzantium Paperback – March 1, 1994


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Paperback, March 1, 1994
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Baen; 1st edition (March 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671875930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671875930
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the alternate medieval history Turtledove proposes, in this third novel in the Isaac Asimov Presents series, Muhammed's conversion to Christianityin lieu of founding Islamallows the Roman Empire to flourish and expand. This makes for a more peaceful, but also more static, age. Basil Agyros is an imperial commander of scouts in the latest barbarian skirmish when he proves his worth by retrieving the magical instrument with which the enemy divined Roman strategy at a distancea newly invented telescope. Promoted to bureaucrat in Constantinople, he acts as troubleshooter and 14th century scientific detective. The episodes betray their origin as separate stories and beg plausibility with Basil's stumbling on inventions from gunpowder to printing, but these intelligent, colorful tales honorably recall L. Sprague de Camp, the master of historical SF whom Turtledove invokes in his preface.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Harry Turtledove is the award-winning author of the alternate-history works The Man with the Iron Heart; The Guns of the South; How Few Remain (winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Novel); the Worldwar saga: In the Balance, Tilting the Balance, Upsetting the Balance, and Striking the Balance; the Colonization books: Second Contact, Down to Earth, and Aftershocks; the Great War epics: American Front, Walk in Hell, and Breakthroughs; the American Empire novels: Blood & Iron, The Center Cannot Hold, and Victorious Opposition; and the Settling Accounts series: Return Engagement, Drive to the East, The Grapple, and In at the Death. Turtledove is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters: Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
This is a really interesting premise for alternate history.
Amazon Customer
This is worth reading, It is a collection of short stories, but for anyone who enjoys the "what ifs" of history this is a must read.
Michael W Buehler
Which really sucks because it was just starting to get really great.
Arch Stanton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
A great collection of seven stories set in an early fourteenth-century version of Earth where Islam is absent. The Byzantine Empire retained its eastern holdings and swallowed up most of western Europe as well. Their main rival is the Persian Empire which also never fell in Turtledove's well thought-out alternate world. The stories span 15 years in the life of Basil, a soldier and eventual "agent" (read spy) for the Byzantine Empire. Great fun!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Caesar M. Warrington on September 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
Imagine a 13th century Mediterranean and Middle East...

-Where the territories of western and southern Europe won back by the Romans during the 6th century reign of Justinian were not only maintained but expanded.
-Muhammad never developed Islam. Instead he converted to Christianity, becoming a holy man, and is now venerated as St. Moaumet.

In the absence of Islam's rise, both the Roman and Sassanid Persian (which has by now engulfed the entire Arabian Peninsula) empires remain as the two superpowers, existing in a sort of medieval cold war.

Into this world comes Basil Argyros, an agent of the Magistrianoi, the imperial secret police; sometimes he acts as a soldier, but more often he's a spy. During the course of his assignments as an agent of Imperial security, Basil also makes some exciting discoveries, thus making him an agent in another sense: as one who brings change and advancement to the Empire. From the Franks he steals a new weapon, recently cooked up by their monks--gunpowder. He returns from the lands of the Asiatic Jurchen nomads north of the Black Sea with an instrument we know as the telescope. He delivers to the emperor the secrets of printing, a recent Persian invention they've been using to foment insurrection in the Empire's eastern provinces. What perhaps is the most fascinating of all is Basil's witnessing the discovery of inoculation, made during a time of catastrophic plague in Constantinople.

Basil's nemesis in many of these stories is the beautiful and deviously clever Persian spy, Mirrane. As the two of them match wits, they develop a mutual respect and admiration, eventually falling deeply in love.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
Harry Turtledove knows his history, and it is the mark of a great writer that he can make you interested in what has been a rather obscure part of the historical record. Most of us are familiar with the concept of the Byzantine Empire, but know little of its actual nuts and bolts. Mr. Turtledove presents a set of connected short stories in which his hero foils diverse machinations against his employer. I was intrigued, and looked stuff up in the encyclopedia afterwards, and found the whole thing quite fun
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hensler VINE VOICE on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The reader is given several stories but all about Basil, a soldier for Byzantium. Basil loses his family in a plague and changes his career to a secret agent. The part where Basil loses his family to a plague is quite touching. I give a salute to the writing of Turtledove that he spares the reader the death of Basil's son by having Basil give him opium for the pain until the end, the child merely stops breathing instead of going through the agony of small pox.

Now, this is important. In one of the stories its found how to innoculate the population from diseases. Small Pox destroys large amounts of Byzantium's populace. This discovery is make 600 years before the discovery in Westerm Europe. So, the people running the Byzantium government work to insure the health of their citizens. The Byzantium army is spared the ravages of disease and is able to beat threats from Persian armies.

Harry goes into Greek fire, the secret of Byzantium's Naval success for years. It was natural that Basil is sent on a mission to discover the secret of black powder. This is the subject of one story and how it is employed in battles.

Basil also works to check the forces of Persia, what we now know as modern Iran. Strangely, while this story was written in 1987 the fact is the threat from Iran (Persia) seems just as real today. Basil battles a Persian spy who is quite like a Soviet spy master (remember, this was written in 1987). Basil is once again the hero and checks this threat from Persia and gains a lover to replace his late beloved wife.

Basil is also involved with one of the most weaking things that happen to Byzantium. It was a religious problem with Christianity and that involved the worship of Icons.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nicolas Kamas on February 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although I feel, along with previous reviewers, that Basil (the protagonist) is a bit too lucky with his discoveries, the historical setting more than makes up for it. The author provides clear insight into Eastern traditions that the west has long ignored, describing Hagia Sophia as it was in its days of glory, and citing many examples of Greek theologians and historians. A good read by all standards.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. D Lawson on July 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you like the Eastern Roman Empire and would like to read some good make believe stories about it. Then get introduced to Basil and his adventures in this slim little book. It seems to me that the Author has a great love and grasp of the ins and outs of that old and somewhat ignored Empire. I also feel that this is when the Author has really hit his stride and it shows in this labor of love.
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