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4.3 out of 5 stars
Steam Legion
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Have you ever wondered what would happen if history was a bit different? How about a lot different? Can you imagine how history would change if the Romans had used steam power? I was intrigued with Evan's concept so I bought the book and started reading. I didn't know what to expect seeing as Evan has proven himself as a top notch Science Fiction writer. Soon I was caught up in the book and read it in a day and a half. His main character, in keeping with his tradition of featuring a strong woman, didn't disappoint. Her supporting characters were strong and believable. The action is intense (as it is in all of his books) and descriptive. Several times I thought I knew where he was taking me only to be proven wrong. I wasn't disappointed though as his version was just as satisfying. I won't spoil the book but I will say it ends well yet leaves plenty of room for sequels. Hell, it leaves plenty of room for sequels to the sequels. This concept could keep Evan writing for the rest of his life.
Evan has shown to be a very versatile writer who is just as comfortable fighting a war light years away as he is travelling the past, rewriting history. Keep up the great work, I will be there to read it!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Sorry to be the first to give fewer than five stars, but I had to take one off for some of the writing. Don't get me wrong...it's as much of a page-turner as his other books, and once things start really happening, it just keeps on moving. Even the "down time" when they're preparing for the next battle is smooth and fast-paced, with little bits of foreshadowing that keep you from turning off the lights and going to sleep. My only complaint is that the dialogue sounds like it is trying to be ancient, and the author didn't really pull it off at all times. Sometimes, you've just gotta use the natural speech you're familiar with and not try to write like you're translating from Latin.

Other than that minor nit-pick, this book has everything you'd expect from Currie: a strong female character, great action sequences, tight plotting, and fun moments when people have to abandon their preconceptions and accept that someone is much more than they thought they were. Having just finished a lengthy trilogy with a huge cast of characters and complicated story arcs, I was looking for something fast and furious, and "Steam Legion" hit the spot. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good time.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book has an interesting premise and some good ideas - the whole steam engine thing is great. The idea of a woman being the leading figure is also good and just barely possible in the period.
However the Spartan traditional upbringing bit is historically unlikely by the first century AD although I won't insist it is not possible.
The real failing for the book is in the language of the people and in the formatting of the text.
If you are going to write an alternate history book at least get some of the BASIC things right. Roman legionaries carried Pila (Pilum in the singular) not Phylums....
In all the historical texts I have read they did not refer to their formations as Legion in the manner this book does, nor did any military force I can think of refer to different troop types as proper nouns ... eg it should be the cavalry not the Cavalry like it they were the Praetorian Guard or something for instance.
The battle scenes are Ok given the premise but she wouldn't be telling the cannon crews to move their weapons 'x' degrees this way or that - she may have some sort of mechanical sight and know how to use it but the crews surely don't....
Anyway, it was an OK read but clearly was over-priced for a book that needed to be properly edited by a professional and revised by someone with proper academic knowledge of the period.
Peter Rhodan BA (AncHist)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The plot of this book reminded me somewhat of "The General" series by S.M. Stirling/David Drake or the Belisarius series by Eric Flint, but instead of the main character being inspired by alien computers, the main character (a female noble from Sparta) is inspired by the 1st century scientific/technological knowledge present in Great Library in Alexandria (yes, THAT Great Library for you Civilization players).

As I said, the main character is a noble from Sparta who is an apprentice to the scientific masters in the Library (hence technologically advanced herself) plus, as a noble from Sparta, is a warrior maiden as well. When Alexandria (and most of the southern/eastern Roman empire) is threatened with revolt, our main character (Dyna) rallies the local militia and meager remaining legionnaires and, together with "advanced technology" developed in the Great Library, defends Egypt.

It's a pretty entertaining setup and story. The book is mostly battlefield action and moves at a brisk pace. There is just enough character development to get you involved with the characters...you root for their success.

If there is one flaw, in my opinion the book could use a bit more character development of the main character and more on some of the secondary characters as well. If there are going to be sequels, I for one will want to know more about the characters' background, values, needs and wants, etc. Now this was the first book of an apparent series, and I congratulate the author for not bogging us down in boring "setup"; but for the next installment, I think a little more insight into the characters would be appropriate.

Looking forward Book #2.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I'm a huge fan of ancient Greece & Rome and still lament the fall of the Empire. The description of this book excited me but it fell well short of expectations. I was hoping for something epic, instead this is a very tactical-level battle book.

From the first few pages its clear that Dyna of Sparta was going to be a comic book action hero, while the other characters were very flimsy. The two Zealot commanders seem to be identical in thought & education, while the local Roman commander just moves from scene to scene and doesn't display any character at all. Best of the lot is Galba, but he gets a scant few lines. When it comes to reactions characters either sigh or roll their eyes. In fact there's a heavy presence of modern sarcasm that seems to me curiously out of kilter with the attempted mood of the book.

The technology was good. I could happily believe it. The devices, descriptions and their deployment was the only thing that kept me reading.

Worst for me were the battle scenes: page after page after page of boring detail of every move. You know who's going to win, there's no suspense, and after the first few pages you find yourself skimming to try to find out where the story moves ahead again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Mr. Currie is one of my favorite sci-fi authors, but I'm sorry to say that his laudable attempt to do something a bit outside his comfort zone is not a complete success. In "Steam Legion", he combines research at the Great Library of Alexandria and researcher/warrior Dyna of Sparta, a direct descendant of King Leonidas, to produce early technological advances that halt the advance on Alexandria of Jewish Zealots from Judea. This is apparently drawn from the actual uprising in Judea against Roman rule in 66 A.D., but the character of Dyna as the protege of Heron, the head of the Library, appears to be drawn from the famous scientist/philosopher Hypatia (daughter of mathematician Theon), who was actually killed by a mob of Christian Zealots in Alexandria some 350 years later.

The political context of Mr. Currie's story is roughly speaking that stew of Roman intrigue centering around Emperor Nero, and the nationalist rebellion in first century Judea. Oddly absent from the narrative is the birth of Christianity. Mr. Currie, as usual, takes pains to get his technology right, from the standard Roman weapons and armor to the inventions at the Library. It was, however, strange to see him repeatedly refer to the Roman "phalanx" since that form was not used by the legions.

While one might infer that Dyna's saving of the Library gives rise to an early steam revolution, that does not seem to be what Mr. Currie was aiming for, except tangentially. Rather, he has placed ongoing steam research at the threatened Library, and it is the presence of Dyna that propels it into practical, military use. In other words, he wanted to write a steampunk novel and devised a pretext that more or less fit. For a much more effective premise, and IMHO a far superior book, see The Peshawar Lancers. Also take a look at Lest Darkness Fall for a somewhat similar take on anachronistic technology's effect on Roman events, albeit in a later period and with a more lighthearted tone.

All this is not to slam "Steam Legion", which would have served as a perfectly fine half of one of the old Ace doubles. But it is not up to the high standard of Mr. Currie's space operas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is an engaging piece of battle-fiction.

I found the beginning especially strong; we're dropped into the story, in medias res, as Alexandria burns. Such exposition as is needed -- which truly isn't much -- is worked neatly and fairly subtly in, without slowing down the headlong pace.

I thoroughly enjoyed the heroine -- she's not deeply nuanced, as other reviews have noted, but she's lively and exciting, and I'd be quite happy to follow her future adventures, if more books in this series appear. I'd definitely like to learn more about her history, and the martial tradition of her family; I hope we'll get more of that in future books! Supporting characters are not complex, but most are drawn with at least a few keen details that give them specificity.

The world-building is not extravagant, but is perfectly sufficient to give the reader a sense of the place and time. The story is less epic that I think I expected from the book description -- everything happens on a smaller and more human level than I think the description suggests. I actually liked that about the book, but I think the book description is imperfect in that way.

The technology is one of the truly fascinating aspects of the book. The ideas are compelling, and are presented within an historical context that gives them plausibility. It might not be practical on an e-book, in an indie-publishing situation, but I found myself longing for a few diagrams or images of some of the pieces of tech; the book doesn't suffer without them, but would simply be a richer experience with them.

The battle scenes seemed to me to be just a little tedious, at times -- perhaps including just a tiny bit more detail, moment-to-moment, than was warranted. Not by any means unreadable, but I found myself starting to skim at times.

I had a few minor issues with nomenclature, some of which have been addressed by other reviewers. Pylum is a singular noun, but is used repeatedly in the novel as plural. Not a terrible error, but just something I found a little jarring, every time I encountered it. Also, there's a lot of usage of Roman military terms, and while I personally was familiar with most of them (3 years of Latin and 2 semesters of Ancient Roman History -- finally of some use!), I think they might be a tad confusing to many readers. Just a few sentences early on, in just a few places, providing just a little guidance about such things as the organization of the Roman military -- the century, the cohort, the legion, etc -- might be tremendously helpful.

I read a number of indie-published works. The inevitable proofreading errors in such works are present here, but not in great numbers. The prose itself is varied -- at times, it's unremarkable but nevertheless clean and effective, but at times it gets noticeably better than that.

Overall, this is a fun, lively read, and certainly worth the current price (at the time of this review, it's $3.99). I'd recommend it, and will be buying more from this author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I can't express how much this book pulls you in. I read the book in 6 hours because I just couldn't put it down. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Started reading the author on the net about 6 years ago and I think this is one of his best stories yet.

Looking forward to seeing where he takes this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I started reading his books with the Warrior Wings series and I enjoy the female lead characters. While I did not enjoy Steam Legion as a story as much, it introduced us to another intriguing character, Dyna of Sparta. I like how Evan always does a nice job with character development. You always see his characters grow and mature throughout his books. However, what appeals mostly to me are the depths of engineering and technical descriptions he uses. Since the Romans were known to have used steam to power engines, it was nice to see how he used this engineering feat as a basis for his storyline.

It did seem like we were going from one battle to the next, but I could see how this could be the basis for a series which would show more plot and story progression. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would like to see what the author plans to do with this character. I'm not sure how the steam facet of this book will play out in futures ones, but he has shown that he can always create some new technology that will pick up where he left off. Also, he has never shown any romantic interests for his leads and I'm okay with it. It's just all business all the time. It was an enjoyable read.
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