Sean McMullen, frequent winner of Australia's top science fiction award, the Ditmar, has created a fascinating adventure through time in The Centurion's Empire
. From A.D. 71 to 2029, the Roman centurion Vitellan hibernates through the centuries via an elixir made from snow-dwelling insects. Unfortunately, he doesn't possess the antidote for the corrosive substance, so every time he is awakened, his body is more ravaged. His frigidarium is secreted beneath an English village, and as the Danes invade during the Dark Ages, the villagers, in fear for their lives, awaken him. He teaches them Roman martial discipline and they fight off the Danish rabble, but he's so weak that he must return to his cold sleep and await better medicine in the future. He is awakened in 1358 to battle again, this time in France, but it's his next awakening--in 2028--that propels the latter half of the novel into a thrill ride of nanotech-embellished skullduggery, as Illuminati-like factions vie for control of the resurrected hero. The centurion's viewpoint offers both a window into history and a ledge to stand on while peering into the future. Readers who enjoy the juxtaposition of historical novel with science-fiction adventure, as in Ian McDonald's King of Morning, Queen of Day
, will appreciate McMullen's expertise in The Centurion's Empire
. --Blaise Selby
From Publishers Weekly
McMullen (Voices in the Light), a three-time winner of the Aurealis Award, has crafted a novel that's both historical and futuristic, with much to recommend it. The story begins in A.D. 71, when Vitellan Bavalius is a simple sailor. Due to a series of fortunate accidents, Vitellan is made a centurion and handed a secret formula that was created by a group of Romans known as the Temporians. When used in combination with ice chambers, the formula induces a state of cryogenic suspension from which a person can be successfully resuscitated. Vitellan uses the formula to travel forward in time. He is revived at various turning points in history by his hereditary Icekeepers, who guard his "immortal" status. Each time Vitellan awakens, he finds his life complicated by previous and current love affairs. In this novel, women have long memories and they pass on their grudges (as well as their loyalties) to their offspring. Although his story occasionally lapses into tedious technical description, McMullen handles his characters and historical action scenes with zest. He is even more inventive with the sequences set in the 21st century; these are thrilling and allow more leeway for his wry sense of humor. Whether peeling off a false face or discussing the realities of the world shortly after Christ's death, Vitellan is an appealing protagonist. His fictional advent, worthy of a sequel, should enthrall fans of both history and hard SF.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.