Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Centurion's Empire Hardcover – June, 1998
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
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.
Top customer reviews
Others can detail the plot far better than I but a brief overview is the story of a young Roman soldier living shortly before the eruption of Pompeii and details the events that catapult him hundreds of years into the future where he not only copes with a bewildering array of modern (or for us - futuristic) conveniences but using the mindset trained into a Roman legionnaire and Centurion he manages to do well... quite well.
That is a scant and poor review of the contents (deliberately so!) but it would be a spoiler to tell you much more.
If you like INTERESTING sci-fi that wraps into itself a little history as well as a VERY interesting vision of the future... - read it! (If it helps you decide... I have owned this as a paperback for years and just now ordered a hardback version to re-read and keep into my dotage!... How many books have you bought multiple copies of? )
This book has no noticable flaws, at least after one reading. The level of craftsmanship is incredible; I haven't seen it done this well since Avram Davidson (although McCullen is not a 'prose stylist' - some will find this an improvement). Some very complex plot twists are deftly handled, and well foreshadowed. I was in complete suspension of disbelief from the very beginning, and felt compelled to read it in one sitting. Characterization was strong, action scenes were comprehensible and gripping. Violence was appropriate to the plot, and not overused.
The plot revolves around a Roman Centurion who gains access to a suspended animation elixer, and uses it to survive voluntary freezing for many centuries. He awakens several times over the years, finally in the mid-21st century. I don't want to give too much away; it's great fun to find it out as you go.
The 21st century technology may be a bit hard to keep up with for readers not familiar with cyberpunk conventions - there is nothing completely groundbreaking here, but my mother would be quite lost in the maze of bions, tiltfans, and brain imprints. This is probably appropriate; certainly our hero is confused by them himself.
All in all, it's the best novel I have read in some years. Quite excellent.
History takes on a very personal perspective through the eyes of the protagonist - Vitellan. He is not immortal, but fate has curiously given him an opportunity (in the form of a stolen chemical concoction) to freeze himself in suspended animation and be reanimated at a later date. At first, he is only frozen for a few years at a time -- wreaking a terrible fate on a women (and indirectly her family) who spurned his love. Later the centuries pass quicker and give us a very intimate look at romance and glory, chivalry and human frailty. Vitellan's awakening in the mid 21st c! entury is especially fascinating and suspenseful when a deadly enemy from the 14th century is found to be very much alive--and closing in.
A Superb novel, well written, entertaining and enlightening. Highly Recommended. [EAG]
While I enjoyed the book, it is evident that this book was written in the mid-90's. Like many books from that era, it overestimates the rise of computer and nano-technology to point where it becomes very unbelievable that the advances described in the book will be with us before 2030. We have William Gibson to thank for this and it seems that McMullen tries to imitate that style and that maybe of Stephenson in Snow Crash, instead of exploring his own style, which is quite wonderful as anyone who has read and enjoyed his Greatwinter Trilogy can tell you. However, I highly recommend this book and hope that this author continues to write and gets the recognition he deserves on this side of the Pacific.