The Excalibur Alternative

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9780671318604: The Excalibur Alternative

Lying helpless in the face of a raging storm in the North Sea, a fleet of medieval ships finds sudden rescue in the arrival of a powerful group of aliens, who offer salvation in exchange for eternal bondage fighting as star soldiers, but Sir George, a determined Englishman, vows never to be a slave.

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From Publishers Weekly:

In the latest SF adventure novel from the creator of Honor Harrington, Weber (On Basilisk Station; Ashes of Victory; etc.) expands a short story, "Sir George and the Dragon," which appeared in the David Drake anthology Foreign Legions (2001), to good effect. The novel adheres to the story's basic plot: aliens of the Federation abduct 14th-century Englishmen to serve as mercenaries on planets where only low-tech weaponry is legal. But the author extends these events in several directions, with his usual mixture of apt characterization and historical sophistication (here regarding medieval weaponry and tactics). The Englishmen liberate themselves with the aid of the "dragon-men" (the Ternaui) and "Computer" (renamed Merlin), as well as the obstinate stupidity of their opponents. The narrative then leaps ahead several centuries to an ending that surprises both humans and aliens as they learn of the Empire of Avalon. The slam-bang action leaves little room for developing subplots beyond tantalizing hints, though this approach also means a streamlined story, in contrast to Weber's normally rather sprawling narratives. Newcomers to the author's work will do fine without having read previous books in the series. This novel makes an honorable companion to the late Poul Anderson's classic The High Crusade, which uses a similar plot idea.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

In a more modest book than he usually produces, Weber expands on his story in the disappointing shared-world anthology Foreign Legions (2001), masterminded by David Drake. In 1346, Sir George Wincaster, bound to France during the Hundred Years' War, is about to be lost at sea when he and his company, including his wife, Matilda, are snatched from a watery grave, only to be consigned, as is usual when one of the Federation's competitive guilds grabs you--for that is what has happened--to slave-soldiering as mercenaries on primitive planets. Weber's Englishmen prove no less ingenious and formidable than the similarly "rescued" Romans in a Drake story set in the same alternate reality, and with the help of the reptilian Ternaui, they achieve freedom. The plot then leaps over multiple centuries to a slam-bang action climax that hints of books to come. As storytelling, this may not be as grand as usual from Weber, but it is as thoroughly absorbing. Roland Green
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