In The Peshawar Lancers S. M.Stirling writes an exciting adventure story set in an alternate history in which a comet strikes the Earth in the year 1878. The impact and the ensuing severe cooling of the climate caused by the dust and water vapor thrust into the atmosphere causes the death by starvation of most of the inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere and the collapse of civilization.
By the year of the story, 2025, the world has almost reached the level of technology it possessed before the Fall. The British Empire has survived, based around its former colonial possessions, especially India. The Empire has even recolonized the British Isles. The French established themselves in Algeria and the Japanese have conquered China. The Russians have also survived after turning to Devil worship and sacred cannibalism of their subject peoples. The rest of Europe and most of North America is still inhabited by savage cannibals. In this world, Athelstane King is a captain of the Peshawar Lancers. Along with his aide, the Sikh Narayan Singh, his sister Cassandra, a mysterious Russian seeress Yasmini, and the Royal Family, King finds himself trying to foil a Russian conspiracy against his family with the fate of the Empire, and the survival of humanity at stake.
The Peshawar Lancers is, as I have said, an exciting adventure story, a little like Kipling’s best. S. M. Sterling presents an immensely imaginative background for the adventure with the details that makes the society come to life. The characters are, perhaps, somewhat two-dimensional with the villain, the Russian Ignatieff, being really, villainous, but they are likeable and their actions and motives are realistic. The plot moves along nicely with the right amount of suspense and action. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Peshawar Lancers and I hope the author might be persuaded to write more stories set in that world.