The Peshawar Lancers

 

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.Cover of "The Peshawar Lancers"

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.

Crossing the Line

A hundred years after the War of the Rebellion, or the War for Independence as it is called in the Confederate States of America, the South has developed into a race neutral society with slavery long nationalized and under the control of the notorious Ministry of State Servitude. The new, liberal Confederate President Jimmy Carter is seeking to end the long cold war with the North and improve relations with Kaiser Frederick, ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, the German Empire.

Against this historical backdrop three people, U. S. intelligence agent Northrop McLean, young beautiful Confederate exile Ansley Mason, and Underground Railroad conductor Thaddeus Lynch must learn to work together to prevent a conspiracy that could destroy both nations.

This, in brief, is the plot of Peter Pauze’s alternate history thriller Crossing the Line. While the historical premise seems wildly implausible (I’ll accept the Confederacy’s eventually ending slavery under international opinion, but considering that it took federal intervention to end Jim Crow I simply cannot believe that the descendants of slaves and slave-owners would be treated as equals in a country that seceded precisely to keep those slaves in bondage), but the story is exciting with a plot twist every chapter. Then, towards the end the reader learns that none of the main characters is precisely who they said they were with double and triple agents revealed.

That, in fact, is the only weakness in the story, the way in which too much is uncovered in the last chapter. Still, the plot leads up to the climax fairly well, with enough hints along the way, that this is not a deadly weakness. I can recommend Crossing the Line as an alternate history thriller equal to any that Harry Turtledove has written and I hope that Peter Pauze will be encouraged to write more.

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