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|The High Crusade
by Poul Anderson
Published by Street & Smith, 1960
Highly Recommended by: Greg Slade
I have a confession to make: despite the saying that "you can't judge a book by its cover", I tend to pick up books in the bookstore for that very reason. (Of course, once I've read the blurb, I often put them right back down again.) So when I saw a book cover with a spaceship in the background, and a bunch of armoured soldiers bearing swords, shields, bows and arrows in the foreground, I was naturally intrigued. (Being a history buff as well as a space opera buff.)
The premise of the story is that, just like in all those B-grade movies from the 50s, the Earth has been invaded by technologically-superior aliens bent on conquest during the Crusades. Thus, the aliens happened upon a harmless little village whose menfolk all happened to be armed to the teeth and ready to set off to war. So the aliens' death rays are no use against shining armour, and their anti-death-ray defences are no use against an English longbow. The locals capture the ship, and the local baron decides that it would be useful in the crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the paynim. On the way to Jerusalem, they get a bit, um, lost...
There is some Christian content, in that the point-of-view character is a monk, and the faith of mediaeval England is dealt with matter-of-factly, rather than mocked, as one might expect. (Well, okay, there is some tongue-in-cheek discussion of relics of the saints. You will excuse me if I fail to be offended.) But, basically, what mention of religion there is acts as "set dressing" to make the English characters more realistic. What this book boils down to is basically a rollicking good "tall tale."
The High Crusade was made into a movie in 1994. (January, 1999)
Lots of fun to read. Monty Python meets Dr. Who, sort of! Done more for laughs than for any deep religious thought. Not antagonistic toward faith, but not a propaganda piece for belief either. Nice "what if" type of story. Rick Shepherd
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