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|King David's Spaceship|
by Jerry Pournelle
Originally published in 1980, Reissued by Baen Books, 1987
Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: 165,042
Recommended by: Greg Slade
The better grade of science fiction is frequently not what you expect. Just as James White posits starships setting out from Earth 500 years in the past, so Jerry Pournelle regales us with tales of battles fought with pike, sword, and crossbow 1,000 years in the future. The setting is several hundred years after a disastrous series of wars have broken up the first galactic empire. Scattered worlds have been bombed so thoroughly that technological civilisation has been lost, and each world has had to rediscover things like steam power. One world has managed to regain space flight, and is seeking out the other lost worlds to put the empire back together. The status each world receives in the new empire depends on how far its technology has developed by the time it joins. Thus, Prince Samual's World, which has just re-invented steam power and the telegraph, must launch its own space ship if it is to have any control over its own future.
Pournelle is well-known for his military science fiction, and this book fits into the same future history as some of his better-known works such as Prince of Sparta or Falkenberg's Legion. But to categorise this work as simply a plot device to allow Pournelle to "play war" at several different technological levels would be a mistake. There is some wonderful character development here. Even relatively minor characters are fleshed out and given life. Nor are any of the characters simply "good guys" or "bad guys."
Pournelle's handling of religion is surprisingly deft. He posits the attempt by the empire to impose religious uniformity as a means of political unity, just as has happened many times in the past. However, he takes care to portray several priests, in both negative and positive light.
All in all, a splendid read. If you are already a Pournelle fan, you should take the effort to seek out this work. If you are not, it is an excellent place to start.
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