“Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages” by Guy Halsall (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Worlds of Arthur

One thing we will never be certain of is whether or not King Arthur actually lived.  There are literally hundreds of books, TV series, documentaries, movies, papers and journals on the subject and life of King Arthur.  There are also hundreds of historical fiction novels about him.  There are also a number of secondary sources recorded from various times during the Middle Ages that talk of Arthur, and his time, his battles, his life.  But we still don’t know how true any of these documents are, and whether there really was a large-scale Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.

Guy Halsall is in the minority, and he admits this up front, in his introduction to Worlds of Arthur.  He has taught at universities in London and York, and has specialized in the Merovingian Period (c. 450- c.750), but has also written about a lot of other subjects from the period, including death and burial, age and gender, violence and warfare, and barbarian migrations.  He is also not a believer in King Arthur.  He believes, from his study of the sources and archaeology, that such a person never existed.  He also doesn’t believe that the supposed large-scale Anglo-Saxon migrations of the mid-fifth century were as large-scale as thought, and in fact began much earlier.

Worlds of Arthur is divided into four parts. The first consists of Halsall discussing the various secondary source that mention or reference Arthur and the period.  The second part is about the archaeology of the period and what it states.  In the third part Halsall goes into detail on these sources and linking with the archaeology to show that they actually tell very little about Arthur and whether he existed or not.  Finally, in the fourth section Halsall lays out his theories and researching about how and why Arthur never really existed and the events we have come to think we know about the period that aren’t completely true.

Halsall is thorough and detailed in his discussions, using his experience and knowledge of the Merovingian period and the subjects mentioned above, but he also seems to rely a little too much on this, and not on the history and archaeology of Britain itself, as well as what its peoples left.  It is nevertheless a worthy debate in the story of King Arthur that is well worth the read and deserves to be heard and accepted, even if it is in the minority.

Originally written on April 27, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Worlds of Arthur from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Bookbanter Column: Get Lost in a Good Science Fiction Series: THE SPIN SERIES by Robert Charles Wilson

Good science fiction can sometimes be a hard thing to find.

You need to find a good story, something that will suck you in from the very first page and keep you going to the very end of the book, leaving you hoping for sequels.

You need a good writing style that keeps you engaged, with a fresh vocabulary.  Classic science fiction has come to be known for its lacking in fully-developed characters, so for good science fiction you’re going to want some well-rounded characters.

Good science fiction is a regular book that deserves to be shelved next to any other award-winning, bestselling work of regular fiction, and yet it involves elements, storylines and plot involving elements of the future and science.

Look no further than Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin trilogy.


“Red Planet Blues” by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace, 2013)

Red Planet Blues

One of the purposes of science fiction is to take a good story and insert it into a futuristic world of science fiction, making it a great story; something you haven’t read before.  Bestselling author Robert J. Sawyer does just this with Red Planet Blues as he presents the classic noir detective novel that just about everyone is familiar with, and inserts it into a future world of a colonized Mars, which makes for some very riveting reading.

Enter Alex Lomax, a Private Eye who left Earth for reasons we’re not sure of, but he’s not welcome there.  So he makes his home now in New Klondike on Mars, underneath the great dome.  But New Klondike is very much the edge of the world locality that it’s named after; the Martian frontier.  The city is dirty, run down; there’s prostitution and drug use and crime.  It’s a dead-end world, just where Lomax expected to end up.

The hope many of the citizens of New Klondike hold out for is making it rich on Martian fossils.  Alien life was found to exist on Mars, but has long died out.  All that remain are some fossils that are worth a fortune back on Earth.  Some of the lucky few have made discoveries and are now doing well for themselves; others continue to spend their time in their suits out on the plain in search of riches.  There is also the nugget of knowledge that everyone knows: somewhere out there on the Martian desert is the alpha deposit, first discovered forty years ago by Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly that began this Great Martian Fossil Rush; the mother lode that would make its discoverer rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Another reason people want to strike it rich is so they can become immortal.  In this world there are those known as transfers: essentially practically indestructible robots that have had people’s minds and consciousnesses downloaded into them.  Becoming a transfer is expensive, but then you’re practically unstoppable; you don’t need to eat or breathe or even feel.  You can go out on the harsh Martian plain and continue looking for those pricey fossils.

Lomax isn’t that likeable a character.  He’s a drinker, a womanizer, and doesn’t think very highly of himself.  But he has integrity.  So when he gets a couple of new clients looking to find out the true history behind Weingarten and O’Reilly’s discovery, as well as the alpha location, he agrees to do it for good money, but also becomes he knows what’s at stake.

Sawyer has done a great job in creating a concrete, believable world and some strong characters, especially in Lomax who you don’t really like, but still kind of care for.  At times events seem a little over the top and ham-handed, but that’s just Sawyer remaining true to the genre, even if it is on another planet.  Science fiction readers will not be disappointed; noir crime readers will not be disappointed; and where the twain shall meet shall be one very satisfied reader.

Originally written on April 27, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Red Planet Blues from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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2012 Nebula Award Winners Announced

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. has announced the recipients of the 2012 Nebula Awards®.

The Nebula Awards® are voted on and presented by the active members of SFWA for outstanding science fiction and fantasy published in 2012. The awards were announced at the Nebula Awards® Banquet held at in San Jose, CA, May 16-20.

NOVEL2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK) [REVIEW] [INTERVIEW]

NOVELLA: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon) [REVIEW]

NOVELLETTE: “Close Encounters” by Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)

SHORT STORY: “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)

RAY BRADBURY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director),  Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight)



SOLSTICE AWARD: Carl Sagan and Ginjer Buchanan


For more information, go to SFWA.

Bookbanter Ebook Giveaway Reminder

It’s the weekend and that means it’s the last couple of days to enter the Bookbanter ebook giveaway for a copy of Pirates of Pensacola by Keith Thomson.  The giveaway will end at 11:59PM Sunday night.  To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on THIS POST, plus you can learn more about the book and the author.