The Dance of Time by Eric Flint
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It is a fitting finish for this alternate history series. The first time I read it, I almost cried when Aide “died” if a sentient crystalline form could live and die. “He” had fulfilled “his” great mission, “his” purpose for coming, and perhaps one could say this book was about Aide and not Belisarius.
There were so many ripples in time caused by the change; the Industrial Revolution coming perhaps 1000 years earlier, preventing the plague in 541 that did sweep the Middle East, and in one throw-away line from Book 4, even preventing the rise of Islam. The changes include creating a much stronger Byzantine Empire which might presumably never fall, not with its fatal conflict with the armies of Islam and Persia.
There are two interesting scenes in this book that is a bookend to the first book. In the first book, Belisarius has known Rao personally for several years and considers him a friend. But because of the huge changes in the timeline, Belisarius and Rao meet personally for the first time after 9 years and are complete strangers. What do you say?
Antonina, Belisarius’s wife, says something lame. Belisarius, having heard what his wife said, tries to avoid the same lame line except he has a lame one too. However, isn’t that what you get when you mess with time? 🙂
Much of what we know about the lives of Justinian, Theodora, Belisarius, and Antonina come from a historian named Procopius. Procopius had served as a principal secretary, basically a government clerk, and had been given inside access to the lives of the Emperor, the Empress, and the General. Procopius wrote a Secret History of their lives after they died so they couldn’t sue him for libel or worse, have him executed. The Secret History would make the modern tabloids look like high school newspapers. Procopius made them all sex fiends and cuckolds. Unfortunately for modern historians, Procopius is the sole source on these four which makes you think twice and read it with a grain of salt.
Because Procopius is the sole source, modern historians have to challenge his accuracy and most agree that Procopius does have a high accuracy rate when it comes to documenting historical events. But when it comes to the lives of Justinian et al., how much did Procopius repeat what others said (thus making it hearsay and rumors) and how much he actually observe?
Thus, Eric Flint’s series comes nicely; Flint captures the intelligence but pettiness of Justinian, the ruthlessness of Theodora and also recognizing her very lower class roots, and the supreme capability of Belisarius, and Antonina’s faithfulness and loyalty (the opposite of what Procopius protrayed).