In many ways, this book has it all: space, aliens, time travel, and medieval Vikings. Robert Kroese’s book tells a story that is a lot of fun to read, and pays a lot of attention to the details, both modern and historical.
The saga begins with the crew of spaceship Andrea Luhman exploring the source of a mysterious message. It’s 2029, and humankind is fighting for its very existence against the Cho-to’an. As the cover and book description make obvious, the Luhman is about to be hurtled back in time through a space portal to Scandinavia in the late 800’s.
Fans of The Martian will appreciate Kroese’s depiction of the crew using every bit of their scientific knowledge to figure out a way to return to their own time. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the detailed depictions of Viking culture and history.
As with many time travel books, Kroese’s characters consider the problem of changing history, as they introduce their Viking allies to futuristic weapons and technology. The ship’s lander, bearing four crew members, crashes into an occupied part of Norway, at the moment where future king Harald is negotiating (bullying) the local Viking towns in order to build his army. The crew sees the danger of changing the course of history, but the only way they can see to survive is to come out guns blazing, using all the resources of their ship. I’ll admit I was seriously bothered by the idea of space voyagers completely disrupting Viking history. But in the story, there’s little the crew can do to avoid it – and while they’re uneasy about introducing medieval Vikings to future-day weapons, it helps that the future for humankind already looks pretty bleak.
The characters are heartened by something called paradox theory, which I understood (excuse my lack of scientific expertise) to mean this: since paradoxes can’t exist, and the time travelers have already experienced history unfolding in a certain way, it has to unfold more or less in the same way regardless of what they do. This seems to be in contrast to the butterfly effect theory, which posits that even tiny changes can have big impacts. I don’t claim to know much about either theory, though the latter has always seemed more likely to me.
Kroese tells an engaging tale with plenty of history, and his attention to detail makes you feel like you’re there. He describes Viking villages, ships, and forts, and along the way provides us with a good dose of Viking beliefs and culture. Kroese gives readers enough detail to suspend our disbelief and invest us in the story.
I would have liked more character development; this is a plot-driven story with rare glimpses into the personal lives of its crew. I also thought the book seemed to treat lightly the role of women in late 800’s Scandinavia. The Vikings are at first surprised by roles of the two female crew members, but then are fairly accepting. Perhaps, in this culture and this very tough environment, women were considered partners rather than slaves.
Kroese has written a number of different types of science fiction that combine humor, science fiction, and even mystery (see my previous review of his excellent The Big Sheep). He’s writing the sequel to this book now, with a planned release in May, 2018.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Challenges: This book meets the Swords and Stars Challenge and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Bingo challenge.