The New World Order
(Corgi, £5.99, 432 pages, paperback, 5 January 2006. David Fickling
Books, £12.99, 441 pages, hardback, 4 November 2004.)
Jeapes' latest novel takes a similar premise to Harry Turtledove's 'Worldwar'
series and does it, well, more briefly. And better. Invaders arrive
on Earth to find the locals already at war; with their superior technology,
the invaders hammer both sides indiscriminately but end up uniting the
humans against them. Except that these aren't lizard-men in spaceships,
but red-headed Holekhor who've come from another world through the portal
they call Okh'Shenev (it'd be wrong, so wrong of me to suggest that
this is the Holekhor for "Stargate"). They are armed not only
with machine guns and airships but also witchcraft, their special Wise
cadre tapping the Earth's ley energy.
And they haven't all arrived at once; a scouting party was sent through
some fifteen years earlier, but most were lost or went missing, and
the general went native for a while before recovering his memory and
returning home. His name is Dhon Do, although he was baptised into the
Christian faith as John Donder during his "native" period.
He still has a soft spot for the "New World" and now he's
returned ahead of the invasion to warn them. Unfortunately the "New
World" is at war with itself -- it's England, it's 1645, and King
Charles and Oliver Cromwell and their armies are too busy fighting each
other to prepare for the Holekhor invasion.
On the alternate history plausibility scale New World Order
scores low, but Jeapes isn't sloppy with the story. His Cromwell is
not just a portrayal but a study of a man who was devout but determined
and practical enough to overthrow a king he found fault with. King Charles
here also has his own nobility and dignity, although his son is a nasty
piece of work. The YA focus character is John Donder's half-human son
Daniel, who has grown up in the foster care of the village priest in
a world prejudiced against him. Because interestingly, the English have
been aware of Holekhor refugees infiltrating their society for several
years since the portal was opened -- they call them "Hollykor"
or, more pejoratively, "trolls" -- and Daniel's distinctive
looks mark him out. He and Dhon Do are both complex characters, and
the relationship that develops between absentee father and outsider
son makes for engaging reading. None of them are out-and-out wrong-doers,
so it's almost a relief when a hissable villain in the form of the Holekhor
ruler turns up towards the end of the book.
There's action a-plenty, but it's bloodier and grimmer than the space
opera of Jeapes' previous novels. In particular there's a harrowing
scene at the start of the second part when an evangelical band of Holekhor
Wise puts down a village that won't surrender to them. Mostly however
the action follows Daniel, and through him his father, and through them
both the activities of Charles and Cromwell, between whom Dhon Do tries
to broker an alliance.
Another intelligent and lively novel from Ben Jeapes. A section at
the end caps the story with historical notes and a revelation that you
may guess before, but which you should still find entertaining. Now
available in paperback.
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