cover image Fortune's Stroke

Fortune's Stroke

Eric Flint, David Drake. Baen Books, $24 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-671-57871-8

This exuberant romp of an alternate-history novel is the fourth volume of a series (Destiny's Shield, etc.) in which two contending super-beings from the far future try to determine humanity's fate through changing the 6th century A.D. The villain, Link, uses the Indian Malwa Empire as his tool; the benefactor, Aide, chooses the Byzantine Empire and particularly the famous Count Belisarius, its most formidable general. Belisarius's formidable wife, Antonina, plays matchmaker for the emperor of Ethiopia, thus giving the forces of good a fighting navy in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. The delightful diplomatic noblewoman Irene Macrembolitissa also plays matchmaker, securing the marriage of the Maratha leader Ragunath Rao to his beloved Princess Shakuntala (a South Asian Princess Leia figure). Finally, Belisarius himself brings the Malwans' invasion of Persia to an end. However, Link has managed to find another human host and is as ruthless as ever, while Aide has developed a raunchy sense of humor from too much association with biological humans. Readers shouldn't take all this too seriously (and those new to the series would do well to read the earlier volumes before tackling this one), but should sit back and chortle while admiring the authors' alternate-technological ingenuity. (June)