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Agent of Byzantium (English Edition) [Kindle Edition]

Harry Turtledove
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In a Moslem-free universe where Constantinople never fell, the Byzantine Empire has not only survived but flourished, developing technology at an earlier date than in our universe. And spreading its power and influence throughout the world. But Byzantium has enemies who are jealous of its glory and would like nothing better than to bring it down and loot its treasures.

Basil Argyros, Byzantium's top agent, as his hands full, thwarting un-Byzantine plots and making the world safe for the Byzantine Empire.


Basil Argyros, an elite agent for the Byzantine Empire, realizes that the new invention of gunpowder may force the collapse of Byzantium.


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4.0 von 5 Sternen Angenehm 22. Juli 2014
Von Komiker
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Gute Kurzgeschichten, für die der Autor zeigt, dass er sich mit dem Byzantinischen Imperium gut auskennt.

Ein ähnlicher historischer Rahmen wurde vom Autor für seine Vindessos-Reihe benutzt.
War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?
Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.7 von 5 Sternen  23 Rezensionen
16 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Good Alternate History Fun 26. Oktober 1998
Von A. Ross - Veröffentlicht auf
A great collection of seven stories set in an early fourteenth-century version of Earth where Islam is absent. The Byzantine Empire retained its eastern holdings and swallowed up most of western Europe as well. Their main rival is the Persian Empire which also never fell in Turtledove's well thought-out alternate world. The stories span 15 years in the life of Basil, a soldier and eventual "agent" (read spy) for the Byzantine Empire. Great fun!
9 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Name's Argyros, Basil Argyros 29. September 2007
Von Caesar Warrington - Veröffentlicht auf
Imagine a 13th century Mediterranean and Middle East...

-Where the territories of western and southern Europe won back by the Romans during the 6th century reign of Justinian were not only maintained but expanded.
-Muhammad never developed Islam. Instead he converted to Christianity, becoming a holy man, and is now venerated as St. Moaumet.

In the absence of Islam's rise, both the Roman and Sassanid Persian (which has by now engulfed the entire Arabian Peninsula) empires remain as the two superpowers, existing in a sort of medieval cold war.

Into this world comes Basil Argyros, an agent of the Magistrianoi, the imperial secret police; sometimes he acts as a soldier, but more often he's a spy. During the course of his assignments as an agent of Imperial security, Basil also makes some exciting discoveries, thus making him an agent in another sense: as one who brings change and advancement to the Empire. From the Franks he steals a new weapon, recently cooked up by their monks--gunpowder. He returns from the lands of the Asiatic Jurchen nomads north of the Black Sea with an instrument we know as the telescope. He delivers to the emperor the secrets of printing, a recent Persian invention they've been using to foment insurrection in the Empire's eastern provinces. What perhaps is the most fascinating of all is Basil's witnessing the discovery of inoculation, made during a time of catastrophic plague in Constantinople.

Basil's nemesis in many of these stories is the beautiful and deviously clever Persian spy, Mirrane. As the two of them match wits, they develop a mutual respect and admiration, eventually falling deeply in love.

The Baen paperback edition contains the following seven stories:

"The Eyes of Argos"
"Strange Eruptions"
"Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire"
"Unholy Trinity"

Only this edition contains the story "Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire;" however, that story can also be found in Harry Turtledove's alt-history collection DEPARTURES (which also includes "Islands in the Sea," the story about Muhammad's aforementioned conversion to the Christian Faith.)

As someone with a Ph.D in Byzantine studies, Harry Turtledove knows the peoples and times upon which he bases this alternative world, making it a fun, fascinating read.
6 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Great alternate history from the master 26. April 1997
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Harry Turtledove knows his history, and it is the mark of a great writer that he can make you interested in what has been a rather obscure part of the historical record. Most of us are familiar with the concept of the Byzantine Empire, but know little of its actual nuts and bolts. Mr. Turtledove presents a set of connected short stories in which his hero foils diverse machinations against his employer. I was intrigued, and looked stuff up in the encyclopedia afterwards, and found the whole thing quite fun
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen One of Turtledove's first works 18. Juli 2008
Von Bill Hensler - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The reader is given several stories but all about Basil, a soldier for Byzantium. Basil loses his family in a plague and changes his career to a secret agent. The part where Basil loses his family to a plague is quite touching. I give a salute to the writing of Turtledove that he spares the reader the death of Basil's son by having Basil give him opium for the pain until the end, the child merely stops breathing instead of going through the agony of small pox.

Now, this is important. In one of the stories its found how to innoculate the population from diseases. Small Pox destroys large amounts of Byzantium's populace. This discovery is make 600 years before the discovery in Westerm Europe. So, the people running the Byzantium government work to insure the health of their citizens. The Byzantium army is spared the ravages of disease and is able to beat threats from Persian armies.

Harry goes into Greek fire, the secret of Byzantium's Naval success for years. It was natural that Basil is sent on a mission to discover the secret of black powder. This is the subject of one story and how it is employed in battles.

Basil also works to check the forces of Persia, what we now know as modern Iran. Strangely, while this story was written in 1987 the fact is the threat from Iran (Persia) seems just as real today. Basil battles a Persian spy who is quite like a Soviet spy master (remember, this was written in 1987). Basil is once again the hero and checks this threat from Persia and gains a lover to replace his late beloved wife.

Basil is also involved with one of the most weaking things that happen to Byzantium. It was a religious problem with Christianity and that involved the worship of Icons. People would worship the Icon of the cross instead of Jesus the son of God. While this does not seem of great concern to modern readers but form a historical context it's a deadly threat to Byzantium itself. Religious conflicts with the Roman Catholic church weaken Byzantium and let it be invaded by both Muslims and Western Europeans. Turtledove comes up with an solution to the icon problem that would actually not be available until the 16th century. Had the 16th printing press technology been availiable in the 12th Century then Muslim soldiers would not be standing in a ruined Constantinople in 1453.

Dr. Turtledove gives some sound historical reasons on how close it was for Byzantium (actually the real name was close to Romania)to being more of an eternal empire than the famous Roman empire that it outlasted by nearly 1000 years. Had just a few events and forces of nature been different then modern Islam would be a shawdow of its present self, the Protestant reformation would not have been needed, and we could have avoided lots of wars.

This is the middle of summer. This book is a good read and perfect for those summer vacations.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen When Turtledove when he really WAS the master of alternate history... 12. Dezember 2012
Von Darren O'Connor - Veröffentlicht auf
I recently finished the fourth volume of Harry Turtledove's latest series, "The War that Came Early," about an alternate history wherein Hitler started WWII in 1938, after meeting with Chamberlain at Munich, instead of in 1939 as it was in actual history, after Chamberlain and Daladier appeased the German dictator by betraying Czechoslovakia. That series still has, apparently, two books left to run, and sadly, after reading the first four books of the series, I doubt I will buy them. The problem with this series is that Turtledove has developed certain faults as a writer in recent years, and in his latest series, they are all on display. His biggest flaw by FAR is wearisome repetition. You see it over and over again in almost all his work from the last several years. "The War that Came Early" is no exception, where EVERY character, multiple times, is given the opportunity to reflect how crummy European cigarettes have become since the war started, and how harsh they are to smoke, but the only thing worse than bad tobacco is no tobacco. After hearing the fifth character reflect on that for the umpteenth time, I know far more than I need or care to about the quality of wartime European cigarettes and people's smoking habits. Another characteristic Turtledove flaw, as Amazon reviewer Elliott Zink pointed out, is that he continually has his main characters - the ones from whose perspective we are seeing the story unfold -- go through their thought process wherein a question is asked, the characters note their uncertainty or initial doubt, and then come to accept their initial decision. Not only does this draw out every decision the character must make - making it look like unnecessary filler, put in just to make the books longer - it has the effect of making all his characters seem exactly alike.

The reason I mention all this about a different Turtledove book entirely is to point out what a stark contrast his recent work is to this, much earlier work, which is actually a collection of short stories written for "Amazing Science Fiction Stories" and "Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine," all of which were published between 1985 and 1989. I think the fact that these were short stories originally published in anthology magazines is probably precisely what prevented Turtledove from developing those flaws at that stage of his career. Magazines of that type have severe constraints of space, so stories published there are tightly edited for length, and writers have to develop the ability be concise and get the most out of their prose. I sometimes wonder if that isn't what made the "Golden Age of Science Fiction" golden - Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, and the other writers of that era all wrote short stories for magazine publication for many, many years, and learned to be very descriptive and paint a vivid picture for the reader, without being excessively wordy. The constraints of the short story medium enforced some very good writing habits on these authors. When Turtledove was writing short stories, he couldn't afford to be too wordy either; his editors wouldn't have let him. His earlier novels, like the superb "Videssos Cycle" were written before he'd shed this ability to be concise, and to be descriptive without being wordy and repetitive.

Sadly, Turtledove has long since lost the discipline of being concise, and conveying a lot of information with a minimum of excess verbiage. But if you want to see what a great storyteller he could be, I highly recommend his earlier work, like "Agent of Byzantium" when he was a better, more disciplined writer. This series tells the story of Basil Argyros, an intelligence officer of an alternate-history Byzantine Empire, in which Islam never arose as a religion - Mohammed instead converted to Christianity and was eventually canonized as a Christian saint. The result is that by the fourteenth century, when the Argyros stories take place, the Empire is still the greatest power in the known world, and still covers the entire eastern Mediterranean basin, including almost all of Italy, rather than being an impoverished and declining state, retreating before the Arabs and the Turks whose territory had been chipped away to little more than Greece and Anatolia, as it was by then in historical reality. This is a really interesting premise for alternate history. Turtledove is actually a Byzantine scholar, so his familiarity with the Empire, its history, language, religion, culture, etc. is intimate, enabling him to flesh out even sparely written short stories with a weight of detail that greatly enhances the verisimilitude of these stories. All in all, this is first rate speculative fiction, which earned Turtledove the title "master of alternate history," and written when he looked like living up to the title, rather than simply resting on his laurels and phoning it it. Given that his habits have gotten worse over the last few years, and not better, and his publishers seem entirely willing to pay him according to the quantity, rather than the quality of his work, I see little hope of him reverting to his earlier greatness. That really is a great pity, for I can't think of a greater example of unfulfilled potential in this field. At least we have his earlier work, and I highly recommend his material from that period.
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