Review of ORION AND KING ARTHUR by Ben BovaTor, July 2012
Created as a tool of the god-like "creators," Orion has fought in space, played his part in the extermination of the neanderthal, and battled just about everywhere else in between. Now, he finds himself in post-Roman northern Europe during the Saxon conquest of Britain. First, he stops by to give Beowulf a hand dealing with Grendle's mother. Then it's on to Britain where young Arthur seeks to hold back the germanic invasions.
Orion's creator, Aten, has specfic instructions for Orion... he's to ensure that Arthur fails. According to Aten, humanity itself is at stake. But Orion likes the young Arthur. By introducing stirrups, he gives Arthur and his knights a tactical advantage over the invading Saxons.
Orion's ability to influence events is limited because Aten can yank him out of Arthur's time... or ultimately destroy him. Yet, Aten needs Orion as a tool which gives him a certain amount of leeway. Orion may have been created as a tool but he has his own mind... and a vast love for the beautiful creator Anya.
The story of Arthur is well known (although the role his squire, Orion, played in his ascension and in the creation of the round table is mostly a secret). Bova reimagines Arthur as a Romanized Brit intent on preserving Roman civilization in a Britain abandoned by the legions, Guinevere as a lustful pagan princess, Lancelot as a go-gettem punk, Morganna as Aphrodite, a creator, and Merlin as Poseidon, another creator.
The Arthur story is a classic... of adventure, nobility, betrayal and illicit love. I enjoyed Bova's connecting it to the Beowulf saga... historically set around the same era but on the side of the raiding Germans rather than the defending Britains. Having Orion introduce stirrups to create the medieval heavy knight is a simple and clever bit of alternate history-making (although it's unlikely that Arthur actually lead heavy knights in early sixth century Britain).
Ben Bova is a classic SF author with six Hugo awards to his credit who's certainly earned a shot at retelling Arthur. His Orion stories are not, however, his strongest works. Orion tends to be a bit repetitive, as if the chapters were originally intended as a serial rather than as a continuous novel. If you're new to Orion, this is not the book you want to start with.
While I don't think this is Bova's best work, it's a light enjoyable read.
Three StarsReviewed 5/27/13
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