This Week’s Book Review – The Serpent

Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.

Book Review

An Arthurian Tale in a Science Fiction Future

Review by Mark Lardas

July 25, 2021

“The Serpent” by David Drake, Baen, 2021, 192 pages, $25.00 (hardcover) $9.99 (e-book)

In the far future, civilization experienced a catastrophic collapse in the centuries-ago past.  Jon of Dun Add is reforging isolated pockets of human habitation into a unified and civilized whole. His Hall of Champions is a tool in this effort. This fellowship enforces justice across Jon’s realm. Pal is one of Jon’s newest knights, and one of the most respected.

“The Serpent” by David Drake is the third novel Drake’s Time of Heroes series. It presents Pal’s adventures in this possible future. It follows “The Spark” which introduced Pal and “The Storm,” which showed Pal maturing into his current role.

The Fall shattered the world into oases habitable to people and a vast waste inhabited by monstrous creatures. The oases are linked by the Road, a path that can be traveled safely – unless monsters from the Waste enter and attack travelers. Vast wealth, in the form of ancient artifacts litters the Waste, for those brave enough to enter.

Champions are fighters. Makers are those with the talent to take artifacts made from surviving ancient technology and transform them into tools useful here and now. Pal is a combination of both. Pal is not the best at either, but he is very good at both, and the best among those with skills at both.

Pal’s unique combination of skills has Jon sending Pal on difficult missions, requiring resolution and judgement for success. Yet Pal remains true to his roots. He came from an obscure and backwoods farming community. While he now walks with the nobility, he is happiest adventuring on the road, fixing problems for Jon and most of all, for the common folk of Jon’s realm.

Like much of Drake’s writing, “The Serpent” borrows heavily from ancient and medieval history and literature. This series is primarily based on Arthurian legend, taking plot points from Chretien de Troyes and the Prose Lancelot and setting them in a science fiction background.  The result is science fiction flavored by medieval romance. These books have a fantasy feel to them.

Pal travels the Road as a pathfinder and explorer, seeking to geographic knowledge about the lands surrounding Jon’s realm. Along the way he rights wrongs, assists damsels in distress and fights the monsters of The Waste. “The Serpent” offers readers an entertaining story, one which will delight fan’s of Drake’s writing, while offering an good introduction to Drake for those unfamiliar with him.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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One Comment

  1. I have read quite a few of his Britain – French Revolution space odysseys. They are entertaining. Their source is easily recognized.

    I like Drake as light reading although I have never felt him a high-brow science fiction writer.

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