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Emperor: Time's Tapestry, Book 1
Stephen Baxter
Gollancz, 352 pages

Emperor: Time's Tapestry, Book 1
Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter was born in 1957 and was raised in Liverpool. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and got a PhD from Southampton. He worked in information technology and lives in Buckinghamshire, England. His first story, "The Xeelee Flower," was published in Interzone 19.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Transcendent
SF Site Review: Exultant
SF Site Review: Coalescent
SF Site Review: Phase Space
SF Site Review: Reality Dust
SF Site Review: The Time Ships
SF Site Review: Origin
SF Site Review: Origin
SF Site Review: Longtusk and Deep Future
SF Site Review: Manifold: Space
SF Site Review: Longtusk
SF Site Review: Vacuum Diagrams
SF Site Review: Titan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Spanning the reigns of emperors Claudius, Hadrian, and Constantinople, the Prophecy ties the descendents of Agrippina, Nectovelin's niece, together through the ages, even when they have apparently lost all connection to each other. Each generation also has its own way of looking at the Prophecy, true to their own period of time, but not necessarily to the Prophecy itself.

In some ways, Emperor is a collection of three short stories, although they are strongly linked and form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The first story deals with the assault on Britain by the troops under Claudius. The focus is on Nectovelin. Although he can't read or fully understand the Latin prophecy, he thinks he knows its meaning and acts accordingly, clearly demonstrating that prophecies are volatile things.

The second portion is set during Hadrian's reign, Claudia Severa, Agrippina's descendent, who travels from her native Rome to Britain to make sure that the next portion of the prophecy comes true. Although Severa views herself as in control of the situation, it is obvious to her co-conspirators that while the prophecy may apply, there are other interpretations. It is up to her and her distant cousin, Brigonius, to make sure that their view comes about.

Finally, the prophecy appears to come to fruition during Constantine's reign. Brigonius's descendent, Thallius was now the individual searching for the long lost prophecy, hoping, based on family rumors, that it would help restore his vision of Christianity as a peaceful religion rather than the warrior's vision being spread by Constantine. Severa's descendent, who is found in an unlikely manner, resurrects his hopes as the people touched by the prophecy once again do battle to make sure that the world conforms to their vision of the prophecy.

Stephen Baxter's use of the prophecy as a linking device is interesting and handled quite well. Unlike most prophecies encountered in speculative fiction, the Prophecy of Nectovelin is multi-generational. It is very specific when it can be applied to specific circumstances, but also vague enough to be able to be reinterpreted as circumstances permit. If there is a weakness, it is how well the prophecy survives from its initial utterance in 4BC until the novel ends in 418, and similarly how well the descendents of Agrippina are able to track each other down.

Although Emperor is a complete novel in and of itself, the book ends without the fulfillment of the prophecy. It seems clear that each of the four novels Baxter has announced in the Time's Tapestry series will add to the prophecy in new ways, eventually, appearing to change the course from our own history. While the ending leads directly into Conqueror, there is no need to worry about Emperor being an incomplete story.

Copyright © 2007 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a five-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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