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Give Me Back My Legions!
Harry Turtledove
Narrated by Simon Vance, unabridged
Tantor Media, 12 hours

Give Me Back My Legions!
Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. In 1977, he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson which he continued to use until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, to become a full-time author. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Return Engagement
SF Site Review: Through the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Center Cannot Hold
SF Site Review: Ruled Britannia
SF Site Review: Colonization: Aftershocks
SF Site Review: Walk in Hell
SF Site Review: Darkness Descending
SF Site Review: American Front
SF Site Review: Household Gods with Judith Tarr
SF Site Review: Colonization: Second Contact
SF Site Review: Into the Darkness
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Gil T. Wilson

Harry Turtledove explores the circumstances surrounding one of ancient Rome's greatest military disasters, The Battle of the Teutoberg Forest. This is the battle in which the German, Arminius, defeated Augustus Caesar's appointed governor of Germany, Publius Quinctilius Varus, keeping Rome out of Germany. Although well-known for his alternate histories, Turtledove chooses historical fiction as the best format to tell about this history-changing battle.

Arminius is a German by birth but serves in the Roman army, where he gains Roman citizenship and an officer's rank. However, he does not wish to see his fatherland, Germany, come under Roman rule or its people to become slaves. While serving as an officer in the Roman/Pannonian front, Arminius receives word the woman betrothed to him has been taken away by her father and betrothed to an older German. Arminius is granted leave to return home and defend his honor and while traveling through Germany, he decides that Germany must remain free. Determined to stay in Germany, Arminius seeks assistance from the newly appointed Roman Governor to Germany, Varus. Varus takes an immediate liking to Arminius and treats him as his own son.

Varus is told by the father of the betrothed girl that Arminius is gathering German forces to defeat the Romans. Varus sees this as merely an old man getting back at the loss of his daughter to Arminius. When Varus receives the same reports from some of his own officers, he defends Arminius by mentioning that Arminius is a high ranking officer and a Roman citizen. However, the deceptive Arminius is gathering forces and finds the place where the Romans can be defeated. Using the Romans own military maneuvers against them, Arminius must get the Legions to march into the mountains on small trails between swamps.

Arminius continues to win the trust of Varus and spends the summers in Varus' camp as the XVII, XVIII and XIX Legions cross Germany to conquer the Germans and collect taxes. At the end of each summer, the Legions must return south to survive the rough German winters. During these excursions, the Roman Legions are bogged down by the swamp lands and the constant rains. Arminius hints to Varus that he knows of a better route that could take them back south without as much difficulty. Varus thinks about the idea but decides not to take Arminius up on the offer -- until that fateful third summer, when everyone except Varus suspects treachery from the German officer.

In writing this novel, Harry Turtledove took poetic license in creating some events and characters to help explore the hows and whys of the Germans' victory over the Romans. This military tale has many lessons for modern military and war planners in that the Romans were so confident of their victory they forgot to watch the people of the land. The summer Varus decides to take Arminius' route he is composing a "Mission Accomplished" type letter that is sent to Augustus Ceasar.

This audiobook features the wonderful voice actor Simon Vance. However, I'm not so sure if the casting of Vance in this book was the best decision. While Vance does read each character's speaking part with distinct different voices, his British accent does not quite fit in with the Roman and German characters. Some of the minor characters seem to have a Cockney accent or other British Isles accents, while Augustus Ceasar has a vocal quality that sounds like an impersonation of Sean Connery.

Another aspect of this audiobook production that made it a little bit hard to absorb, especially at first, was the lack of pauses between segments. During each chapter there may be two or three separate scenes, such as one with Arminius, one with a Legion officer collecting taxes and one of Varus being approached by someone. There were no pauses between these scenes and they blended together as though they were one continuous scene. Throw in the similar sounding Roman and German names and the story becomes hard to follow. On a good note, after about five chapters, this became easier to follow and was more tolerable.

In spite of these complaints, this is a great historical story worth the time spent listening. Turtledove even adds a final chapter which discusses the differences between fact and fiction and what sources he used (and why) to develop historical accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Gil T. Wilson

Gil T. has spent a quarter of a century working in radio and has lots of spare time on his hands and reading or listening to books takes up all that time. Check out his blog to find out what he's up to at any given moment.

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