Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Book of Revelation has long held the popular (and prurient) interest of the people. With the end of the current millenium approaching, there is a rise in interest in eschatology and the battle of Armageddon predicted in St. John's book. David Drake and Billie Sue Mosiman have used this upsurge of interest to compile an anthology which takes twelve very different views of the ultimate battle.
The book opens with Elizabeth Moon's short, and somewhat disjointed, view of Armageddon as seen by a good old boy from Texas who is, more than anything else, a spectator at "The Last Battle." Her character is different from most in that while he may not have a direct role in battling the forces of evil, he is representative of the position the majority would be in given the events stipulated.
Harry Turtledove, naturally enough, views the final battle with an historical perspective. Presumably making use of the research he has been doing for his upcoming "The Great War" series, Turtledove gives a realistic portrayal of the tedious lifestyle of the men in the trenches at the Battle of Verdun. Although his Frenchmen never fully understand the situation they are in, the reader is given more than enough information to understand without an explicit explanation.
S.M. Stirling also looks at an historical scenario. In "Riding Shotgun to Armageddon," he uses the background from his recent novel, Island in the Sea of Time and focuses on a Nantucket renegade who has brought guns to Egypt.
Esther Friesner successfully looks at Armageddon in a humorous fashion, although her character, Mrs. Lurie, seems familiar as a woman who simply takes the coming of the world in stride. "Mrs. Lurie and the Rapture" seems to owe as much to the British tradition of P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome as it does to the sf-nal tradition which marks this anthology.
Not all the stories in Armageddon work well. Joel Rosenberg's short "The Call" seems to have ended in mid-stream and doesn't pack the punch it should. Gregory Nicoll's "O'er the Land of the Freaks and the Home of the Braves" is a cute story set in a near future post-apocalyptic society. Although Nicoll tries to infuse the story with humor, it doesn't really work as a humorous story.
All in all, Armageddon is a better collection than many which appear today. The authors, for the most part, created serious scenarios and treated them with respect. If the book has one drawback it is the theme itself. All the stories are obviously war stories dealing with the end of the world. While not a bad thing in and of itself, it can grow a bit wearisome after reading the first half-dozen or so stories. Nevertheless, a good collection to dip into and read a story at a time.
|Elizabeth Moon||The Last Call|
|Harry Turtledove||Ils Ne Passeront Pas|
|Joel Rosenberg||The Call|
|Carla Montgomery||Leeward of Broken Jerusalem|
|Gregory Nicoll||O'er the Land of the Freaks and the Home of the Braves|
|S.M. Stirling||Riding Shotgun to Armageddon|
|William C. Dietz||Dead Men Talk A Lot|
|Billie Sue Mosiman||A Watery Silence|
|Mark L. Van Name||Basic Training|
|Esther Friesner||Mrs. Lurie and the Rapture|
|David Drake||With the Sword He Must Be Slain|
|Margaret Ball||Twelve Gates to the City|
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