I was in Chicago a few months ago and used a few free minutes to walk from my hotel to the nearest, open bookstore (I forget the name). Whenever I’m in a new city, I like to visit a local, non-chain bookstore and buy a book. It’s just a thing I do.
While browing an old fashioned metal wire turn rack (like they used to have on drugstores, stocked with things like Doc Savage novels and Harlequin romances), I saw Aldair, Master of Ships. It looked cool, so I bought it, but later realized it was a second book in a series.
So, here we are, reading the first book, Aldair in Albion.
It’s nothing groundbreaking, but does offer a nice, new twist.
The world is similar to late Republic/early Imperial Rome, with various people’s given names similar to things like Gaulish tribe (the Venicii) and the Vikings (Vikonen), but all filtered through a Robert E. Howard-esque, Hyperborean sensibility. But while not state outright, the author quickly lets us know that the characters are not human. They aren’t properly described, because the third person limited perspective of Aldair, via the narrative, already knows what people look like. But words like ‘pelt’ and ‘snout’ are dropped, as well as the fact that Aldair’s girlfriend, as it were, has more than the usual (for a human) number of nipples.
A reader of very basic knowledge will peg this as a post-apocalyptic novel, where animals have evolved and become dominant and the titular Albion is clearly England.
But, after 200 pages of standard, but generally exciting fantasy adventure, we get an interesting twist in the final five pages. No sign of a nuclear explosion, but rather, humans apparently genetically engineered the various humanoid peoples from animals (Aldair is descended from cows), dropped them in sci-fi style sleeper pods that opened all over the world. No word of where humans are, but the whole thing looks more like an experiment and Aldair commits himself to helping the genetically modified peoples of the world build their future, having been disgusted by humans.