Tuesday, 16 February 2016

#Tuesday Topic...Alternate history

My Tuesday Topic is alternate history.

I think I may have mentioned it once or twice...I love history. All periods but I'm just a teensy bit obsessed by Ancient Rome and in particular the legacy of the Romans in Scotland. It's an intriguing idea to do the 'what if' thing about the Romans and wonder what my country of Scotland would have been like if the Romans had settled here after the Agricolan Campaigns. 

It's very interesting to wonder what it would be like if a small nucleus of Ancient Roman society had remained intact, occupying a small territory for the ensuing centuries after A.D. 395. How changed would they have become by contemporary times? 

In the case of Scotland being so far away from Rome, or so far even from Constantinople at the time of Theodosius in A.D. 395 which was the centre of the Roman Empire for a while, I can envisage that Roman society could have remained almost intact in Scotland for centuries afterwards-especially if they had conquered the Highlands.  However, in my studies about Ancient Rome, it seems reasonable to say that there would also have been some sort of merging of local 'Celtic/Pictish at A.D 395' customs with Roman ones (I say this since it's what they did regarding local gods and festivals). Though, keeping the borders of the country free of outside attack and outside influence is quite a challenging concept. 

Although the Ancient Romans didn't, in reality, settle in Scotland they have passed down a legacy to the country via other influences. Christianity; the law; a single kinship rather than the rule of lesser princes of tribal structure, and education being the most obvious ones- though these have been established in Scotland via outside influences and acquired and adapted as other domination of the country has occurred. 

In Inceptio, #Book 1 of the Roma Nova series, Alison Morton sets out her concept of what Roma Nova would be like in the 21st century. She states in the foreword that Roman Nova's continued existence has been based on 3 things: 
  • exploitation and trade of high grade silver from their mountains 
  • efficient technology
  • and their response to any threat. 
Not without problems over the centuries, Roma Nova has recently survived a major male-dominated coup (some 2 decades before the novel starts) but now retains its female led leadership. 

The first point above, I think would have generated a considerable amount of trade and as such Roman Nova would have been influenced by other countries as they developed and changed. 

The second point about having efficient technology would also have been acquired via outside influences and education. 

The third point would have required a strong defensive force to maintain some degree of autonomy and repel any invaders. As such the Ancient Roman Army was very good at defending its territory but ...the Ancient Roman Empire was also such an aggressive force that I can't seen how retaining Roman ways would not have included some of this Roman expansion over the centuries. 

I read the foreword with anticipation and looked forward to reading about what Miss Morton envisaged as 'Still Roman' aspects of Roma Novan society. I maybe wanted too much because I found little of Ancient Rome in her story- even of the Theodosian era - and a lot of the current US or western societies of today. 

I've read a lot of contemporary romantic thrillers over the last years where the feisty heroine becomes a crack FBI agent, or Special Forces Operative in order to fight the darker side of society. I've thoroughly enjoyed those stories if they've been well written - even those which have been 'over the top' believable. Inceptio has Karen Brown who becomes everything in an amazingly short time. She even sets up the capture of an EUS led drugs ring and prevents what could be a serious drugs flow into Roma Nova- all done in an incredibly short time in what was a totally foreign country to her. As a contemporary thriller the plot is fast paced, exciting and entertainingly imaginative.

If I want to suspend belief and read a thriller novel of pure escapism then I'd read Inceptio very happily. Calling the tiny European country Roman Nova is fine, but unfortunately I can't grasp any alternate history aspect to Inceptio apart from Latin being the spoken language. I don't read or speak Latin but knowing what I do about Scottish Gaelic (which is limited) when I watch Gaelic TV the language is now peppered with almost as many modern English words, used because the English language is constantly acquiring new words to accommodate the technological advancement of today and Gaelic uses the same words.

I'm thinking I might need to read more of what is called 'Alternate history' to see if I can work out how it varies from 'new worlds' fantasy, or the genre of political thrillers in a fictitious country, or an Army/ Cop action adventure. 

Maybe alternate history just isn't the genre for me! 

Here's what I wrote on Goodreads. I've given it 3 and 1/2 stars because it's a well written novel. 
(And though I didn't mention it on Goodreads, I love the cover! )

Inceptio (#1Roma Nova Series) being an alternate history was an intriguing concept for me to try, but sadly it didn’t work for me. The story was certainly fast paced where the heroine finds herself in all sorts of deadly scrapes which she recovers from remarkably quickly. She’s an amazingly quick study at learning languages, the law of Roma Nova, becoming an undercover cop and at morphing into a tough special ops agent as well. In fact, in a matter of months, her total immersion means she’s fluent in everything about her new country which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Ancient Rome at all, apart from the inhabitants speaking Latin and having Latin names. The US and Roma Nova don’t seem much different and have amazingly aged over the centuries to be very similar places. Readers who are looking for a feisty James Bond type heroine in a fast paced thriller would probably love this book- the setting is immaterial to that. 

I'm off to do some personal WIP writing now...


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