Agent of Byzantium

Harry Turtledove

Hodder & Stoughton 1988
A book review by Danny Yee © 1994
What if Justinian had succeeded in rebuilding the Roman Empire and Mohammed had been a Christian archbishop and saint? In the alternative 13th century world of Agent of Byzantium a powerful Byzantine empire faces a Franco-Saxon kingdom in the west, Persia in the east and nomads on the steppes. In a series of six short stories the hero, Basil Argyros, soldier and secret agent, confounds the enemies of the empire, in the process discovering smallpox innoculation and ferreting out the secrets of the telescope, gunpowder, distillation and the printing press. This is a bit implausible really, but the emphasis on technological discoveries is probably due to the intended audience (the stories were originally published in hard science fiction magazines) and it makes for a good story. Agent of Byzantium is hardly very deep, but it's a lot of fun as simple adventure even if you don't enjoy the alternative history.

August 1994

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%T Agent of Byzantium
%A Turtledove, Harry
%I Hodder & Stoughton
%D 1988
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0450421724
%P 246pp