Are seven authors better than one? No. Nevertheless, The Mongoliad: Book One by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, and Cooper Moo is still an intriguing and exciting adventure. Set at a point during the Mongol incursions into Europe at which the possibility of total Mongol conquest seemed most dire, the story is broken into three threads:
Thread A concerns gladiatorial combat between European and Mongol contestants. The games have been called by Ohghwe Khan, ostensibly to decide the fate of Europe, though few are fooled into believing the Khan would turn back should his champions be defeated. The Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae, an order of Christian warrior monks, seeks to prolong the games as others from their order set out on a mad quest to kill the Khan of Khan’s.
Thread B follows this suicidal team of medieval commandos on their foray into Mongol territory. Action packed hijinks ensue.
Thread C, by far the most interesting, takes place at the court of Ogedei, the Khan of Khan’s. The Great Khan’s brother has sent an emissary to Ogedei’s court with the hope that this emissary, a young warrior by the name of Gansukh, will be able to pull him back from the brink of an alcohol fueled descent into insularity and self-destruction. Gansukh’s struggle to find his place at court and break through to the Khan, with the help of his beautiful Chinese tutor in courtly manners, Lian, is the heart and soul of the book.
Unfortunately, none of these threads are tied up, or even left at a suitable stopping point, by the end of the book. If you are bothered by this sort of thing, you might be better off waiting for the trilogy to conclude. Fortunately, we have a pretty good idea when that will be. The content of The Mongoliad is adapted from a serially released online project which has already concluded. Given that the first book was published April 24, 2012 and that the second book will be published September 25, 2012, we can expect the third book to conclude the trilogy on or before February 26, 2013. Mark your calendar.
-Aaron K. Brumley, IT