Just my Opinion: The Belisarius Series

I’ve re-read the first four volumes, and read the last two, of the Belisarius series, by Eric Flint and David Drake.

Overall, it’s an entertaining series. It covers a period of history and geographic locations that we don’t often get to see in movies or in book or TV series, and it manages to convey that feeling of authenticity you want from an historical novel without falling into the trap of endless descriptions or pontificating.

As alternate history, of course, we get a sci-fi veneer, but thankfully the authors manage to keep it fairly low-key. The focus is entirely on the in-period conflict; the bigger sci-fi framing story gets a few lines (if even that) in the first five books, and gets resolved almost as an afterthought in the epilogue of the sixth book.

Also… the series is blessedly short. Six short-to-medium novels, no dangling plot hooks, no unreasonable plot twists, and no long stretches of “well, here’s mildly interesting filler.” Sure, by the end of Book 4 you’re wondering how can the bad guys ever come back from the latest defeat… but unlike some other series I could name, by then we’re almost to the finish line.

And… this is the big one for me as a writer: the series ends well. Sure, it’s a happy ending, but what I mean is that the ending is well-paced, doesn’t invalidate the series conflict, but also doesn’t pretend that everything will be perfect forever afterward. It’s exactly the right amount of closure.

The series isn’t perfect. It overuses the same jokes over and over again. It doesn’t pretend the good guys are perfect, but the bad guys often fall into comic-book clichés or Chaotic Stupid behaviour. And there’s a distinct glint of plot armour on many of the main characters which got on my nerves at the end. Those are all small issues, however – the kind of thing I try to pay attention to, so that I don’t make the same mistakes in my writing.

But overall, it’s worth a read. Maybe not three or four re-reads, however.

And… that’s it for the Just my Opinion posts for a while. I’ve started on Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, which is fantastic so far… but oh god it’s seven volumes long!



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