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A 50th anniversary edition of a true sci-fi classic
on 9 July 2012
As best I can tell, I read this book about 25 years ago when I borrowed it from the local library, and yet I never managed to pick up a copy for my very own, a failing I remedied when I saw the Baen 50th anniversary edition, with a plethora of loving introductions and the 1983 short story sequel "Quest". All of those parts add a little more meat to the book, for all in large part they consist of modern sci-fi authors admitting "I ripped off The High Crusade when I wrote X". Silverberg's introduction also points out some of the humour and in-jokes Anderson slipped in to his work: I'm sure there is a lot more there too.
As to the story itself, what can I say? All the other reviews are right: this is about knights in space, full of God and the right and Englishness (in all its Saxon-Viking-Norman glory). The tale is both completely improbable and improbably gripping. You think "that could never happen" and then you think - because you want to - well, hold on, I suppose...
It also helps if you sometimes look around at civilisation and wonder how we'd cope with a sudden invasion of take-no-prisoners barbarians.
This is sci-fi, adventure, tragedy and comedy. You laugh out loud at the audacity of writing it, and wonder whether Anderson ever read (and expanded the concept in) Manly Wade Wellman's "Day of the Conquerors" out of Amazing Stories magazine. Its just good clean fun at its finest. You can't ask for more than that.