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Wasteland of Flint Mass Market Paperback – 1 Apr 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; New title edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765341131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765341136
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 3.2 x 17.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,493,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an intriguing archaeological mystery, set in an alternate future where the Aztecs (supported by the Japanese) rule on Earth and several different kinds of aliens wait in the wings.

Ephesus III is an apparently empty world, but investigation soon shows that it was *Terra*formed by a former civilisation, some 3 million years in the past. Suddenly the "Palenque", the support ship for the investigators, goes dead and an Imperial Naval vessel is sent to find out what has happened.

Although the science isn't yet real, you feel that it could be possible and that makes this one good read!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Mystery and adventure in an intriguing alternate future, on an alien world.

Where Thomas Harlan's first fantasy series comprised the Alternate History 'Oath of Empire', his new 'Sixth Sun' saga, of which Wasteland of Flint is the first, is set in an alternate future.

What could have been a standard space opera is given a number of distinct and original dimensions, the most obvious being the domination of Human Space by the Méxica Empire, the descendants of the Aztecs. Humanity is now subject to the Méxica and their allies, foremost being the Japanese Nisei, who in colonising North America many centuries ago, brought horses, rice and metalworking to the New World. After a century of war in the Core of Human Space the defeated populations of the European Great Powers - Swedish-Russia and the Danish Empire have mostly scattered to the Rim World colonies.

All of Old Earth, Anáhuac as the Méxica name it, is now ruled from the imperial centre of Tenochtitlán. One interpretation of the name Méxica has it denoting the centre of the world, and in this reality the ambition of the Aztecs has found full expression. Human Space, however, is a small sphere compared with the gigantic scale of the galaxy, and the interstellar domain of Imperial Méxica is a minor power in a universe littered with remnants of inimical and ancient alien civilisations.

The basic premise of the story is familiar. The presentation and expression of it in Wasteland of Flint is sufficiently different to make the novel fresh and, as the questions mount up, a page turner.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not mentioning the plot, as learning it is one of the joys of this book. Although described as an 'alternate history' that part of the background is blended so well you won't even realise that you're learning both Mexica and Japanese as you progress through the story. I can't recommend this (and House of Reeds - it's indirect sequel) enough. It contains no padding, no unnecessary character tivia and is superbly written throughout.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fine book. It has no pretensions to affecting literary grandeur, for entertainment is its raison d'être, but if you wish to entertain you must have believable, sympathetic characters, imagination, and a worthy antagonist. Here we have 'em all in spades, with great economy of writing - there is almost no wasted verbiage - and I recommend this book. The only thing preventing it from getting the full five stars is that the last third is a little spoiled by some silly mysticism. It fits well into the story and does move things along, but I would have prefered a more rational methodology from the characters.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars 25 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wasteland of Flint: First Rate Science Fiction 6 May 2003
By John Thomson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Wasteland of Flint, Thomas Harlan creates not only a mysterious new world, but also plunks it down in the middle of a surprising and tantalizing new social order. Wasteland uses a slate of interesting and powerful characters to peel away layers of intrigue that surround the planet of Ephesus 3, which exists within the auspices of the futuristic society controlled by the Mexica, the eventual (future) result of an intact and hegemonistic Aztec Empire on Earth. The tale unfolds in only about 430 pages; it comes up to full speed quickly and holds the reader's attention fast throughout. The plot is well developed and the story grows more compelling with each chapter.
Called upon to reveal to the readers the elusive secrets of Ephesus 3 is one Gretchen Anderssen, a talented young xenoarcheologist with more than her share of backbone, a trait that will serve her well in this assignment. Directed to Ephesus 3 to investigate an accident that has befallen the Palenque, an exploration ship in orbit around Ephesus, the Anderssen character immediately brings the new Mexica social order into play for the reader. Anderssen is the future equivalent of a disenfranchised minority, a person of Swedish decent; we learn that the Swedes, final opponents of Mexica's bid to take over Earth in its entirety, have been banished to other planets and are now treated as second-class citizens. The resulting social tension between Swede and Aztec is painted well enough by Harlan that it survives the duration of the story, and begins the process of depicting the complicated social order in Harlan's universe. As the pages turn, the setting becomes increasingly compelling, and the underlying social interplay is a sub theme that adds an important and colorful dimension to the novel.
As powerful a character as Gretchen becomes, she often plays second fiddle to a number of rich and interesting secondary characters. My personal favorite is Magdalena, a Hesht (a feline alien species). Cat-aliens have always seemed to me to be a bit cliché in contemporary science fiction (plus, I'm more of a dog person), but "Maggie" is a cut above. Maggie's character literally flies off the pages, drawing on many layers of development to become a compelling supporting character. I was fond of the imagery surrounding Maggie's mannerisms -- in particular her claws and several amusing nervous habits.
Green Hummingbird, an Imperial Mexica judge, begins as a minor character, but develops into a surprisingly powerful one, and is an important tool for the reader to learn about Mexica. Gretchen and Green Hummingbird form an improbable, but highly effective team through which Harlan tells much of his story. Hadeishi, a Japanese ship captain and his first officer also form an interesting and rich subplot that I enjoyed quite a bit. Finally, it's difficult to know whether to consider the elusive scientist, Russovsky, a character or not, but she is extremely intriguing, and not like any other character I can ever remember reading about. If nothing else, she is a moving metaphor for the pieces of ourselves that we leave behind when we're gone.
The characters come to life amid crisp and readable dialogue and a compelling social backdrop. At the same time, Harlan shows his mastery of imagery in both subtle and dramatic settings, making the text very enjoyable to read. For me, he successfully brought together many difficult elements of a top-notch story: a truly compelling setting, a meaningful and agile plot, strong characters and gripping writing that depicts powerful and satisfying images. This is as good a novel as I've read in quite a while. I enjoyed it thoroughly and can't wait for the next in the series. I give this effort five stars; you won't regret the time or money spent on this book.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An alternate future in a dangerous universe 28 Mar. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mystery and adventure in an intriguing alternate future, on an alien world.
Where Thomas Harlan's first fantasy series comprised the Alternate History 'Oath of Empire', his new 'Sixth Sun' saga, of which Wasteland of Flint is the first, is set in an alternate future.
What could have been a standard space opera is given a number of distinct and original dimensions, the most obvious being the domination of Human Space by the Méxica Empire, the descendants of the Aztecs. Humanity is now subject to the Méxica and their allies, foremost being the Japanese Nisei, who in colonising North America many centuries ago, brought horses, rice and metalworking to the New World. After a century of war in the Core of Human Space the defeated populations of the European Great Powers - Swedish-Russia and the Danish Empire have mostly scattered to the Rim World colonies.
All of Old Earth, Anáhuac as the Méxica name it, is now ruled from the imperial centre of Tenochtitlán. One interpretation of the name Méxica has it denoting the centre of the world, and in this reality the ambition of the Aztecs has found full expression. Human Space, however, is a small sphere compared with the gigantic scale of the galaxy, and the interstellar domain of Imperial Méxica is a minor power in a universe littered with remnants of inimical and ancient alien civilisations.
The basic premise of the story is familiar. The presentation and expression of it in Wasteland of Flint is sufficiently different to make the novel fresh and, as the questions mount up, a page turner.
What prevents the novel from being a rehash of the old haunted house in space is both the historical background and the gradual dawning of the realisation of the nature of the mystery.
Just as Oath of Empire rested on a substratum of Greek and Persian Myth, Sixth Sun has aspects of Aztec mythology hidden beneath it, as well as hints that might tenuously relate to the Cthulhu Mythos. Certain vague resonances stirred memories of HP Lovecraft's 'At the Mountains of Madness' and 'The Call of Cthulhu'. Other dimensions of the story also reminded me very slightly of Tim Power's 'Declare' and the Babylon 5 television series and its IPX archaeologists "Exploring the Past to make a better Future."
This is not to say that Wasteland of Flint is derivative, it isn't. At most, aspects of the novel pay homage to these and earlier Golden Age sources.
Contact has been lost with a commercial archaeology team conducting excavations on Ephesus III on the edge of known space. The Company redirects the xeno archaeologist Gretchen Anderssen and her team, uneasily supported by the crew of the IMN Cornuelle to recover the missing starship and her crew. Also aboard is the Méxica political officer and judge Green Hummingbird, who demonstrates both the traditions of a shaman and a disturbing fore knowledge of events. When the Cornuelle arrives it finds the ship in orbit, utterly deserted, and the desperate ground crew still alive. One geologist is missing. Ephesus III itself is something of a mystery: its geology is utterly jumbled with a massive mountain chain, the Escarpment running from pole to pole with some of the peaks rising above the thin atmosphere. Fossils found on the planet show early recognisable creatures, but they are totally unrelated to the weird primitive life forms now present. All the signs suggest that the planet suffered a catastrophe several million years before, in a period when the enigmatic First Sun civilisation was active in the galaxy.
Gradually the pieces of the puzzle accumulate. The initial suggestion of a murder mystery driven by academic rivalry is replaced by something much vaster and more dangerous. The background of the characters lend conflict to the story, as the disparate characters have to work together to prevent disaster. The dynamic between the scientist and the heir of Aztec sorcerers becomes a major focus, as the two main protagonists, entirely different in status and worldview are forced into an uneasy alliance against the hostile environment of Ephesus III itself. The landscape of Ephesus III is vividly drawn, and its wind-etched canyons and weird rock outcrops give a strong impression of an alien world. Glimpses of yawning gulfs of time and long dead alien civilisations offer a counterpoint to the very immediate struggle for survival.
The central mystery of the planet is ultimately revealed. But for every answer, more intriguing questions are raised, for this, although a standalone story, is the introduction to the saga of the Sixth Sun. According to Aztec myth, the previous five Suns ended in disaster. Future novels will doubtless describe and address the fate of the Sixth Sun.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wasteland of Boredom 6 Dec. 2005
By doomsdayer520 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One problem with science fiction is that the future societies and histories envisioned by writers are simple and predictable extensions of Western culture. Lately, many sci-fi writers have been experimenting with projections of non-Western cultures into the future and into outer space. Thomas Harlan has jumped on this bandwagon with an Aztec backdrop to this novel, but he does not have the skills with alternate history or cultural speculation to pull it off. (Incidentally, there is an obscure sci-fi author named Ernest P. Hogan who has integrated Aztec cultural motifs into exciting stories and intriguing characters, with far more believability and authenticity than Harlan.) The alternative future society here is supposedly evolved from a victorious Aztec empire that defeated the Europeans with help from the Asians, but this is merely used as window dressing with no real extrapolation into actual ethnic plot elements. Instead, Harlan mostly just throws Aztec names onto places and characters, as if this were authentic enough for an alternate history. Harlan's main attempt at Aztec authenticity is the Green Hummingbird character, who is supposed to represent an ancient Aztec high priest but comes across more like the enigmatic Chinese sage of old Charlie Chan stories.

Granted, the basic setting for this novel is a pretty interesting alien construct, and Harlan does show some strength as a writer of hard sci-fi, with truly plausible science. But the very thin Aztec façade covers a completely typical and slow-moving space opera with painfully tedious and predictable plot developments. Harlan's prose is dreadfully boring, with anal-retentive descriptions of the operations of spaceships and computers, slowing down the clunky, stilted dialogue and incomprehensible character developments. Much of the story dwells on the completely inessential intrigues between two main characters that have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever, Gretchen and Green Hummingbird. They're the stereotypical hard-working scientist who knows the truth against the stereotypical scheming bureaucrat who can't handle the truth. This type of character drama has been done a billion times, but usually with far more interest for the reader. And finally, Harlan is a member of the population of modern sci-fi writers who are so enamored with writing books in series that they don't even bother to make each volume a self-contained story, with purposeful loose ends and plot holes that are supposedly meant to make us yearn for a sequel. But after 400+ pages of a boring story that's already lurching along at a glacial pace, he owes it to us to just wrap it up already. [~doomsdayer520~]
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four and a half, really- it's only very slightly flawed. 23 Feb. 2004
By R. Kelly Wagner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Alternate history and space opera, yes, but not completely either one. I am a big fan of alt-history.
The alternate history part is, the Aztec conquered the world (and, as a rather odd side note, apparently separate, Jesus had a sister, who is as revered as the the Virgin Mother is). But the story takes place enough into the future in space exploration that all of that is background, and the main plot is secret weapons from previous galactic empires gone for millions of years. The way that Aztec mythology colors the people's way of thinking is interesting, as are the racial conflicts- the Nisei and Skawts (yes, that's Scots) retained more of their independence than most other cultures, while the English are nonexistent (the Duchy of Kent is an area of Skawtland) - the main languages (besides Nahuatl) are Norman and Japanese. If you are, as I am, interested in the development of languages, and comparisons between existing languages from their roots, you'll have fun with this. There doesn't seem to be any Italy, nor any remnants of Latin as a language, which I found interesting; there are people who are Maltese, and I'm wondering if that includes Italy rather than just the island of Malta in our universe. A lack of a Rome, to spread its version of Christianity, would explain some of the reasons that Europe is less warlike than others, and would explain no Spaniards and Portuguese conquering the New World. Teasing this sort of thing out from the background scenery is fun.
Suprisingly, the mystical elements didn't bother me much, even though I am not a big fantasy fan nor do I think much of psychic powers or mind reading. I didn't find them obtrusive, and some of the seemingly mystical stuff was given a plausible cover of drugs. I guess my attitude is that in this book it's easy enough to ignore them; one could skip over the shamanistic stuff lightly and still enjoy the vast majority of the book, and not miss any major plot elements.
A few little inconsistencies but nothing that really interrupts the flow of believing in the possibility of this history (for example, we alternate randomly between spelling Tukhachevsky's nationality as Russian and Rossiyan).
Incidentally, another reviewer mentioned that they hadn't read any other Aztec alt-histories; I recommend L. Neil Smith's _The Crystal Empire_ as one such, if you enjoy the idea. It's very different from this book, but quite a good complement, two very different possibilities. There are several other alt-hists where the Aztecs are still a major world power albeit not the world's rulers; if I can find them in our house (family motto: I know it's in here *somewhere*) I will do a List of them for your reading pleasure.
A few other incidentals which some people may want to know about: yes there are aliens, but they are not a major part of the plot, although one such is one of our main characters. No, there's almost no romance, and no sex scenes at all - many space operas have a large helping of romance, but this isn't one of them. No, we don't have any major scenes of bloody violence, no giant gun battles in outer space nor hand to hand combat on the ground; the war here is cultural, and such bad guys as there are, are not total evil villians; resolution of that subplot is interesting but does not depend on armies and strength of weapons. Which is, when you think about it, rather unusual for space opera.
Last but not least, a sequel is in the works; a very short excerpt from it is in the back of the book. I plan to buy it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - and Powerful 4 Aug. 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do believe this is the first novel in 40 years of reading SF that I can recall as an alternate history Aztec space empire. Characterizations of Ms. Anderssen (the Russo-Swede xenoarcheologist)whose family remembers their conquest by the Azteca), Green Hummingbrid (Mexaca judge), the various aliens and the strong but "low ranked" Japanese warship officers and marines (sounding and acting like WWII warriors, albiet Azteca space navy). The story twists and turns from a bit of mental rebellion of the lower "class" europeans and aliens, the tough but subservient Japanese warriors and the ore "pirates" and their mining ship (that "flies" in a supporting but crucial role). Finally, a bit of a surprise ending, though one which says something about our own cultural/international clashes. If you like Turtledove, on some levels this neat novel is much more sophisticated - if not as action packed.
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