The Excalibur Alternative by David Weber

The_Excalibur_AlternativePublished: 2002

Genre: military science fiction

Length: 352 pages

Setting: 14th century England up to a future Earth/Universe

Interest: It was a free book put on my Kindle a while ago, and I chose it because it fulfilled a letter on my reading challenge. You can still get it at Baen books (look here), although it’s no longer free.

Summary: Sir George Wincaster is taking his troops (English longbowmen and cavalry) across the Channel and is caught by a vicious storm. He’s prepared to go down with his ship, when he and all his remaining ships are transported into the hold of a giant spaceship. There, Sir Wincaster, his family, and all the remaining members of his army learn they’ve been acquired in order to fight for a Guild. The army is transported to many worlds where their job is usually to decimate the natives so they accept the Guild’s trade terms. Sir Wincaster, who came from 14th century England, slowly pieces together information to figure out what the Commander is doing and how to break free. The big break came when the dragonmen finally contact Sir Wincaster (turns out they’re mute telepaths) and coordinate a revolt. They take over the ship and then disappear. We return to the story when the Galactics have checked on Earth and discovered humans are advancing too quickly. Therefore, humans are declared a problem that must be eliminated. Just before the Galactic fleet destroys Earth, Sir Wincaster appears with dramatically advanced technology and destroys the Galactic fleet.

Final thoughts: A fun little story. I enjoyed the fact that the main character had no clue what was going on, so we were able to discover the purpose of the fighting along with Sir Wincaster. The Commander was so completely condescending to the “primitive humans” that he never suspected they would piece together a conspiracy against him. This was military fiction with a touch of science fiction, since all the battles were fought using 14th century tactics and weapons, at least until the very end. It’s always fun seeing English longbowmen put lots of holes in the enemy. But, don’t expect much in terms of relationships or female characters.

My big complaint was I would have liked to know we were in a different time and place when we switched to Earth. It took me a while to realize that we were no longer with Sir Wincaster’s group, but had traveled to a future Earth. It was interesting to see the new technology they were able to create after several hundred years.

Title comes from: The secret plan Sir Wincaster and his allies came up with to safeguard the human race was called the Excalibur Alternative.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 30/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, an E in A-Z Reading Challenge (which takes me to 18/26)


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