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May 13, 2008


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Book Five in July? Ah, I must tell my wife about it.

As for Napoleon invading England, it always perplexes her when I say that, where I come from, the little Corsican isn't considered a bad guy.

Napoleon is not presented as an entirely bad guy here; on one ethical point he's clearly superior to the British. I suspect this will be an interesting factor in the next book.

Vs guvatf sbyybj ba nf V fhfcrpg, naq gur Serapu vainqref bssre gur qentbaf yvorengvba naq rdhnyvgl, ubj svez vf gurve yblnygl gb Ratynaq yvxryl gb or? Gur boivbhf cnenyyry vf Yvapbya serrvat gur fynirf va gur Nzrevpna Pvivy Jne. Qrsvavgryl n punyyratr sbe Grzrenver - vf uvf yblnygl gb Ratynaq orpnhfr bs Ynherapr be gb qentbaxvaq? Naq jbhyq Ynherapr or jvyyvat gb pbzcebzvfr ba gur sbezre gb freir gur pnhfr bs gur ynggre? V'yy or phevbhf gb frr ubj Abivx unaqyrf guvf pbasyvpg.

I am so tempted to read your rot-13'ed comment, but I haven't read the series yet. I must not succumb to Temptation.

Meanwhile, if Napoléon had vanquished England in our History, I wonder if his Empire would have outlived him. I wonder but I have no answer, due to my spotty knowledge of History.

[Author field edited to remove "has an OFF-TOPIC comment" --Susan]

Drat. I had forgotten to take that 'off-topic' thing from my name. My apologies.

Fixed by the magic of comment-editing authority. :)

Whether Napoléon's empire would outlive him was a concern at the time, hence his marriage to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1811, after the birth of his son he was trying to make a final settlement for Europe.

The problem was the British support for Spain and Portugal. If he could just get the British to the negotiating table... if the "continental system" (a trade embargo) held just a little longer..

(As it happens the continental system was harming Europe more than Britain, and then the Russians repoened trade with Britain and the rest is well known history)

If I have a problem with the books, it's the usual one to do with dragons - they're eating a tremendous number of animals as in enough to feed a small city. Is there really enough grazing land to do this? Won't this price meat out of all but the very richest?

I'd not heard the title of Book 5, and all I can say is yikes!

Re. Book 5: I can only surmise that the titular plot development happens so early in the book that it's not considered a significant spoiler. But that seems weak to me.

Or, I suppose, either Novik or her publisher could be counting on rampaging historical ignorance such that the title isn't a dead giveaway. Sadly, that might well be true in much of America, though less so among SF fans, I would think (on the theory that SF fans are also often history buffs and frequently have an affinity for O'Brian and Heyer.) But in England? (Do the books have a UK publisher?)

Neil Willcox: hence his marriage to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor

Still, I wonder. Did Bonaparte plan for a system of government that would have allowed his successor to hold things together even if the latter didn't have his strenght of personality and of will? Especially when the conquered territoties were on the same technological level, to begin with...

For what it's worth, "Victory of Eagles" means nothing to me. But then, my knowledge of Napoleon's military activities pretty much begins and ends with the Hundred Days.

Paul A:
Explanation in rot13 if you want it.

Gur rntyr jnf Ancbyrba'f urenyqvp qrivpr, naq rntyrf jrer cynprq ng gur gbc bs nyy uvf ertvzragny fgnaqneqf. (Frr: uggc://jjj.ancbyrbavprntyrf.pbz/) Ancbyrba'f fbyqvref sbhtug yvxr penml gb xrrc gurve fgnaqneqf (gurve "rntyrf") sebz snyyvat vagb rarzl unaqf. V'z ab rkcreg ba Ancbyrba, ohg V rkcrpg ur zbqryrq gurz nsgre gur rntyrf ba gur fgnaqneqf bs gur Ebzna Yrtvbaf qhevat gur Ebzna Rzcver, nf hfrq gb cbrgvp rssrpg ol Xvcyvat va uvf cbrz "Evzvav":

Vg'f gjragl-svir znepurf gb Aneob,
Vg'f sbegl-svir zber hc gur Eubar,
Naq gur raq znl or qrngu va gur urngure
Be yvsr ba na Rzcrebe'f guebar.
Ohg jurgure gur Rntyrf borl hf,
Be jr tb gb gur eniraf--nybar,
V'q fbbare or Ynyntr'f ybire
Guna fvg ba na Rzcrebe'f guebar!

Fb n gvgyr yvxr Ivpgbel bs Rntyrf vf, funyy jr fnl, fgebatyl fhttrfgvir bs n Ancbyrbavp ivpgbel.

Did Bonaparte plan for a system of government that would have allowed his successor...

Would it have worked? On balance probably not. But in 1810 he was in his early 40s and in good health. If he'd been able to get Britain to accept a peace, he expected to have at least 20 years to sort out his problems.

He was actually quite popular in many parts of Europe he conquered; they were exchanging distant feudal overlords for a distant autocrat who gave them a rational legal system and the chance to vote for their own mayors and local government.

Susan, there is a UK publisher; the first book was called Temeraire rather than His Majesty's Dragon over here.

And (for my informal and statistically invalid survey), do you also find the title of Book 5 a dead giveaway?

Napoleon, like any other autocrat, had the succession problem - what happens when the one person holding things together leaves the scene? He could have established a bureaucracy that would keep the empire running more or less independent of whatever warm body was in the head-of-state role. Or he could have trained, fathered, or otherwise acquired a successor with the ability to take over. The classic problem with the latter idea is that such successors tend to get impatient about waiting their turn unless you have a strong hereditary tradition already in place. (English monarchs haven't gone in for bumping off their predecessors, at least for the last several hundred years, but an emperor who came to power militarily sets a rather dangerous example of how to achieve power.)

So I think it comes down to, given peace with Britain and 20 years to work on it, whether Napoleon had sufficient vision and ability to establish a framework that would continue to function more-or-less independent of his successor - that means devolving some measure of power - or sufficient luck to get a successor who could keep the whole thing going.

And since my knowledge of Napoleon is limited, I don't know the answer to either question.

I'm not calling to mind any alternate history fiction that involves Napoleon making peace with Britain and continuing to rule long enough for this to be a problem. Does anyone know of any?

Susan... I'm not calling to mind any alternate history fiction that involves Napoleon

Neither am I. I just heard back from my friend Elisabeth, who is from France and whose father joined the French army during the Great War, and she couldn't think of any title either.


Hmm... The immediate connection I had was Eagles + Napoleonic Wars = Sharpe's Eagle. Hence Victory of Eagles suggests Napoleon wins. Yes, give away.

As for Napoleonic alternate history, a book on the 1812 Russian campaign mentioned this:


from 1836. The oldest novel length French language alternate history.

I realise now that giving Napoleon 20 years from 1810 to create a stable empire is exactly the right amount of time; if you were creating an alternate history of France, you'd want to set up some equivalence to the 1830 revolution.

Neil Willcox... I don't think I've ever heard of the book. As for its recent edition, it's 25 years old, but I wonder if one of my buddettes up in Québec could easily find it in a used-book store.

Heh, heh...

My library has multiple copies, including one in English translation!

Susan... My library has multiple copies

I think you once wrote that, if an earthquake hit, and you happened to be in your bedroom at that time, you'd die from the weight of all the books that'd fall on your head. I'm afraid that, from now on, every time we mention a book that people are unlikely to own, you'll just happen to have it. It's like Wong's Lost & Found Emporium...

That being said, would you be willing to part with a copy of the French edition? Do write to my email address for the terms.

My bedroom is actually in my library - I was so used to having my books around me in various apartments that when I moved to my house, I felt anxious and moved my bed in among the bookshelves. I really need to get over this one of these years.

But in this case, I misled you unintentionally. I don't have copies in my personal library. But there are four copies in the university library, to which I have borrowing access. There's a French edition in storage, which I have ordered and which hopefully will be delivered to the closest branch by Friday. And there's an English edition within reach which I may wander off at lunch today to pick up. Alas, I can hardly re-loan them, though if they aren't too large perhaps I can make a photocopy. I might try to read it in French with the English edition at hand for reference when I stick on vocabulary.

Things like this are why I have a day job at a major research university!

Thanks for the offer. Like I said, I'll ask my friends in Québec City if they could dig up a copy in a bookstore up there. Should they not succeed, I may take you up on your offer of photocopies.

I felt anxious and moved my bed in among the bookshelves. I really need to get over this one of these years.

I don't see why. It's neat to having books around. When I moved to my own place, I had bookshelves right next to my bed. It's been years since I've had a place small enough that I had to do this. Still, thinking about it, it's a nice feeling.

Yes, but it makes it a little awkward to show company my library, especially since I tend to leave my bed unmade! And it's a little odd to have things arranged such that (for example) my clothing is actually on a different floor from my bedroom.

The essential problem is that I am living in two separate apartments in a multifamily home, and can't fully combine them because the third apartment is rented out so I have to maintain the separate stairwells and such. So the usual things one keeps in a bedroom are split between the library (2nd floor) and the original kitchen (1st floor), while I keep a temp kitchen on the 2nd floor. When I can afford to renovate the real kitchen (next year?) then everything is going to have to be rearranged, at which time I need to switch my bed into the current guest room and the foldout sofa into the library. Then I can reunite with my bureau.

This year's project is renovating the first floor bathroom - I plan to start gutting it next month with hopes of having it complete by October for my usual horde of Assembly-related houseguests.

This year's project is renovating the first floor bathroom

Considering your recent watery adventures, doesn't your kitchen need a new ceiling, considering that the old ceiling fell down to the kitchen floor?

Well, yes, but that's not a major renovation, just a repair. Major renovation involves opening it up down to the studs. Both the first floor kitchen and bathroom need this, and I decided to do the bathroom first because (1) it's cheaper, (2) it's more critical to have a second bathroom when I have seven or eight houseguests than it is to have a nice kitchen, since I don't cook much, and (3) it can be done without having to rearrange the functions of other rooms in the house. The first floor kitchen is currently a giant storage closet for clothing and costumes, so when I renovate it, all the stuff currently there will have to go somewhere, which means a lot of rearranging of rooms. The bathroom is more of a discrete project. And right now the only thing functional in it is the sink, which leaks.

Guess what book I just got an English-language copy of from the library!

The French one is on its way as well, but if it doesn't show up by Friday I can already tell I will not be able to resist reading this over the weekend.

Guess what book

What could it be?
What could it be?

I just picked up the French-language copy! I can see why I had to summon it - it's actually an 1841 edition! I'll give it a go in French with the English translation at hand for reference.

"French-language copy, I summon thee!"

A 1841 edition? Yikes. I'd be afraid of touching it, let alone reading it. Let us hope no plumbing problems are unleashed upon your abode.

I'm used to handling old books in my research, and this one is in very good shape as such things go.

One thing is sure, I'm not going to ask for the French text to be photocopied.

I got to talk to Naomi Novik at Balticon and from what she said, I think there's a possibility the title of Book 5 is deliberately misleading. (She came and danced with us at our Dover & Trafalgar Victory Ball; I was so pleased!)

Oooh, that is nice.

I still haven't read my Napoleon Apocryphe, but I just needed to come to Rixo and share with whoever is dedicated enough to follow the comments:

Squee, squee, squee, squee!

Really, it's pertinent, and I will hopefully be able to explain soon.


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