The Peshawar Lancers

by S.M. Stirling

Reviewed by Coral


What if during the time of Disraeli comets struck the Earth, causing the collapse of civilization as we know it? What would the world be like 200 years after this Fall?

These are the questions S.M. Stirling tries to answer in The Peshawar Lancers. His view of a post-apocalyptical world sees the English and French Empires of the early 19th century scrambling in a mass exodus towards their colonies in, respectively, India and Africa. This puts them at odds with the native populations, who clamor for independence. There are also powerful caliphs who control the Middle East, and Dai-Nippon, a united Japan and China. But, who the British should be most worried about is Russia.

Unlike most other peoples, the Russians didn't flee from the Fall, they survived it by descending into a cannibalistic, barbaric Satanism. This should have left them as no real threat to anybody, except that the Fall caused an unexpected reaction in a group of Russian women. Called the Dreamers, they can see many possible futures by seeing the outcomes of any action or choice. This helps the Russians know who can be bought and helps them assassinate men and women who would have become threats years before they rise to greatness. This makes Russia an enemy to fear, especially since they don't hesitate to sell the information gained through their Dreamers to the rest of Britain's enemies.

Now, to save the world from extinction, Athelstane King and his sister Cassandra must try to understand why their family has been targeted by the Russians, and to save themselves from assassination.

This book has some pretty weak plot points; or, more accurately, "contrivances". First, you have the Dreamers, unarguably Russia's greatest national treasure/secret, and they are left completely unguarded? These are women who can go, so if I try to escape Wednesday I'll be caught and executed, Thursday I'll die out in the desert, but Friday I'll make it to safety, so Friday it is. Does that make sense? To anyone?

Next, why is the man charged with gathering and interpreting the information from the Dreamers the same man who goes out and acts on the information? Shouldn't that be, at the very least, two different positions?

There were too many stray plot points that didn't go anywhere, too much time wasted on unnecessary and pointless romantic subplots. And, please, an imperial princess who can go waltzing up to the door of known traitors as part of a plan to rescue some guy? Ridiculous.

And, lastly, what year are we in? Can we please have bad guys who want something more than to destroy the world? That storyline is more than a little tired.

No spark, no passion. I almost couldn't bring myself to finish reading it. I'll give it points for an interesting concept, but the execution was dreadfully lacking throughout.

Grade: D