Tonight I finished reading The Mongoliad: Book One (The Foreworld Saga)by Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, and E.D. deBirmingham. The reason for the long list of authors is that The Mongoliad “was originally conceived and presented as a community-driven, enhanced, serial novel that could be read on your Web browser, smart phone, or tablet,” and was hosted at mongoliad.com.
I originally started reading the book online, then downloaded the app for my iPad. In its original, serialized form, I found it hard to keep track of where I was in the story after coming back from a break, so I never finished it. The web site and app were pretty but lacked a good bookmarking function.
Thankfully, The Mongoliad is now available in book form, either printed on dead trees or electronically for your Kindle or as an audio book. It’s being published as a trilogy, with the first book available now. Book 2 is slated for release in September 2012,
The genesis of The Mongoliad came from the authors’ interest in medieval Western martial arts:
It all started with sword fighting, of course. My co-authors and I are part of a Western martial arts study group that practices in a non-descript loft in Seattle. A lot of the initial impetus for the group came from Neal Stephenson who had realized the sword fighting in his earlier novels was lacking the input from individuals with actual expertise. In the course of learning about the history of Western martial arts, he coaxed a couple other writers into the same circle. From there, the idea of writing a saga about the complex history of Western martial arts was born. Since the idea grew out of a group experience, it seemed best to continue the collaborative aspect of the project, and that was how the core team of Neal, Greg Bear, E.D. deBirmingham, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear, Cooper Moo, and myself came together.
I discovered if from a link on BladeForums.com as I was perusing the Sword Discussions subforum.
The book is set in the year 1241 as Europe faces the onslaught of the Mongol Hordes of Ogedei Khan. Rather than strictly sticking with the historical 1241, the authors have described it as a fantasy version of 1241. This doesn’t mean that it’s full of wizards and monsters, but that events in the book may diverge from our history.
The action is good and fast paced. I am far from an expert in martial arts but the fight scenes seem pretty realistic. Parts which deal with archery could use some improvement. For example, on more than one occasion archers are described as drawing their bows and holding people at arrow point for an extended period of time. As anyone who’s shot a powerful bow understands, this isn’t possible. You’ll tire quickly. This would especially be true of 13th Century bows, whether European or Mongol, since either would have draw weights of 65 pounds on the light side. Many bows of the period had draw weights exceeding 100 pounds.
Some of the character development is good while others lag. For example, one of the Mongol characters’ development is laid out well, while most of the European characters feel static. However, even though they haven’t really developed, they are still likeable for the most part.
Overall, though, it’s a good read and I do recommend it if you have any interest in this historical period.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member and you have a Kindle you can “borrow” The Mongoliad for free. To do so, open the Kindle Store on your device, search for it by name, and select the option to borrow it. You cannot do this if you’re using a Kindle app on a computer or mobile device, it has to be on Kindle hardware.