The Great Eastern Q7: Further Reading


What other books can you recommend along these lines? We've read a few here at the club that played fast and loose with historical characters:

  1. The Bronze God of Rhodes by L. Sprague de Camp was a more successful example in which several historical characters were mashed togeether in a sprawling adventure to save the city of Rhodes.
  2. Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith, a sort of swash-buckling biblical effort which pitted a fictional hero against Herod, was less successful.
  3. Not a book club pick, but earlier this year I read the rather good The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker, in which a fictional lodger rents a room in the house of H.P. Lovecraft.
  4. And in the Brian Evenson's review mentioned in one of the other questions, he compares The Great Eastern to another book that features a Post-Pequod Ahab: Ahab's Return, or The Last Voyage, by Jeffrey Ford - an Author I did not know despite his having earned several awards in the genres I usually follow:

What else can we add?


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    The Bronze God of Rhodes was immense fun. I've already mentioned Anno Dracula and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for reusing fictional characters. Recently I read The Stress of Her Regard (Tim Powers) featuring Byron and Shelley as major characters. Some other Tim Powers novels do the same, for example On Stranger Tides (Blackbeard), The Anubis Gates (again Byron), and Declare (Kim Philby). All o these are very good (book club pick time?)

    Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) seems worth mentioning here. So does Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett); the major characters are invented, but King Stephen and the Empress Matilda are prominent. Both are huge books though.

    Most of the characters in Lindsay Davis' Falco novels are fictional, but the emperor Vespasian, and his sons Titus and Domitian are prominent. Simon Scarrow's Eagles of the Empire series has an invented pair of protagonists, but Claudius and Narcissus appear, as do Vespasian and Vitellius during the Roman conquest of Britain (with Vitellius as a notable baddie, and point of view chapters from Vespasian's point of view).

    If we're talking novels about the Roman Empire, the emperor of all of these has to be I, Claudius (Robert Graves). Unless we believe that Livia was a mass poisoner, it's a fictional repurposing of existing characters (hm, another tempting book club pick?)

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    I second the recommendation of Tim Powers, and the Falco books. I mentioned the Flashman books in a different thread, but they're not to everyone's taste.

    Sharpe and Hornblower also feature historical figures and historical events.

  • 1

    Good call on the Tim Powers books - Philby definitely didn't cavort with genies on Mount Ararat! I'm not as convinced by Wolf Hall or the other historical fiction mentioned. Of course, Wolf Hall used historical characters, but it used them to tell their own historical story, rather than some other totally fictional story. And the likes of the Falco, Aubrey, or Sharpe stories (which I am currently reading and which feature Wellesley quite frequently) are principally about fictional characters, though historical characters do make a cameo.

    What about fictional characters, re-used by another author as the protagonist of a new story?

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    The nerd-culture example of this is most superhero comics. All sorts of people have written stories for existing characters.

    There are plenty of stories with Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, written by different authors. Both also have derivatives and new characters based on the archetype.

    Is there something here about "iconic" and "dramatic" characters? "Iconic" characters are the ones who remain the same throughout their stories, while "dramatic" ones change over time. Bond is an iconic character; Casiopea from the last book is a dramatic one.

    Because they're unchanging, iconic characters are easy to insert into new stories.

  • 1
    Right. And now I’m reminded that I had flagged a short story collection called _The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes_ on Audible.
  • 0

    @Apocryphal said:
    What about fictional characters, re-used by another author as the protagonist of a new story?

    Yes, I thought that was what this thread was about, and got confused by the straight historical fiction titles being quoted :)

    I suppose you could class most fan fiction in this category - there are lots of Star Trek and Stargate books out there, of widely differing quality. But some are definitely excellent, and certainly fit the bill of reusing a fictional character.

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    edited August 7

    My comment made no sense due to misreading the OP. I have nothing worthwhile to add, so I just deleted it. That seems to anger some people at times, so I made a second vacuous post to tell all what I did.

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    @clash_bowley As long as were not exceeding the vacuous post quotient, I think its fine.

  • 1

    Do we have a policy on that! I'm sure I have exceeded it on occasion!

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