The Geomancer


Daughter of the Empire

Tomas L. Martin has reviewed Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughterfor SFCrowsnest with the intriguing description that it is "worthy sequel in spirit to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."Which it is, as the book serves, as he says, as a"a strong, dynamic analysis of what happens when a nation grows too far and collapses under the pressure of its ambition." And there is a large part of the narrative that is a retelling of the history of Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodius (who will be somewhat familiar to fans of the film Gladiator,yes), only that all this history is seen through the person of Justa, the daughter of the title. To me, her voice and her personal story are more powerful than the history she witnesses, which while it has a lot to say about the fall of empire (and, I believe, our own recent efforts at empire-building), is a vehicle for a very personal look at family. My two cents.

Update: Ah, and here comes a review on Neth Space that is the third one to use that word "compelling"when referring to Justa. They echo a little of what I'm talking about when they say, "The story gains new dimensions as it moves forward – becoming as much the story of Justa as the general. We slowly learn bits and pieces of Justa’s past as she relates the story of her father. As an empire decays, we feel that Justa thrives and grows. In the end, we have three stories in one – the death of empire, the biography of a great general, and the growth a young woman."

Update 4/17/08: Jeff Vandermeer opines at Amazon's Omnivoracious blog that, "this slim but satisfying novel is often willfully didactic in the way it treats political/military issues--but it works because of the context. These are the issues the characters are dealing with, this is the way they would talk about them. It's rare that a book will make you think and make you feel in quite this particular way."


  1. Hi Lou.

    I just started MGD today. I did want to point out to you an inaccuracy on the product description page on the Pyr site.

    "Set two thousand years from now, in a world very much like Imperial Rome..."

    In actuality, the novel is set just short of 300 years from now. (The back of the actual book says 200 years from now, closer to the mark)

  2. Thanks Paul. That got corrected on the book itself, but I didn't realize it was still wrong on the product page. We'll update. THANKS!

  3. There were some mixed reviews for this one early, so despite that I liked Fitzpatrick's War a lot, I was not sure I wanted to buy MGD, or wait for the library.

    However I read the 60 pages in the Pyr sampler and I could not stop reading and "had" to have the book, so I got it as fast as possible and truly enjoyed it. It is much tighter and hence better than Fitzpatrick's War.

    The plot while basically following the pseudo-fall of the Roman Empire at the end of the Antonine dynasty has enough twists to keep you on the edge, while the description of Luke Anthony/Commodus and his descent in madness is brilliant.

    Justa's voice is also a big highlight of the novel.

    One of the biggest postive surprises of this year for me in how much I've enjoyed it.

    And putting out that sampler was an excellent idea.

  4. Hi Liviu,
    I am so, so glad to hear this, particularly your comment that the Pyr Sampler did its work and turned your opinion around. That comment will go a long way in support of making the sampler a regular occurrence!

    Meanwhile, I agree with you that Justa's voice is a large component of the novel's success. Without her perspective, then yes, the novel is a reworking of history - but her story within a story (or without?) is the crux of the whole tale for me.