Open Book 9

Not joust another Arthurian tale.
There have been more retellings of the Arthurian saga than reported sightings of the Holy Grail. This series, however, has one important difference: It doesn't rely on magic, in any form.

Instead, the author tells the story of Arthur, Merlin, and the Round Table based on a scientifically sensible premise, finding logical ways to explain even the most mystical parts of the story.

This is political, historical fiction rather than a story about magical glamour.

To establish the factual framework, the first novel tells of Arthur's great-great-grandfathers, in the era before the Romans left England.

"'You know he foresees the death of the Empire in the near future?'

I was stupefied. 'What are you talking about?' I asked, my surprise audible in my voice.

'Just what I say. Caius believes that the Empire, as we know it, is doomed.'

'Rome? Doomed? By what?'

'By its own excesses.'

'That is nonsense! It's impossible! It's ... it's an obscene thought!'"

To win a nonmagical InformationWeek treat, E-mail [email protected] by noon EST Thursday with the author, name of the series' first book, and the reason Gaius Publius Varrus leaves his smithy in Colchester. Two respondents will be chosen randomly from the correct answers and awarded a prize.

Additional clue: The novel tells its own self-contained story, filled with details about British life in the Fifth Century, but sets the stage for the creation of the "magical" sword Excalibur. The magic? The blade is made from a meteor. No wonder it's superior to iron swords.

Excerpt: "And then one night, intrigued by the weight of the thing, he decided to try to melt it down, to smelt it. It turned out not to be easy and he almost gave up the attempt, but just as he was about to abandon it, he noticed that it had developed a glazed texture, almost as though it had been starting to liquefy."

And in the forward to one of the later books, the author confesses he was driven to come up with an answer to the question, "How did the sword get into the stone in the first place?"

Dec. 3: Sir Thomas More's "Utopia"; main character: Raphael Hythloday. Winners: Hilary Smith and Wayne Goldsmith.

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
John Abel, Technical Director, Google Cloud
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer