The High Crusade
In reading The High Crusade I returned to my first love—science fiction by one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Poul Anderson. To my absolute delight and surprise, this book satisfied a very recent love—historical fiction. Although the characters and settings are fictitious, Anderson captured the sense of the English medieval culture of the pre-plague, mid-fourteenth-century.
The highly advanced, interstellar Wersgorix send a scout ship to Earth to assess its suitability for a Wersgorix settlement. They would search out planets where they, the Wersgorix had superior technology and would quickly subjugate the natives, killing all who dared challenge them and enslaving the rest.
The Wersgorix had not counted on was to land on a planet so far removed from their sophisticated weaponry that they effectively had no defenses. They landed smack in the middle of war preparations for Edward III’s campaign against the French in the little English village of Ansby, led by Sir Roger, Baron de Tourneville. The English, armed and ready for war investigate the massive ship that lands in their midst. The alien defenses—effective against energy weapons similar to their own—are next to useless against arrows and steel. In short shrift, the English knights and yeomen penetrate the energy shields and kill all but one Wersgoran technician, suffering but a few killed and wounded themselves.
What follows is a wonderful romp where the entire town of Ansby, human and animal, take over the space ship intending to go to France to support King Edward III, but instead get transported to the last planet the Wersgorix had conquered.
Anderson seamlessly weaves the medieval culture, feudal system and warfare with a sci-fi setting for an altogether enjoyable read.