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updated  11 September  2006
© 2004-2006 by Noreen Doyle

#3 in Amazon's Top 10 Editors' Picks of Science Fiction and Fantasy 2004
#8 in SF Site's Top 10 Editors' Choice of Science Fiction and Fantasy 2004
nominee for the 2005 World Fantasy Award (best anthology)
one of Locus's Recommended Anthologies for 2004
on the ballot for the 2005 Locus Poll

First Heroes cover
The First Heroes
New Tales of the Bronze Age
edited by

Harry Turtledove
and
Noreen Doyle


Tor Books
ISBN  0-7653-0286-1
hardcover
368 pages
list price: $25.95
ISBN 0-7653-0287-X
trade paperback
368 pages
list price: $14.95

excerpts/table of contents --  reviews --  buying links

The Bronze Age. The era of Troy, of Gilgamesh, of the dawning of human mastery over the earth. For decades, fantasists have set tales of heroism and adventure in imagined worlds based on the real Bronze Age, from the "Hyborean Age" of the Conan stories to the Third Age of Middle-earth.

Now bestselling SF and fantasy author Harry Turtledove, a noted expert on the ancient world, teams up with author and Egyptologist Noreen Doyle to present fourteen new tales of the real Bronze Age from some of the best writers in SF.


From the fertile riverbanks of the Euphrates and the Nile,
from the mighty citadel of Troy and the storied Aegean isles,
from the lofty heights of Peru and Anatolia,
from the workshops of China and the shrines of Italy,
from the cold waters of Britain and Denmark,
from the imaginations of fifteen talented authors,
come fourteen original stories of the original age of heroes:


 
Gene Wolfe
The Lost Pilgrim
novelette

 Before leaving my own period, I resolved to keep a diary; and indeed I told several others I would, and promised to let them see it upon my return. Yesterday I arrived, captured no Pukz and compiled no text. No more inauspicious beginning could be imagined.

2004 Recommended Reading List (novelettes)
--Locus
"another of the author's subtle tours de force, a comedy of time travel that segues into terrifying revelations concerning memory, religion, and the ways of the gods."
One of the recommended stories for the month
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"distinguished creation"
--Booklist (15 April 2004)/Roland Green
"At first the story is a rather humorously skewed view of Jason's journey--and quite effective as such--but the ending is darker and more moving than the opening seems to promise."
One of the recommended stories for the month
--Locus (April 2004)/Rich Horton
"Exciting, funny, sly, and then strange and quite poignant"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"a subtly written story, which only gradually reveals the narrator's predicament, and keeps you guessing."
--Vector (November/December 2004)/ Lesley Hatch
Reprinted in Science Fiction: The Best of 2004 (iBooks, 2005)
--edited by Karen Haber & Jonathan Strahan
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: 18th Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly L
edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin J.
Grant (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)
Finalist for the Sturgeon Award
#10 on the 2005 Locus Poll (Best Novellette)

Brenda Clough
How the Bells Came from
Yang to Hubei

short story

 I had never beheld such a miserable wretch.  My master Chu gulped. The prisoner was bone-thin, the weeping sores easily visible through his rags. His dirty bare feet left red smears on the tile floor. "The carpet," old Lord Yang murmured, and servants carried the priceless textile aside. We ourselves had not dared to walk on it, and had stepped around.

"strong... a fascinating look at the inadvertency of technological change"
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"parable of hope and wisdom"
--Library Journal (15 May 2004)/Jackie Cassada
"vivid and engagingly written"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"short, sweet tale"
--Carlos Aranaga, SciFiDimensions
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)

 
Judith Tarr
The God of Chariots
novelette

 Enmerkar the king stood on the walls of Uruk. The hordes from the desert had withdrawn at last. In their wake they had left devastation: fields and orchards stripped of their harvest, villages burned, cattle slaughtered or stolen, and an echo of laughter as they marched away with their spoils.

"strong.... intelligent mingling of myth and metallurgy."
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"powerful"
--Publishers Weekly (5 April 2004)
"the not-quite-immortal deities... are engagingly well drawn"
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)/John C. Bunnell
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)


Harry Turtledove
The Horse of Bronze
novella

 I knew, the last time we fought the sphinxes, this dearth of tin would trouble us. I knew, and I was right, and I had the privilege--if that is what you want to call it--of saying as much beforehand, so that a good many of the hes in the warband heard me being clever. And much grief and labor and danger and fear my cleverness won for me, too, though I could not know that ahead of time.

"stunning... poignant"
--Publishers Weekly (5 April 2004)
"impressively imagined account... startlingly unorthodox context. This may be Turtledove's most audacious single alternate-history foray yet, a sly tapestry of historical insinuation"
One of the recommended stories for the month
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
 "High points include... Turtledove's"
--DarkEcho.com/Paula Guran 
"The editors contribute personally to the overall quality, Turtledove with "The Horse of Bronze'..."
--Booklist (15 April 2004)/Roland Green
"the best story I've seen from Turtledove in some time."
--Locus (May 2004)/Rich Horton
"a memorable opening sentence... a delight to read."
--Vector (November/December 2004)/ Lesley Hatch
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)


 
Josepha Sherman
A Hero for the Gods
short story

 Hupasiya stepped out of his farmhouse, then stopped dead, grabbing for his old woolen mantle and hastily wrapping it around himself. Gods, it was cold out here!
  He still looked very much like the true Hittite warrior he'd been just a few short years ago, burly and muscular, black curly hair and beard, with a narrow scar like a white blaze of lightning seaming his face. His bronze sword hung on a wall inside, and he still kept it polished an oiled as befitted a good blade. But the battles he fought these days were only with the fields and the harvests, and no regrets about it.

"excellent representations of a petulant goddess of love and the farmer who wants nothing more than to live out his boring life"
--Tangent Online/Steven Silver

 
S. M. Stirling
Blood Wolf
novelette

 His name was Kreuha Wolkwos--Blood Wolf, in the tongue of the Keruthini folk--and he was the greatest of all the warriors of his people, although still unwedded and barely old enough to raise a thick yellow down on his cheeks. Even before that fuzz sprouted he had been called a man in the korios, the warband of the youths who spent the summer living like a wolf-pack in the woods off what they could hunt and steal. Now even householders and the clan chiefs called him a man, for six heads of his taking--the oldest weathered down to a skull, the newest still ripe--were spiked to the lintel above his father's house-door.

"ripsnortingly paced story"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"distinguished creation"
--Booklist (15 April 2004)/Roland Green
"Another... highlight... a jolly tale..."
--Carlos Aranaga, SciFiDimensions
"Very well done."
--Paul Hanley/SF Crowsnest
Reprinted in The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens (Tor / Tom Doherty Associates, 2005)
--edited by Jane Yolen & Patrick Nielsen Hayden


 
Noreen Doyle
Ankhtifi the Brave is dying.
novelette

Yet he is not an old man. He can hold his back straight. He does not lean so very much upon his long staff. The two loaves of khenmet-bread and the foreleg of a calf he carries in a finely woven basket do not cramp his arms. It is, he supposes, the wounds of campaigns festering beneath his skin. They have violated his body, pierced his shadow, created windows through which his ba-soul would fly, as he has defended his King. Or perhaps it is the scarcity of bread, the thinness of cattle and fowl, the filth in the water. In time, he allows his fluttering ba.  Not yet. It is dawn, not dusk.

"an extraordinary portrait of ambition and loss... It's rare to find the atmosphere of a past era evoked with such compulsive (and entirely apposite) perversity."
One of the recommended stories for the month
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"One of the best-written stories... stunning detail and easy handling of ancient Egyptian words, names, concepts, but it takes an exceptional talent to convey such knowledge with grace and clarity..."
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"High points include... Doyle's"
--DarkEcho.com/Paula Guran
"The editors contribute personally to the overall quality [...], Doyle with 'Ankhtifi the Brave Is Dying'...."
--Booklist (15 April 2004)/Roland Green


 
Katharine Kerr & Debra Doyle
The God Voice
short story

 On her hands and knees the old woman scrubs the wood floor of the shrine. She dips her wad of linen rags into the leather bucket of water, then scours each plank in turn. Her back aches, her calloused knees burn with pain, but if she omitted this daily ritual, her dreams would torment her with work left undone. Sunlight streams in through the western window and falls across her back, the touch of the god Dian, easing her pain.
  "I'm gray and wrinkled and twisted in the bone," Watis says aloud, "but you love me still."

"strong... a feminist riposte"
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"terse, vividly written... characters deftly drawn"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"a well-crafted, satisfying tale"
--Vector (November/December 2004)/ Lesley Hatch


Karen Jordan Allen
Orqo Afloat on the Willkamayu
novelette

 The icy waters of the Willkamayu closed over Orqo as he fell. He still gagged from the blow to his throat, and when the freezing current flooded his mouth and nostrils, he thought himself dead. Then rage filled him, pouring a last, desperate strength into his arms and legs. He clutched his heavy mace and lunged for the surface. Damn you, Kusi, he thought. You haven't won. Not yet.

"High points include... Allen's"
--DarkEcho.com/Paula Guran
"a twistily crafted tale"
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)/John C. Bunnell
"wonderful tension"
--Tangent Online/Steven Silver
"full of interesting detail about Inca life... the ending snaps with energy"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"strong entrant"
--Carlos Aranaga, SciFiDimensions
"Excellent."
--Paul Hanley/SF Crowsnest


 
Larry Hammer
The Myrmidons
short story/poetry

The plague came out of nowhere. No one knew
What god or goddess sent it, and the signs,
When not ambiguous, were all too few:
The oak leaves still, the livers whole and fine,
From left and right the birds flew in straight lines,
      And worst of all, the tea leaves all refused
      To form a pattern readers could have used.

"fascinating and astonishing... deft, acerbic wit.  It's very nearly worth the book's price all by itself"
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)/John C. Bunnell
"resounding and humorous at the same time."
--SF Site/Steven Silver
"I hope [it] will begin a new fashion for narrative in verse, evoking... Byron and Browning. [...] dramatic, grim and excruciatingly funny"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"by turns comic and serious, and works wonderfully."
--Vector (November/December 2004)/ Lesley Hatch
"You almost want to set Hammer's irreverent poem to a rapper's beat"
--Carlos Aranaga, SciFiDimensions


Gregory Feeley
Giliad
novella

 Trent's pleasure in being asked to ßeta-test Ziggurat deeply annoyed Leslie, who watched without comment as he slid in the CD but left when summer-movie music began to vibrate from the speakers as cuneiform characters appeared on the screen and slowly turned into the company's name. She was in the kitchen when he called her to come see something, and had nearly finished preparing lunch when he appeared at the door. "No, I'm not interested," she answered, ignoring his crestfallen expression. "Go role-play as Sargon, but don't tell me it's history. And that anachronistic Greek letter is pretty dumb."

2004 Recommended Reading List (novellas)
--Locus
"Perhaps the best story in the book is Gregory Feeley's..., a very good post 9/11 reflection.... An absorbing and thoughtful novella."
One of the recommended stories for the month
--Locus (April 2004)/Rich Horton
"One of the most ambitious stories. . . rewards the reader in ways which are not initially apparent."
--Tangent Online/Steven Silver
"a brilliantly told Götterdämerung, its layers constructed so tightly that when the reader does finally perceive the whole there's a sense of the floor dropping away"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"draws intriguing, perhaps controversial comparisons between ancient Sumer and modern America"
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)/John C. Bunnell
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: 18th Annual Collection,
edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin J.
Grant (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)
#16 on the 2005 Locus Poll (Best Novella)
 

Laura Frankos
The Sea Mother's Gift
novelette

 Dett stood on Western Isle's cliff, ignoring the thousands of birds wheeling and shrieking above him, even when some spattered his deerskin cloak with their droppings. He studied the sky as the sun dipped down towards the horizon, as he had done these past few months whenever the clouds lifted enough to see the sunset. That wasn't often; the Islands usually spent the summer months wrapped in fog, and this particular summer had been especially cold. What he saw unnerved him. Those colors are wrong, he thought. Too red, too orange, too yellow--like fire. I have never seen sunsets like this before, yet ever since the Day of Darkness in late spring, they have all looked this way. Why have the sunsets changed? It must mean something. But what?

"excellent use of nature and superstitions"
--Tangent Online/Steven Silver
"Appealing characters... I'd love to see it get reprinted for young readers"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith


 

Lois Tilton
The Matter of the Ahhiyans
short story

 So now I am to be a spy.
  Well, I have been many things besides a scribe in the service of the Great King Tudhaliya, ruler of the Land of Hatti, and his father before him. I have travelled to many foreign lands to set down the terms of the treaties made by his ambassadors. I have gone with him to his wars, writing accounts of his battles and victories for the palace archives.
  Now the king of Wilusa has written to plead for aid against the sea-raiders from Ahhiya.

"cool-toned, taut... tension mounts inexorably and the ending resonates with passion."
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"neatly reimagines the seige of Troy."
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)/John C. Bunnell
"strong"
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"unique view of the [Trojan] war... offering layers to the war which are frequently ignored."
--Tangent Online/Steven Silver
"interesting and enjoyable story, well told and refreshing because of the unusual viewpoint."
--Paul Hanley/SF Crowsnest
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)


Poul Anderson
The Bog Sword
novelette

 For a moment I hesitated, suddenly half afraid. Sunlight played in the crowns of trees along this quiet residential street and spilled warmth across me. A neighboring lawn lay newly mown, not yet raked, and a breeze bore me the scent. In a few hours Jane would be through work and bring Myrtis home with her from day care. Next month we'd vacation by the sea. Just planning it was joyous. Did I really want to risk any of that?
  I'd been warned, I'd signed the waiver, but it was still possible to turn away.
  No, I straightened my shoulders, strode up the walk to the porch of the big old house, mounted the steps, and rang the bell.

"powerful.... its sustained vividness of detail and beautifully nuanced sadness make it the perfect end-note to a memorable career."
One of the recommended stories for the month
--Locus (May 2004)/Nick Gevers
"powerful"
--Publishers Weekly (5 April 2004)
"The gem of the collection"
--Romantic Times (May, 2004)
"poignant epitaph to the Bronze Age"
--Library Journal (15 May 2004)/Jackie Cassada
"a highlight of the collection"
--Carlos Aranaga, SciFiDimensions
"understated alliterative cadence"
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)/John Bunnell
"characteristic Anderson -- well told, funny, human, harrowing, and finally poignant"
---SF Site/Sherwood Smith
"distinguished creation"
--Booklist (15 April 2004)/Roland Green
"poignant tale"
--SFrevu.com (June 2004)/Ernest Lilley
Honorable mention
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)


 

BRONZE AGE:
(noun)

1) archaeology/history;
a period of cultural development
marked by the use of tools made of copper alloys,
such as bronze.
 
 

2) Greek mythology;
the era of the third race of humanity created by Zeus.
Their armor, their houses, and their tools
were bronze,
for they had no iron.
Their strength was great, their arms unconquerable. 
Terrible and strong,
they were followed by
the nobler and more righteous
heroic race
that fought the Trojan War.

The First Heroes cover

    "The 14 all-original historical fantasy stories compiled here by Turtledove and Doyle all confirm the opinion voiced by one character that 'History isn't melodrama. It's tragedy.'"
    ". . . most have an elegiac tone appropriate for tales about heroes aware of the transience of glory and about ordinary mortals struggling to understand the whims of the gods. "
    ". . . beautiful and durable artifacts. "
-- Publishers Weekly (5 April 2004)

Best Books of 2004: Top 10 Editors' Picks: Science Fiction & Fantasy
    3. The First Heroes : New Tales of the Bronze Age by Harry Turtledove, Noreen Doyle
--Amazon.com

Best SF and Fatnasy Books of 2004: Editors' Choice
    8. The First Heroes : New Tales of the Bronze Age by Harry Turtledove, Noreen Doyle

--SFSite.com

2004 Recommended Reading List (anthologies)
--Locus


    "Here are 14 intelligent tales. . . .  Kudos to a book to which lovers of historical fiction, fantastic and not, should be directed."
-- Booklist (15 April 2004)

    "splendid variety of creative direction... complex overlay of universal tragedy... plentiful barbaric splendor... certainly joins the list of major anthologies appearing in 2004."
    Nick Gevers's recommended stories for the month:  Gene Wolfe, "The Lost Pilgrim;" Harry Turtledove, "The Horse of Bronze;" Poul Anderson, "The Bog Sword;" Noreen Doyle, "Ankhtifi the Brave is dying."
-- Locus (May 2004)

***** 5/5 stars
   "likely to emerge as one of the best new anthologies to appear so far this century."
--Amazing Stories (August 2004)

    "original stories celebrate the past while underscoring its meaning for the present.  For most fantasy and short story collections."
--Library Journal (15 May 2004)

    "a fascinating collection. . . this is an excellent read, for entertainment and education, and comes highly recommended."
--Vector (review journal of the British Science Fiction
Association) (November/December 2004)

    "intelligent and enjoyable"
--DarkEcho.com

    "commanding anthology"
--Locus.com

    "a strong collection"
    Rich Horton's recommended stories for the month: Gregory Feeley, "Giliad;" Gene Wolfe, "The Lost Pilgrim"
-- Locus (April 2004)


     ****4/5 Stars ("Compelling/A Page Turner")
     "Ancient history buffs and alternate history fans will love this collection...."
-- Romantic Times (May 2004)

    "well written and interesting.... a nice change of pace from the Medieval based fantasy so often found in the genre."
--SFsite.com (October 2004)

     "there is something here for every type of reader, from young adults... to the ancient history scholar... [and]  the most sophisticated postmodern reader of literature...."
--SFsite.com (July 2004)

    "Turtledove and Egyptologist Doyle have assembled stories... some of which entertain as tales of heroes should, and some... illuminate the interaction between bronze technology and culture far better than any lengthy text could.  Recommended."
--SFrevu.com (June 2004)

   "an upfront, in-your-face example of historical fantasy...  a literary milkshake spiked with a few vitamins."
--The Agony Column (31 August 2005)

   "Fans of the ancient world will want to give The First Heroes a look-see. [...]  a worthy selection of stories..."
--Carlos Aranaga, SciFiDimensions.com

   "It is an unusual theme and the stories are well written and varied.  Recommended."
--Paul Hanley/SF Crowsnest

#10 on the 2005 Locus Poll (Best Anthology)
--Locus

  "Overall, it's a strong anthology..."
--Year's Best Science Fiction: 22nd Annual Collection,
edited by Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005)

 According to one character in the anthology, "We view the world through a bamboo stem, a narrow circle of the picture, but it’s all we can take in." In The First Heroes, Harry Turtledove and Noreen Doyle have skillfully gathered fourteen new tales of the Bronze Age to bring that "narrow circle" into sharp focus.
Jeff Edwards/SFReader.com

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