Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator – Grab your sword, toga and…blaster pistol!
There’s an incredibly unique feel to this title, a book whose narrative premise is “historical fiction set to the tune of fast paced science fiction.” Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan have taken the historical and cultural themes of ancient Rome, a captivating and rich time period and considered what might have happened if Rome had never fell. What would the great cultural and technical advances be as the Romans advanced through time? What then would happen as the Roman’s conquered Earth and finally reached the Stars?
Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator, published by Tor Books, answers that question. This is an incredible piece of Space Opera with some seriously hard hitting thematic content. A battlefield between the seven Noble families of the Roman Empire is raging across the stars. This is not enacted through galactic battles, but rather through bloody tournaments inspired by the Gladiatorial battles in the Circus Maximus of Roman Legend. Each of these factions have sponsored combatants and these would-be champions fight for the honour of the noble houses they represent … and their lives.
The heroine of the narrative is someone whose familial background is not based on the affinity of the arena, their blood not steeped with the aroma of the blood and sands, the ears ringing with the roars of the crowd, speed and strength being matched with adrenaline. She is one of noble birth, it was tragedy that brought her attention to the battleground, the tragedy of the murder of her mother and brother in an atomic bomb attack. She trained as a gladiator with the hope of gaining vengeance for the deed which destroyed her family and haunts her every dream and waking moment, her name is Accala.
This is a sweeping, epic tale, beautifully written in this unique collaboration between two genuinely talented authors, both in their own way steeped in the traditions of science fiction. Buchanan has a rich heritage of writing for the comic book genre and as he brought imagination and dynamism to that scene, so it reverberates here. Claudia Christian, as an actress has triumphed in one of her most famous roles, that of Susan Ivanona, an intense, brave and although hidden at times, passionate second in command of the Babylon station in the series Babylon 5. She has also starred in several Science Fiction films and delights fans with her vocal talent in a variety of science fiction based video games.
The novel has a tone similar to a sweeping mythological tale, the strong central character, imperial courts, violence – lots of good bloody violence. The personal struggles which contrast with the struggles of the Empire and the lust for vengeance to be satisfied take on the shades of homer mixed with the tones of Frank Millar. A beautiful, dark, moody epic which truly shines with the attention of detail the character design gets.
The initial premise of Swords and Blaster Pistols may be the initial draw for readers, but as the story progresses and engulfs the reader in its truly nuanced world, the main character is strong and astute, ready for any situation and there’s a weapon – a rather unique discus, a weapon with a historical backstory, something forged in legendary family history and it weaves its own narrative in the text.
So…what are you waiting for? It’s nearly Christmas, this is the perfect stocking filler and it’s completely entrancing. Imagine yourself by the fire – or perhaps some more modern heating device with a comforting warm drink and this novel to thrill you through the festive season!
Interview with Morgan Grant Buchanan
Morgan was very gracious in allowing me to ask a few questions about his work, it was a complete delight to talk to a writer who has so much experience in the comic book world and such a passion to tell meaningful yet fun stories.
Chris: Morgan, you are a man who wears many hats, you are a tai chi teacher, web developer and now an accomplished author – how did this all come about?
Morgan: I was teaching Tai chi for 25 years and while I was doing that, I just kept on writing, I was the screenwriter for a film that Claudia was in, she was acting against a lot of green screen as far as I remember, anyway that’s when our writing collaboration started. I worked on Babylon Confidential, Claudia would call and we would start to work through her life story, I would commit it to paper and send it to Claudia – who did revisions, it was a successful collaboration. Then we started to think about the theme of a novel together and Wolf’s Empire was born. I did some web development during the course of my career, it was something I did as a job, but writing is my main career, it’s my passion.
Chris: You mentioned to me about the love you have for the comic book genre, why do you think you gravitated to it?
Morgan: I was a comic book fanatic when I was a teenager, I used to collect a lot of comics, some incredibly rare issues as well. Incidentally they all were stolen when I went to university, I never really had the heart to try and replace them. My first job was in a comic book shop, in Birmingham, I worked with Phil Clarke at Nostalgia & comics. I eventually went back to Australia and started working on writing comic book narratives in the fledgling industry which was starting to grow there. I also had a title ready to publish in Marvel, but this was in the 90’s when the comic book crash happened and it made me wonder about how safe a career in comics actually was!
Something that might be of interest to your readers is one of the partial inspirations for the Wolf’s Empire concept, when I was growing up there used to be a publication called Look and Learn, inside it were extracts from British comics. One was about the Trigan Empire, it was a similar mash up of futuristic technology and history. Although it was set in a “Rome – like” future, Wolf’s Empire actually explores the idea of Rome continuing to expand into space with it’s traditions and history.
Chris: I’m interested in the nature of your collaboration with Claudia, how does it work?
Morgan: Claudia is a real fan of history, incredibly knowledgeable and I was fascinated with the Roman Empire . We started throwing ideas around and I remembered this series of comics and I began to talk about the concepts of the Romans in Space. She’s great to bounce ideas off , when we go back and forth, each writing bits and editing as we go, there’s a great story narrative that appears.
Chris: What are the main themes to you as a writer than you see present in this novel
Morgan: The strongest theme to me is the idea regarding the individual vs the state, how do you, as an individual,change the things which seem to be impossible to change? A lot of the themes that appear in Wolf’s Empire are contemporary in nature, the world is like this big machine and you are perceived as this tiny cog. As an individual your voice doesn’t seem to be heard. If we look at the main character’s story, she as an individual starts out seeking revenge for her family,but realizes that in order to obtain that, in a corrupt state, that she has to keep on fighting until she tears down the whole system.
Chris: What’s next for the series?
Morgan: Well there’s an audiobook already out and Claudia does all the voices for it and Chris, mate, there’s a lot of characters in the book, but she manages to create different vocal mannerisms for each of them to make them sound distinctive.
The next book coming out from Tor isn’t science fiction but does have a historical setting…but that’s as I can say at this point
I really want to thank Morgan for his valuable time and for the insights that he gave me through the interview.
Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator is available from Amazon
The Audio Edition of Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator can be purchased from : Audible