The Gallic side of Julius Caesar’s campaigns comes to bloody life in a story about Vercingetorix, one of the future emperor’s noblest foes.
Generations of schoolchildren have slogged through the Gallic Wars hearing only the winner’s side. Here, Spinrad (Greenhouse Summer, 1999, etc.) attempts to complete the picture, re-creating the world of the Gauls, those barbarous residents of the territory that would eventually become France, fragmented warrior tribes whose humiliation was the centerpiece of Caesar’s master plan to become master of the universe. Rather more civilized than the snooty Romans would like to believe, Gallic culture rested in the hands and arts of their priestly Druids, carefully educated men whose cumulative knowledge went well beyond the babblings of the soothsayers in blue paint of popular imagination. Young Vercingetorix, the real life warrior king who turns up in Caesar’s reports, is taken on by the Druids after the death of his tribal leader father, a victim of family treachery and Caesarian scheming. Trained in the usual Druid arts by the usual Druidic professors, Vercingetorix, clearly on the fast track, gets extra curricular instruction from Rhia, a beautiful, buffed, former savage who knows everything there is to know about sword fighting. Although Gallic hormones start pumping at the sight of wonder woman, there is to be no sex. Not for now, at any rate. Rhia, who finds Vercingetorix thoroughly attractive, must remain chaste to stay alive. So says the future revealed to her in a mushroom-induced dream. Vercingetorix’s own mushroom future reveals a crown and a peek at modern Paris. On the way to the crown, there will be many, many battles, some on-the-job training from Caesar himself, lots of gore, a reunion with a saucy number from his past, now part of Caesar’s road show, and boozy nights with fellow barbarian teachers. The lad is doomed, of course. Caesar did come, see, and conquer, after all, but it’s intriguing to see the anti-Roman side of things.
Humorless, occasionally ponderous, but interesting. And no pesky translating.