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by Sean McMullen

Pub Date: July 16th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-85131-6
Publisher: Tor

Time-hopping, episodic first US appearance for Australia resident McMullen. Centuries before the Roman Empire, an Etruscan named Celcinius discovered a toxic golden oil, the Venenum Immortale, that enabled him to be frozen in ice and later revived; he founded a small and very exclusive society, the Temporians, and built its palace, Nusquam, high in the Alps above an ancient and stable deposit of ice. In a.d. 71, a young centurion, Vitellan Bavalius, having demonstrated his ability to survive prolonged hypothermia, becomes a candidate for the Temporians, who now rule the Roman Empire. But before Vitellan can be inducted, a raid on Nusquam destroys many of the sleepers, along with most of the Venenum Immortale stock and the secret recipe of its manufacture. By chance, Vitellan acquires the last of the oil and retires to England, where he prepares a Frigidarium and consigns himself to sleep, knowing that the village of Durvas is devoted to serving him and preserving his ice cave. He wakes in a.d. 870 but, without Celcinius’s antidote, rapidly sickens. Still, he helps the future Alfred the Great defeat the invading Danes and reintroduce scholarship. Returning to the ice, Vitellan wakes again in 1358, in the middle of the England-France Hundred Years War, where he routs the marauding Jacquerie, rescues the noble Lady Anne, and acquires a bitter enemy, Jacques Bonhomme, who will also arrange to be frozen. Finally, in 2028, Vitellan wakes amid a power struggle involving Luministe cultists, his loyal Durvas keepers, and a treacherous faction intent on manipulating him—only to discover he’s no longer occupying his own body! An entertaining but vastly improbable jaunt through history as it wasn’t.