Help me find this great science fiction novel, please
August 15, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Bookfilter: In 2007 I read the first part of a science fiction novel that I would really love to find again. I'm pretty sure the basic premise was that the book was a historical/academic biography about a famous general or other important figure in a future (possibly post-apocalyptic) America. More half remembered details below!

The first section of the book focused on the protagonist's experience in some kind of military academy. One part in particular concerned an important oral exam about history that was supposed to be quite challenging for the students, but somehow the main character is asked a really easy question (possibly because of a conspiracy amongst the instructors at the academy).

The other part I remember was about the main character meeting his future wife in a pub or a bar that he sneaks out of the academy to visit. I think she's related to the owner of the establishment, and the complication is that she's Catholic (maybe) and the ruling government either (1) has a negative take on religion or (2) forbids religion entirely. I think she eventually ends up going on campaign with him after they're -- maybe secretly -- married.

Uh, and that's about all I remember. It's possible that some of the details are slightly off, but I'm almost positive that the book was no more than 5 years old and it was quite long -- probably 400+ pages. There may have been footnotes/endnotes written by the fictional biographer. For some reason, when I imagine the book in my head, it's a hardback book with a cream cover and purple binding.

This has seriously been driving me crazy for years -- the book seemed pretty awesome, but I accidentally left it on a train. Please help me, denizens of askmefi!
posted by cimton to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, that's Julian Comstock by the incomparable Robert Charles Wilson.
posted by Justinian at 1:21 PM on August 15, 2010


Oh, except I think you're conflating two books. You're clearly describing the Wilson novel but the part about the "first section" focusing on his experience in a military academy is from a different book.
posted by Justinian at 1:23 PM on August 15, 2010


Oh gosh -- that's totally it! Thanks!
posted by cimton at 1:24 PM on August 15, 2010


Actually, does the first section remind you of a particular novel? I'd sort of like to figure out why that came to mind...
posted by cimton at 1:26 PM on August 15, 2010


Wait, also, now that I think of it, I'm most definitely conflating two books -- Robert Charles Wilson's book is more recent than the one I had in mind.
posted by cimton at 1:27 PM on August 15, 2010


The first section you describe strongly reminds me of Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing. Except that is a fantasy not Science Fiction. But it is about the protagonist's experience as a cavalry officer in training at a military academy and IIRC does involve an oral exam where the protagonist gets asked an easy question because of nepotism.
posted by Justinian at 1:33 PM on August 15, 2010


I am almost positive that it is Fitzpatrick's War by Theodore Judson. I would call it good, but not great.
posted by notme at 1:44 PM on August 15, 2010


Oh, here is the link.
posted by notme at 1:46 PM on August 15, 2010


Wow -- you two are wonderful, thanks! Uh, it turns out that I may have been thinking of all three books. So, awesome!
posted by cimton at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2010


Oh, cool, I've never read the Judson so no wonder I got that one wrong.

By the way Julian Comstock is nominated for the Best Novel Hugo this year. It's not my favorite of Wilson's book mostly because I'm not the biggest fan of the style he is going for (no matter how well done) but it's certainly a worthy contender. Oh, it was published roughly one year ago so it's unlikely you read it in 2007. Heh.
posted by Justinian at 3:44 PM on August 15, 2010


A short story that is a prequel to Julian Comstock was linked on Boing Boing ~1-2 years ago (not sure if it was as far back as 2007 though). I read the short story, and then I read the novel this summer. I really recommend it if you like speculative fiction; it's a great book.
posted by alicetiara at 7:43 PM on August 15, 2010


I don't think it is a prequel so much as a novella that Wilson later expanded into the novel. Anyone interested can read it online: Julian: A Christmas Story. Yes, with the author's permission.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on August 16, 2010


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