This is a series of three books: The Days of Glory, In the Kingdom of the Beasts and Day of Wrath. The Days of Glory retells the story of the Iliad and In the Kingdom of the Beasts retells Books V – XII of the Odyssey. Day of Wrath is pure Stableford. Actually, although the events and characters are based on Homer’s epics, Stableford is intent on telling his own story.
Here is a partial list of the main characters I can match with Homeric characters:
It is remarkable how this ancient epic has been constantly retold and reinterpreted throughout history. Perhaps the Book of Genesis is the only narrative with an equal claim to being the foundation myth of our culture. Its characters and events have been used time and again in the service of almost every artistic aim imaginable. In Stableford’s hands, the events make up, more than anything else, a strong and thrilling adventure. Stableford tells a story of the clash between two types of civilization. One is founded on stability – life is above all safe, but some find it stagnant. The other is built on individualism – on the danger that can result from the friction between individualists -- and is constantly on the edge of destruction. One character (Darkscar – there is no Homeric analogue) has traveled back in time in order to shape a galaxy that suits him better than the one he was born into. This forces the galaxy to react and protect itself by creating various temporal and spatial distortions. The philosophical underpinnings of all this are a bit jejune and the discussion of them tends to veer into the kind of sophomoric ‘cosmic significance’ so common to much inferior SF. (Although there is an interesting discussion in the second book about sentience, which draws a distinction between life and thought and proposes that intelligence, mind, etc. are essentially matters of communication. This appealed to the side of me that takes an interest in cognitive psychology). However, Stableford is much better in the many very violent scenes of battle and death, with limbs being severed and faces burned away and so forth. The action hardly ever flags; Stableford manages not to let metaphysical enlightenment get in the way of an exciting, wild ride.
These books can be recommended for their language, which does not rise to any great heights, but which is constantly literate and lucid -- more than most authors today can manage. Occasionally one gets the feeling that as Stableford was writing he was pushing his speed limit, metaphorically, and there are passages that could benefit from careful revision, but overall the trilogy is well organized, coherent and a good deal of fun.