Warlords of Utopia
Roots: Parallel universes in which Rome never fell or Nazis won World War II are a staple of science fiction, with examples in Doctor Who including the Doctor Who Weekly comic strip Doctor Who and the Iron Legion (to which the Ferrum Legion mentioned here is a reference), and the New Adventure Timewyrm: Exodus. There are, perhaps inevitably, several references to The Life of Brian (Brianists, "Miserable bloody Romans, no sense of humour", etc.). Reign of Fire possibly inspires the situation on Roma CLII. On one of the Germanias, Scriptor arrives in Hobb's End, in a nod to The Quatermass Experiment. There are also references to Shakespeare, Marconi, Leonardo da Vinci, Star Wars ("protocol druids"), The Times, Picasso, Superman, Spartacus, the Sword of Damocles, Edwin Hubble, Pandora's Box, Mercedes, Odysseus, and the Bible.
Dialogue Triumphs: "Hand the world over to religious men concerned with peace and loving thy neighbour, and blood will flow."
"Know your enemy."
"If only it were that simple. What if the knowledge of the enemy is so profound that even by understanding it, you find yourself defeated?"
Continuity: According to Abschrift, the parallel Earths are merely echoes of the "True" Earth, and as such are limited, condemned to repeat and echo, unable to innovate; hence, the Roman Earths are all still closely based on the Rome of old, their technology developed from principles of science known to the ancient Romans. The Time Lords [and possibly the Enemy] apparently consider travelling to parallel worlds to be illegal, and in contravention of the rules of the War.
There are apparently one thousand worlds where Rome either never fell or had a profound influence on history, and one thousand where the Nazis win World War II. Travel between the two groups is more difficult than travel within the groups, due to a barrier referred to as "the Great Divide", which seems essentially to be due to the fact that the two groups each start from different branching points, whereas within each group all the parallel universes have a common origin. Scriptor names the parallel Earths, and names those in which Rome never fell "Roma" followed by a Roman numeral. The Roman Empire entirely rules Roma I, including the subterranean cities in the ice of Ultima Thule and the marine cities of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The last nation the Romans defeated was Seres, whose country was vast, surrounded by walls, and ruled by its own Emperors (Roma I's equivalent of China). After a twenty-eight year war, the Seric Emperor, Yung Lo, requested a private audience with the new Roman Emperor Cosimo; realizing that the two empires were evenly matched, the Emperors decided to flip a coin, with the winner becoming Emperor of the World and the loser serving loyally as his first minister. Yung Lo lost the toss. Atlantis is still inhabited on Roma I. In this universe, the Britannic playwright Concuthasta wrote Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra. The Roman authorities list a Hundred Wonders of the World, including the Hercules Bridge, which spans the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. Other parallel Earths where Rome never fell include: Roma II, ravaged by plague; Roma III, where Yung Lo's Serics won the toss of the coin; Roma IV, where a breakaway Christian faction causes major problems for the Mithraic majority; Roma V, where the Mare Nostra (Mediterranean) has been drained until it is little more than a river and used to irrigate the Sahara; Roma VI, where the head of the Vestal order leads a world in which women dominate politics; Roma VII, ruled by a Roman Emperor based in Constantinople; Roma VIII, where the Battle of Actium had fallen a different way and Aegypt, not Rome is the greatest cultural influence; Roma XI, where the law prevents wealth from being inherited and all estates go to the Emperor; Roma XIII, where the Emperor Hieronymous had successful unified the various state-sanctified religions, and then became a society obsessed with death and the afterlife; Roma XX, where no gods are worshipped; Roma XXXI, where the Senate holds a veto over every decision made by their Emperor, and where there are Gaulish separatists; Roma CI, where Constantine had worshipped Mithras rather than Christ; Roma CLI, where there have been Brianist uprisings in Judea [see Roots if you don't get the reference...]; Roma CLII, where humanity was largely wiped out by dinosaur or dragon-like creatures [did the Earth Reptiles awaken on this alternate Earth? (see The Silurians)]; Roma D, where clockwork technology is used to build intelligent android soldiers; Roma DI, where the senate is made of wood and collapses or burns down faster than elections can be held to refill it; Roma DII, with its caste of British priests known as protocol druids who are adept at translating languages; Roma DCII, where woman can have up to three husbands; Roma DCX is split into two opposing Christian factions, one in the east and one in the west, ruled by the Eastern Pope-Emperor and the Western Pope-Emperor; Roma LVIII, which is similar to Roma CI, except that Constantine worshipped Christ rather than Mithras, Roma LXIX, where everyone is obsessed with sex; . The Emperors of Roma VIII are entombed in ever-larger pyramids, the largest of which now rival the Alps. The magneticus is a transport system on Roma I, whilst vacuum tubes are used on Roma D. Of the other Romas, fifty are isolationists, a further hundred are so are ruled by tyrants or sadists whose worlds are ravaged by adherence to the dark arts, or have been depopulated by natural disaster, or are very poorly developed and primitive. Once the different Romas are discovered, seven-hundred wonders of the Known Worlds are listed, including the Rhine-Danube Wall on Roma DCX. In the forum of the Roma CLI of Terence Ollacondire there is a gigantic marble foot designed to appear as though it is hovering. By MMDCCX (equivalent to 1957AD), advances in medicine and public health mean that the life expectancy of the young on Roma I is one hundred and twenty-five years.
Scriptor names the worlds where the Nazis win World War II Germania, followed by a Roman numeral. They include Germania LD, where the American President is on the verge of signing a non-aggression pact with the Nazis; Germania LXVIII, where Hitler is an International Socialist rather than a Nazi; Germania I, which is the world where everything went right for Hitler; Germania XII, where the American President is Richard A. Russell and the Americans stay out of the conflict; . None of the Germanias are entirely ruled by the Nazis; on over half of them America stays out of the conflict, on a tenth of them they sign non-aggression pacts with the Russians, and on a third of them the Britons either surrender to or form an alliance with Germany. On one of the Germanias, Ernst Rohm killed Hitler seven years earlier and declared himself Fuhrer. On another, America is divided between Nazis and Japanese. On another, America and the Nazis have been locked in stalemate for several years. The Nazis of Germania I land on the Moon on 7th October 1957. During the war between the Romans and the Nazis, Germania LI sees the biggest sea battle known to any of the histories. The Council of Hitlers comprises all of the fascist Hitlers from all of the Germanias, working together and based in a vast concrete dome in Berlin on Germania I. August Hitler, sole heir to all of the Hitlers in all of the worlds, kills the entire Council and seizes power. After the Romans defeat the Nazis, Scriptor pursues August to True Earth and kills him.
The old man from whom Scriptor obtains the bracelet is apparently a Time Lord; the bracelet is of course a time ring (Genesis of the Daleks). He and twelve others [possibly thirteen incarnations of the same Time Lord] have fled into the parallel Earths using the time rings. The time rings lead to four alternate Romes from any single Roma, and these four Romes are fixed, i.e. from Roma I the rings can be used to reach Roma I, II, III and IV. Anyone wearing a time ring can transport anyone holding on to them from world to world with them. It is implied that by travelling into the parallel worlds the old man and his fellows made it easier for others to follow.
Herr Abschrift is not a Time Lord, but is working for them (specifically for House Mirraflex) and has a longer than normal human lifespan. He is helping the Nazis to conquer the other parallel Germanias as part of a larger plan to control the alternate Earths. He notes that the wars on the Germanias are merely a war game, not the War that he is fighting. When Scriptor kills Abschrift, the Time Lord sent to deal with the problem of the parallel Earths causes each drop of his blood to produce a new Abschrift; Scriptor kills all of them too. The Time Lords intend to erase all two thousand alternate Earths; Scriptor uses technology obtained from Abschrift to seal the Tramontane Gate, preventing even the Time Lords from reaching the Roman Earths, and then negotiates with the Time Lord to build another wall around the German Worlds. The Time Lord agrees on the condition that Scriptor polices these worlds.
Faction Paradox send Consobrinus Patreulis to Roma XIII, presumably because the Time Lords focus their attentions on the German Earths - he notes that "the War is spreading". The Faction members can travel between worlds using rituals, rather than time rings. He gives the Romans the ability to travel en masse between worlds and uses rituals to create a barrier blocking access across the Great Divide except through the Tramontane Gate in the Londinium of Roma DCX.
The creature that Scriptor encounters on Roma CLII can change shape, and in its true form apparently has hooves, leathery wings, and a single eye in the middle of its head. It has one lobster claw-like arm, and another like a lion's paw and is covered in fur, scales, and feathers. Sigils and incantations "from the depths of inner time" protect its timeline, and ensure that anyone who tries to bind it with ritual will themselves be trapped. It claims that it could easily escape from black holes and stars, and that if one of its ancestors is killed it will sprout two in its place. It is however vulnerable to swords; Scriptor kills it by stabbing it in the eye. It claims not to be the Enemy, but is nevertheless an enemy of the Time Lords; given its defences, it would seem to be protected against Faction Paradox, and so probably isn't working for them either. It is hunting down and devouring the thirteen Time Lords from one of whom Scriptor got the time ring, since it believes that they are planning some "illegal move" against the Enemy and don't want the Time Lords to gain an advantage. It has tracked down and killed eight of the thirteen and stolen their time rings by the time that Scriptor kills it on Roma CLII.
Links: The Book of the War.
Location: Various Roman and German Earths including Roma I and Germania I, over a period of time equivalent to 1908 to 1999 AD; Earth, 1970 to 1999 AD.
The Bottom Line: "There are things that must be fought." The novel that Parkin has been planning for years, Warlords of Utopia is possibly his finest accomplishment to date. Truly epic, and revelling in historical detail, it manages to paint an intimate portrait of a war spanning two thousand parallel worlds by recounting it all from the first person narrative of Marcus Americanus Scriptor. The result is utterly absorbing and quite magnificent.