Orion, named after the celestial hunter and created by egomaniacal Egyptian god, Aten the Greeks called him Apollo - has lived and died often. His most painful demise came from a cave bear in the Ice Age, but it was not the only violent one. Orion marched with Alexander the Great, fought beside Ulysses and befriended Ogatai, son of Genghis Khan. In his current manifestation, he is destined to help Beowulf destroy the vengeful mother of the monster, Grendel, in order to save British captives of King Hrothgar. One of those captives is a “pimply-faced youngster” called Artorius. In a short time, while the Roman legions are off fighting onslaughts of Goths, Artorius will receive Excalibur, take on hordes of Saxon invaders and combine myth and history in a manner that outshines even Aten!
In his service as Arthur's squire, Orion is appalled to find out that Aten, who controls the time line, is planning Arthur's annihilation because he wants a Saxon-ruled world he can manipulate, so Orion does the unthinkable; he sides with Arthur. He has help from a wizened old man with, “ . . . a beard knotted and filthy. His homespun robe was even dirtier.” Yes, Merlin's skills are a big help, but even he is not who he appears to be. Orion can't save Arthur from the battle of Camlann, but he can make sure that the High King will reappear whenever Britain needs him.
Then there is Orion's eternal love once the goddess, Athena, later Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's wife, and currently the Lady of the Lake. Separated by Aten through eons, they still vow their eternal love, emphasis on the eternal.
One entertaining aspect of a fantasy/time travel story is that anything goes. Orion and Arthur together dispatch both a dragon and a dinosaur with little trouble, and the reader doesn't mind because the whole plot is a blend of world myth and history. Their swashbuckling antics would be worthy of Cyrano, or Robin Hood and they have the charm and charisma as those two noted gentlemen.
This novel, the latest in Ben Bova's Orion series, is heavy on fantasy, but its time-travel element causes it to be classified as science fiction. Bova brings the sights and smells of Arthur's world to the reader, and, in the process, reacquaints us with myths of gods and myths of men.
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org