Civilisations

Written by Laurent Binet
Review by Mike Ashworth

The book opens in AD 1000. Freydis Eriksdottir, Erik the Red’s daughter, leads a band of Viking warriors who travel as far as Panama, where their story ends, and Freydis disappears in the annals of history. The reader moves five hundred years forward. Christopher Columbus sails for the Americas. Captured by the Incas, he and his men remain as “guests” and do not return to Europe. Thirty years later, Atahualpa, the last Inca Emperor arrives in Europe. A far-sighted and for the times quite liberal leader, he overturns the established order and establishes his own empire. It looks as though the vast majority of Europe will be ruled by Incas. That is, until the Aztecs arrive, setting the scene for a major confrontation.

This is an intriguing and entertaining look at history which turns the facts on their head, providing a 180-degree look using a series of “what if” scenarios connected. The book is thought-provoking with an excellent translation from the French, which allows the story to flow. However, I would have liked to have seen the author take history further, or alternatively left an opening for further development. This is a rich seam which needs further mining. Recommended.