Read Agent of Byzantium by Harry Turtledove Online


In a universe where Mohammed became a Christian, the Byzantine Empire has not only survived, it flourishes--developing technology at an earlier date than in our universe. But Byzantium has many jealous enemies, and thus Basil Argyros, Byzantium's version of 007, has his hands full thwarting subversive plots....

Title : Agent of Byzantium
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780671875930
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 311 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Agent of Byzantium Reviews

  • Ann
    2019-03-17 16:23

    This particular book isn't really a novel. It's a collection of short stories about Basil Argyros, essentially a secret agent in 14th century Byzantine empire.Except this Byzantine empire is a bit different than the one in our past due to a few minor changes:1) An Arab named Moaumet, in the 6th century, takes a trading expedition to Syria, converts to Christianity and becomes a great saint.2) There is never a great Schism. And Constantinople remains the center of *all* Christianity. There's a Bishop of Rome, but he's just one among equals.One thing that I was acutely aware of was that Turtledove wrote these stories in the mid 80's. I seriously doubt he could get them published now, due to 1). Back then, he was well known author yes, but well known in a particular genre, without media being so connected, and without the high sensitivity that is present now for anything that remotely touches anything near Islam. To publish an alternative history where Muhammad becomes Christian and Islam is never founded would be edgy today.The book itself was fun. James Bond in an alternative Eastern Roman Empire. It was a nice read, since you could put it down between stories. While they were vaguely connected, each one could stand alone just fine. Oh, since Islam was never founded, the other main power besides Byzantium was Zoroastrian Persia. Basil does have his "Mary Sue" moments, when he is instrumental in discovering: the telescope, a cure for small pox, the printing press, and gun powder.As I said, it's fun. A light read, and interesting if you like thinking about history from the "what if" perspective. Sadly, it's out of print. But that's what used bookstores are for.

  • HBalikov
    2019-03-13 08:13

    The Roman Emperor, Constantine, accomplished many things, among them were the reorganizing of the Empire, moving its capitol from Rome to a city straddling the Black Sea and the Mediterranean that he called Constantinople. That capitol and that part of the Empire lasted for a thousand years though some of those centuries were very tough times. The rise of the Ottoman Empire was its doom.Harry Turtledove imagines that Islam never arose and that this Byzantine Empire continues to exist and thrive. In this book of separate stories, he tackles what might be some key issues for that Empire and the challenges fall to his warrior/investigator, Argyros. “This book…draws heavily on my academic background. It’s set in the early fourteenth century of an alternate world where Muhammad, instead of founding Islam, is converted to Christianity.” He becomes a key saint. Argyros rises in the Empire to become a ranking member of its “Central Intelligence Agency.” These stories bring us into a world both familiar and different than our own history books tell us.We meet the barbarian peoples of the Caucasus and the steppes; the Egyptians, the Franks and Lombards and Lithuanians; as well as, those closest to Constantinople. The battle of religions between Byzantium and the Persian Empire is another interesting piece of the background. We witness how the invention of the telescope, the printing press and “greek fire” are passed on and/or suppressed. We see the devastation of disease and riot.The stories themselves each have a mystery or problem to solve. Turtledove makes it all very interesting, even for the casual reader.

  • Sean
    2019-02-21 10:20

    Mohammed, driven to Constantinople by a Persian invasion, embraces Christianity and later becomes known as St. Mouamet, religious poet and author of the famous verse, "There is no god but god, and Christ is his son." In this world, the Roman empire lives on and thrives in its Byzantine guise, and our protagonist Basil Argryos is on hand to witness the spread of gunpowder, the invention of distillation, and so on. Along the way, he even has a hand in the discovery of smallpox vaccination, and falls in love with a Sassanid spy.A smart series of historical fiction vignettes by an author who specializes in alternative history and who just so happens to hold a degree in Byzantine history. It makes for a fun combination.

  • Olethros
    2019-02-25 14:11

    -Correcta, ligera y todo un ejemplo de literatura de evasión.-Género. Novela (con una enorme premisa de partida que la coloca totalmente en la ficción, pero novela al fin y al cabo).Lo que nos cuenta. En una realidad en la que el Imperio Bizantino sigue controlando la mayor parte de las posesiones del Imperio Romano y en la que nunca surgió el Islam, Basilios Argyros es un explorador que sirve en la fuerza trata de detener una incursión bárbara en la estepa al otro lado del Danubio. La inteligencia, determinación y habilidad que muestra para localizar un extraño objeto que el enemigo usa para obtener ventajas tácticas en el campo de batalla, hace que sea recomendado por el strategos para formar parte de los magistrianoi, agentes imperiales de élite que sirven a Bizancio por todo el territorio y más allá de él velando por la seguridad del imperio. Iremos conociendo más de Basilios y de las amenazas contra el Imperio Bizantino mediante las distintas misiones del agente imperial.¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

  • Samuel Lubell
    2019-02-28 10:33

    This is an alternate history in which the eastern Roman empire never fell. It is a very early Turtledove (may be his first novel) and is a fix-up of previously published stories. Basil Argyros is a secret agent for the Byzantine Empire. It strains credibility that one person, even one lifetime, could be involved with capturing one of the first telescopes, inventing vaccines, learning the secret of monks who invented gunpowder, a potter who has one of the first printing presses, etc. Still a very interesting book for what it does with history (and one of the few alternate histories not based on war or set in the last 300 years).

  • Behizain
    2019-02-24 09:29

    Tres estrellas. No, cuatro. No, cuatro es demasiado, tres. Bueno pues al final cuatro. Las aventuras de Basilios Argyros en una ucronía en la que el imperio romano nunca se dividió, la capital es Constantinopla y el Islam no existe porque el profeta San Mahoma abrazó el cristianismo. Cada capítulo es una aventura distinta de nuestro protagonista, agente al servicio del imperio romano. Basilios es muy listo y además tiene mucha suerte, con lo que consigue varias veces que el imperio no se rompa. También tiene una archienemiga que trabaja para el rival imperio persa en esta especie de guerra fría del siglo XIV. Entretenida novela aunque no sea una obra maestra de la literatura.

  • Rob Roy
    2019-03-08 15:31

    The world of 13th Century Byzantine Empire where Mohammad had converted to Christianity, and become a Saint. The setting is fascinating, but the story is pure action adventure, it just occurs in a world that never existed. It is also a love story, but not your classic boy meets girl. It is without doubt a fun read.

  • Endre Fodstad
    2019-02-20 16:04

    I realize this one is from his early career but I was not particularily impressed. The intro novel is not too bad and the last one is actually decent, but the ones in between are pretty bad.The AH world is a bit strange. Mohammed became an orthodox christian monk and the arab invasions never occured. Fair enough. But somehow Justinians' conquests - who were a bad idea and overstretched the Empire before any arabs showed up - also stuck and the Empire reconquered most of the old western provinces, excluding Gaul and Britain. This seems unlikely and is badly explained. The whole world of 1300AD seems kind of frozen - Gaul and Britain are stuck in a parody version of the early western middle ages, the Mongols seems to have been cancelled, Persia doesn't seem to have changed at all and the Byzantines' main concern when they weren't fighting for their lives - combating heterodoxy - seems to have been put on an infinite hold. It's just too much for me to buy the world.The main problem, however, is the middle stories. Basil travels around the Empire and its frozen neighbours solving labour issues, aquiring new technology and combating a heresy that probably required the arab conquests to appear at all. He does it effortlessly and against token opposition. It is simply too easy. The weak middle part really damages the series as a whole.A minor pet peeve is also that Turtledove has a limited grasp of a lot of the new technology and advancements . Ceramic type printing presses was an older idea but did not create Gutenberg's revolutionary breakthrough. Gunpowder diffused quickly - once introduced it was too simple a compound to be kept secret. Guilds regulated working conditions as a matter of course. The cowpox-smallpox link was only discovered after the more risky inoculation with smallpox was developed (possibly in the 10th century) and the way Basil discovers it makes laugh of Jenner's invention and ignores the way Galenic medicine thought about disease. A steppe shaman would have no access to lens grinders which is necessary for the invention of the telescope.

  • Paul Darcy
    2019-03-14 12:08

    This novel is actually a collected series of connected stories set about 1300 years after “one person was nailed to a tree” for being nice to people. Sorry, couldn’t resist.But this does not mean this series of stories is humour. Actually it is quite serious, but the premise is that the Byzantium Empire never fell apart. The Empire is alive and thriving and so this is an alternate history work which, I believe, Turtledove is known for.The stories themselves were published from 1985 through 1987 in various magazines. Now I will be the first to admit that my “knowledge” of Byzantium history is shaky at best and non-existent for the most part, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the stories at all. But, I suppose, if you knew a great deal about Byzantium (and Turtledove has a PH.D. in Byzantium history) then you may get more out of it.Anyhow, this series of stories centers around one man, Basil Argyros, a Roman who, as the stories progress, rises through the ranks of Byzantiums as he discovers, or rather uncovers, certain major developments in the developing fictional world.He acts as a spy and travels to distant parts of the world to investigate strange happenings, some which appear to be magic. Discoveries touched upon are the telescope, small pox vaccine, gunpowder, the printing press and even distilled spirits. Quite a list and that is not all.Woven into these discoveries is the story of Argyros himself, and he gets himself into and out of many scrapes. The last three stories have him up against a delightful nemesis; beautiful, crafty and deadly. Of course they have several memorable encounters, but I won’t spoil that fun for you.Worth while read for sure, but my huge lack of historical knowledge probably left me out in the cold and I may have missed a lot of how Turtledove changed the “real” history of our world.Collected in the “Isaac Asimov presents” hardback series, I think you can still find this one kicking around. If you do, it is worth picking up.

  • Doug
    2019-03-13 13:03

    Having 1) a love for history and 2) noticed how prolific Turtledove has been with speculative, historical fiction, I decided to make this the first of his novels I should read. It was more arbitrary than that; the paperback was cheap, available at the local used bookstore, and I am a bit of a sucker for cheap, used paperbacks set in Times.Stylistically, it is, well, prosaic. Considering that Turtledove has a Ph.D in Byzantine history, the book does not read as anything gem-like. That said, he writes competently, with good order and humor, and with a solid grasp of the period.He portrays an alternate timeline well enough to allow the reader to believe it could have happened. As with period fiction, it does help to know something of history already in order to enjoy this book, such as who the Jurchens were, or the importance of John Chrysostom.For a work of this type, it struck me as odd that it was published under the rubric of "Isaac Asimov Presents", for the book is not science fiction. At least, not overtly... Therein lies part of the fascination.The author ably weaves in a few scientific episodes into this medieval tale. Gunpowder, printing, and optics are the main three. It is delightful to read an alternate history of how printing came to be, for example. It is entirely plausible that had the Roman Empire never fallen, as in this book, that discoveries would have taken place earlier (or later).I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in Roman/Byzantine history who also loves an entertaining, well-plotted and well-paced tale.

  • Ελευθέριος Κεραμίδας
    2019-03-09 12:25

    Set in a world where there is no Islam and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) rules all over the Mediterranean. The eponymous 'agent' is a trouble-shooter who acts as anything from a spy to an arbitrator. All of the stories are about dealing with innovation, whether technological or social.Turtledove is a very clever and erudite man. His command of Greek history, language and even mindframe is impressive. The first story in the book is particularly impressive, explaining in detail why there was relatively little innovation (rather, little dissemination of innovation) during the Middle Ages, even while there were quite a few intelligent and knowledgeable individuals.However, Turtledove's writing is bland. The stories are somewhat repetitive and rarely take each other's content into account, as they were originally published separately. In later stories, the author starts to twist logic to fit his plot, rather than the other way around. There are unlikely coincidences and the main character is way too clever in some instances and way too stupid in others. The worst part was the emphasis on Argyros' love life. While initialy paramount to the character's development, it soon stops making sense or having real gravity.All in all, the book is worth your time and its first story/chapter recommended if you are interested in the subject, but there are better ones out there.

  • Gabriele Sorrentino
    2019-03-14 09:18

    Affascinante esempio di Storia alternativa, scritto da un grande narratore

  • Victor Bruneski
    2019-02-24 12:09

    When I first read the synopsis of this book, I fell in love. I think the whole premise of this story is great! A world where Mohammed becomes a Christian saint instead of starting the Muslim faith opens up a world of opportunities (alt-his fic wise).To make things even better, this book centers on the Byzantine Empire, specifically a secret agent of theirs. The Empire, along with the Persian Empire, are still the strongest force in their region, since the Islamic Empire never destroyed Persia and weakened Byzantine. The secret agent is Basil Arygos. On the front cover it says he is Byzantine's James Bond. That really got me frothing at the bit to read this thing. The book is made up of short stories centered around Basil's adventures. The first half of the book dealt more with internal strife, and not very Bond like at all. But the second half really saved the book, and I could see where the Bond similarities came from.I really liked Basil's foe, a spy for the Persian empire named Mirrane. She is as smart as Basil, and his counter part in every way.This was quite an interesting read, and the second half of the story was great. I wish Harry Turtledove would revisit this world and tell some more stories of Basil Argyros.

  • Al
    2019-03-02 14:31

    Turtledove is one of my favorite authors. I was introduced to his writing via one of his later series. When I ran across this collection of short stories with an overall theme and plot, I grabbed it. I wasn't disappointed.This appears to be Turtledove's "breakthrough" opportunity. The copy I have (hardback) features Asimov's name at the top as the "presenter". Turtledove's name is in much smaller print.The book itself is a series of "scenes" with the protagonist, Basil Argyros, being presented with a problem and then, with James-Bond-like machinations, overcomes opposition and solves the problem. Along the way, he picks up a nemisis who is as skilled in spying and skulduggery as Basil is.Harry Turtledove is a professor of history and it shows in this "alternate history" book. The background has the stamp of authenticity that only an expert on the period could create.The stories are totally engrossing and entertaining. I always hated going to bed at night because I had to wait until the next evening to take the book up again.

  • Alberto M
    2019-03-07 09:16

    Quasi mai smetto di leggere un libro dopo aver superato le prime 50 pagine, ma a questo davvero non ho retto. Questa raccolta di racconti è ambientata nell'impero Bizantino, in un passato alternativo: le premesse erano ottime! Peccato che il protagonista si riveli una figura di cartapesta, un supereroe senza punti deboli nè autoironia, che una volta inventa la vaccinazione pensandoci sopra qualche minuto, poi ruba in un paio di giorni un segreto gelosissimamente custodito da una setta, e già che c'è insegna al potente di turno qualche fondamento di macroeconomia, quel tanto che basta perché possa continuare a sfruttare i suoi schiavi. Insomma, il personaggio è così esagerato da non suscitare alcuna simpatia né ammirazione. L'autore ha un dottorato in storia bizantina, il che non gli impedisce di parlare a un certo punto del processo "Tizio vs. Caio" (ho dimenticato i nomi), un modo di definire le cause che fa venire in mente più gli avvocati rampanti dei romanzi di Grisham che degli augusti magistrati bizantini. Insomma, da evitare.

  • Patrick
    2019-03-18 15:22

    An interesting novel, which is in actuality a series of interconnected short stories, that takes place in an "alternate history" setting during the late middle ages. In this universe Mohammed did not create his own religion, but instead converted to Christianity and converted the majority of Arabs as well, becoming one of Christianities great saints. Because of this, the eastern Empire never falls, and Constantinople remains the great capital of Christendom. The plot of the book centers on citizen of Byzantium who works as a "secret agent" of sorts for the Empire. In each of the six stories he encounters some new "technology" of the Medieval era, which become major plot points for each story.Don't expect high literature from this book. It's a light, quick read, but a lot of fun - especially if you're interested in medieval history, or even theology, which comes into play in most of the stories.

  • Jonathan Palfrey
    2019-03-01 13:09

    These stories are readable, and amiable enough, but I found them rather disappointing. Much of the time, I had the vague feeling that I was reading stories for children.Perhaps the main problem is that they're so implausible. First, in almost every story someone invents something important, such as gunpowder, printing, or distillation. And our hero is right there discovering it before it becomes common knowledge—or even inventing it himself. Second, things work in the stories that probably wouldn't work in reality. They're unconvincing.Characterization is more or less adequate, but patchy. Background is rather lightly sketched in, considering that Turtledove is supposed to be an expert on Byzantium.The later stories in the book are a bit better than the earlier ones.Turtledove is commonly described as "the master of alternate history", but I haven't seen anything from him that justifies that title, and this book certainly doesn't.

  • djcb
    2019-03-06 11:11

    Harry Turtledove is one of the most well-known writers in the'alternative-history' genre; I had never read anything by him, 'Agentof Byzantium' was my first.This book is set in around 1300CE, in a world where the Eastern-Roman(Byzantine) empire never collapsed; where Mohammad became a prominentchurch-father, and where Byzantium is a cold-war with the othersuper-power, the Persian empire.The main character is a sort-of combination of James Bond and IndianaJones who sets out to either discover or steal the inventions in theempire (telescopes, vaccination, gun powder, distillation, printingpress, ...), and also show his acumen in solving labor problem andtheological issues... including the hot Persian 'Bond girl'. Sadly,that was way too much to keep the story believable...I do find the genre of alternative history quite interesting, butprobably need to look a bit further.

  • Deepak Fernandes
    2019-02-18 08:06

    For a fan of historical fiction and alternate history scenarios, this is an ideal light read.The key word is light -- don't expect this to be too much detail and don't expect large descriptions of war or battlefields etc.The setting is an alternative history where Mohammad converts to Christianity and the Byzantine Empire is stronger than ever in the 14th century -- and it has the Sassanid Empire still there along side it.It has a lot of things you would not expect in the 14th century and you may probably disagree a lot with the assumptions and the coincidences, but, as I said, treat this as a light read to keep you amused. You won't regret reading this book if you keep that in mind.

  • Curt Lorde
    2019-03-14 15:31

    Gibbon's would not recognize this Eastern Roman Empire. But the collected histories of hero Romanos Argryous, he would though. Gibbon's would recognize Argryous as a Romanized yet still sly Greek adherent of Gibbon's RealRoman Empire who helped keep the idea and reality of a working, though smaller Rome in the eye of the Old World. Romanos Argryous though has the advantage of dealing with a world where the horseshoe nail wasn't lost. He's also a First Class In The Right Place kind of guy too, though in one story of the ex soldier's life, he loses a wife and child as the price. Enjoyable ( and more Gibbon's idea of a Byzantine plot) at the end of the book for a nice climax to a history , if not Thucydides, than worthwhile Turtledove.

  • Jacek
    2019-02-25 16:25

    I am a big fan of alternate history and what-ifs... This collection of short stories has some really cool ideas like Mahomet forced by Persian attack to stay in Syria, never comes back to Arabia and becames a great Christian saint.The strong side of the book is a rich historical background - Turtledove has Ph.D. in Byzantine history and uses his knowledge well- this definitely deserves 5*.On the other hand his writing skills are not on par with his knowledge. Stories are flat and mechanical - this is definitely not Tolkien, Dick, Scott Card or Sapkowski.

  • Jeff Crosby
    2019-03-03 11:07

    This volume contains all but one of the Basil Argyros stories (the other is in Departures). These stories are set in an alternate Roman empire in which Mohammad became a Christian convert instead of the prophet of Islam. As a result, Constantinople remains the capitol of the empire. Set in the fourteenth century, Basil is an imperial agent who is both a spy and a troubleshooter. The stories are clever and interesting.

  • Andrew Doohan
    2019-03-18 12:18

    Another wonderful alternate version of history by someone I'm increasingly coming to recognise as a master of this genre. This book, based on a premise that the Byzantine Empire survived into the 1300s and that Islam never developed, consists of a series of short stories each complete within themselves but also naturally flowing from one to another.Like many of the other books of Turtledove's that I've read to date, this book is historically accurate within itself.Highly recommended.

  • David
    2019-03-13 16:09

    A well done collectionA very entertaining series of stories. The author really set the scene and atmosphere of an alternate Roman Empire. There were a lot of historical allusions that were very well done, as well as some really inventive plot devices in the alternate timeline. I'd like to read more in this universe.

  • Travis
    2019-03-17 14:24

    Great series of short stories all set in an alternate earth where Rome never fell and the Empire and Persia are the current 'super power' nations. All the stories star an agent for the empire and his various adventures/assignments. He's kind of the Roman James Bond.Several stories feature his arch-rival a Persian femme-fatale. Very clever alternate history and a nice collection of stories.

  • Michael
    2019-02-22 09:33

    A breezy, old fashioned sci-fi set of novellas and short stories put together into a novel. The main character learns about things--I'll not mention them specifically because so as not to be a spoiler--and uses them on behalf of the empire. The Magistranos Argyros is a cool character, something of a 007 of Byzantium.

  • Mimi Herrmann
    2019-03-15 08:22

    Great Speculative Fiction From A MasterThis is a collection of short stories about a reluctant hero, a man living in an alternate universe where Islam does not exist and the Roman Empire - or rather the Byzantine - is still going strong well into what we think of as the Middle Ages. I only wish he'd written more in this collection.

  • Brentman99
    2019-02-20 12:25

    Only a person with a PH D in Byzantine history could come up with such a good plot. Basil Argyros is a likeable character who Turtledove uses quite well. I wish he would have expanded upon this book. I really enjoyed it.

  • Michael
    2019-03-06 16:20

    Another cool alternative history story from HT. Set in the 1300's: Mohammed was a Christian prophet, the Middle East is still Persian, the Eastern Roman Empire never fell, and the Dark Ages are avoided. The main character is a spy, an agent for the Byzantine Empire.

  • Geoff
    2019-03-17 13:23

    Fun alternate history, but lightweight with a strong case of the "mary sues."