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Literature / The Excalibur Alternative

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The Excalibur Alternative is a 2002 science fiction work by David Weber, expanding on his earlier short story Sir George and the Dragon, and shares a universe with David Drake's Ranks of Bronze.

14th century English knight Sir George Wincaster and his men are caught in a horrid storm en route to France. Saved by aliens, they find that their saviours' motives are hardly altruistic; the aliens want to use them as hatchetmen and have the power to quell overt rebellion. However, the thirst for freedom is not so easily quenched, and after a long time a ghost of a chance appears to them.

This novel contains the following tropes:

  • Big Damn Heroes: The Avalon Empire—the heroes and their descendants, basically—arrive just in time to save the rest of humanity from a Federation extermination attempt.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: In the Distant Finale, a supposedly unbeatable Federation battle squadron is handily defeated by the Avalon Empire's space navy.
  • Distant Finale: The last couple of chapters happen after a significant amount of time has passed for the protagonists.
  • Feudal Future: The Avalon Empire, which spans several solar systems, has a feudal structure with an Emperor in charge.
  • Happily Married: Sir George and Lady Matilda are very much in love.
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: Humanity's technology advances about twice as fast as is normal for other species. The galactic authorities, whose civilization and technology have remained static for millennia, find this terrifying.
  • Humans Are Special: Humans are apparently the first species to really threaten the Federation.
  • Humans Are Warriors: The trade guild the villain belongs to uses humans to fight other "primitive" species, since they're forbidden to use their own weapons against them. They're effective because unlike their opponents, they're disciplined soldiers.
  • Lizard Folk: The villain's bodyguards are silent reptilian aliens that the English army call "dragon-men" and the Federation call the Ternaui. They turn out to be telepathic, explaining the silence, as well as being just as angry as the humans are about their enslavement by said villain. They make an alliance with Sir George to kill their master and take over the ship, and appear at the end as part of the Avalon Empire.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The aliens that abducted the heroes were this, and the heroes become this to the alien races they are being used against.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Life extension technology means that by the end of the book, Sir George and the others qualify.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: The alien master overlooked the part where the laws are supposed to say " ...or, through inaction, allow the master to come to harm."