So you know when you watch the Lord of the Rings, any of them, and you see Gandalf, and you think, now there’s a good guy. Well, this story doesn’t go that way. At all. In fact, Gandalf is a manipulative, conniving bastard who would rather spin progress back a thousand years than foster scientific progress. In fact, he’s against Mordor because the Mordorians (that’s a real word!) are on the brink of an industrial revolution, and that bodes poorly for a civilization hell-bent on living like Shyamalan’s village people.
Even though Kirill Eskov published this in 1999, I just ran across this free pdf copy which I downloaded to iBooks for my iPad, and I can’t quit reading. What do you need to know to hit the ground running? Orc is actually a racial slang against the Orocuen, a race that is actually war-minded out of necessity because humans love them some orc-hunting. Sauruman is a fucking good guy with brains and incredible comebacks. And it’s free. So let’s not act like that isn’t awesome.
Sure, it’s an alternate history. But the prose is wonderful; it’s broken up into 2 to 3 page chapters making it a quick read. Whoever thought Gandalf may have been the bad guy all along?