A commissioned but self-penned review
or
Own-trumpet voluntary
as demanded and then not used by The Surrey Advertiser

To Build Jerusalem by John Whitbourn.
Published by Victor Gollancz Ltd. (Cassell Group) 1995.
Hardback 15.99 ISBN 0 575 05871 4
Paperback 5.99 ISBN 0 575 05873 0

Probably the first ever Science-Fiction book set in Guildford (and surrounding villages)!

This novel is part of the same 'altered history' as John Whitbourn's prize-winning book A Dangerous Energy which was awarded the 'BBC First Fantasy Novel' award in 1991; though To Build Jerusalem stands alone as a story in its own right. Readers will enjoy the dramatic scenes set in familiar places and maybe boggle at the Guildford-of-another-history depicted. For instance, at one point the (walled) Town is besieged and Guildford Castle (no mere ruin as in our time, but fully garrisoned and functional) goes 'missing', to reappear in a remarkable role. The effect is to make the familiar strange and after reading this book a walk round our homely streets will never seem the same again.

In this world 'Good Queen Bess' died 'early', a 'Queen Mary II' welcomed the Spanish Armada ashore, Guy Fawkes got spectacularly lucky (and was made Saint Guy for his pains) and the Reformation is just a disreputable footnote in history books. The Church has returned and presides over a peaceful 'Christendom' stretching from the Americas to Muscovy. However, under the placid surface, malign forces now rise to the surface ....

One morning in 1995, whilst on a state visit to Guildford, Charles IV ('King of England, Wales and Cornwall, Protector of Mannin and the Isles, Patron of the Jerusalem and Jaffa Citadels'), disappears into thin air whilst processing up the steps of 'Holy Trinity Cathedral'. His courtiers and guards and the Cathedral steps go with him! A well prepared armed revolt breaks out in the chaos that ensues. 'Adam', one of the Vatican's trusted military elite, and a ruthless fanatic, travels to England to investigate, granted full powers to settle the troubled English realm once and for all. With the aid of a patriotic-Guildfordian (and witness to the King's departure), Fred Pelling, Adam soon discovers that the threat is not just to one nation or religion, but to mankind and the earth itself.

All action and yet with deep undercurrents, this novel recommends itself to fans of fantasy and the 'what-ifs' of history, and those interested in seeing their home town in a (very) different light. Also, books set in Guildford aren't so thick on the ground that we can ignore those that do come along! (Guildford Book Festival please note) The author comes from a long established local family and his previous books, such as A Dangerous Energy and Popes & Phantoms, have attracted high praise from The Times and other reviewers. He has also written the locally set Binscombe Tales series of supernatural stories. These have appeared in the UK, USA and Europe and were published in a two-volume collected form in 1998 and 1999.

 

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