GUEST POST: Rebelling Against An Empire by Stephen Aryan

 

I love stories about an underdog. Stories
about a small group of plucky rebels, fighting against a monstrous superpower
that has more tentacles than an Old One from Lovecraftian mythology. A
dominating, strangling, dictatorship, with spies listening at every door, and
overzealous soldiers watching everyone closely, for even the slightest
infraction of the rules.


It probably started a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, when I was a
young boy growing up on Star Wars. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, R2-D2 and C3PO: a
weird group of misfits, oddballs, naïve dreamers, double-crossing scoundrels,
and anally retentive sticklers for the rules, who love protocol. It was only
fairly recently – quite a while after I’d written The Judas Blossom in fact –
that I began to see parallels between the novel and Star Wars.


In Star Wars, there’s the Galactic Empire,
a fascist dictatorship ruled with
an iron fist by Emperor Palpatine. In The Judas Blossom, there’s the Mongol
Empir
e, a sprawling conglomeration of nations, with an aggressive military
force that brings peace at the point of a sword. One that conquers, slaughters
parts of the population, and then absorbs nations into the Empire. Sounds
familiar, right?

                            


At one point in the history of the Mongol Empire there was one leader, the
infamous Genghis Khan. But, in the time of The Judas Blossom, the Empire is now
ruled by four of his descendants, each one governing and aggressively expanding
their own area, or khanate.

So, who are the rebels in The Judas Blossom? Who is the Luke Skywalker and who
is the C3PO. And who is the Darth Vader and the Emperor Palpatine? Well,
thankfully there isn’t really a C3PO in the story, with apologies to all the
golden-rod fans out there but he’s always annoyed me! The story in the Judas
Blossom
is centered around one of the four khanates, the Ilkhanate This khanate
covers parts of several countries in the Middle East, and all of Iran, or
Persia as it was known back then. The ruler of the Ilkhanate is Hulagu Khan,
grandson of Genghis Khan, and he’s definitely a bit like Vader and a bit like
Palpatine: a tyrant who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is determined
to fulfil the dream of his grandfather by conquering the whole world, and
making all of it part of the Mongol Empire.

The rebels in my story include Kaivon, the last Persian General to survive the
invasion and now a leader without an army. He lost the war but the fight isn’t
over, and he’s determined to do anything to bring down the Mongols. Like Luke
Skywalker
, this takes him to some dark and desperate places. Too much in one
direction and he’ll not succumb to the Dark Side per se, but he could just stop
caring about others, focus only on his own wants and desires, and just accept
the world as it is. He could give up thinking that things could be better
because, after all, what can one man alone do against an entire Empire? So his
journey isn’t easy and there are a lot of bumps in the road.

Thankfully, Kaivon isn’t alone. Although unknown to him, another ally is Temujin, the youngest son of Hulagu. At times Temujin resembles Luke, naïve and too trusting, but he can also be savvy like Leia, as he eventually realizes the true face of evil in the Mongol Empire: his father. Expect some of Temujin’s dynamic with Hulagu to echo what you might have seen with Vader and Luke (spoilers for 1980!).

Without spoiling too much about the story, there are other rebels in the Judas Blossom, other factions and separate groups, each with their own agenda, and just like in Star Wars, they need to be brought together and bonded by common purpose for them to stand a chance. Like the rebel alliance, they’re also vastly outnumbered, outgunned and mostly outmatched, but they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and give their lives for the cause of freedom. Not for riches, or fame, or power. They’re doing it so that those who come after will have better lives, and will not have to suffer the same level of cruelty and oppression.

In both stories, both Empires are evil. However, such a vast nebulous structure is always made up from thousands and thousands of people, and within it there are always a large number who are just doing their job. That’s not absolving them of being complicit on some level, but sometimes it takes something remarkable to wake them to the possibility of something different and better. A world where they don’t spy on their neighbours for a reward. A place where they feel safe enough to express themselves however they like. A place where they have free speech and can criticize those in power, without fear of being punished.

A rut, even a fairly unpleasant one, can become comfortable as it holds no surprises. At least, that’s the theory. There’s always the possibility of a knock at the door for breaking the rules, whether it’s true or not. Shaking people out of their apathy isn’t easy, and sometimes it takes rare and unusual individuals to reach the embers of rebellion lurking deep in the hearts of many.

Luke doesn’t know that when he goes up
against both the Emperor and Darth Vader, he’s definitely going to win. In
fact, for the longest time, it looks as if he’s going to lose, but he believes
and has faith. In The Judas Blossom, the rebels also know that they won’t
always win, but that they have to keep trying, because they’re fighting for a
better world.


READ FANTASY BOOK CRITIC’S REVIEW OF THE JUDAS BLOSSOM

Official Author Information: Stephen Aryan was born in Iran in 1977 and
raised in the UK. He has been reading fantasy since a very young age. It
started with books by David Eddings, Tolkien, C.S Lewis, Terry Brooks, Ursula
le Guin, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and later David Gemmell, who had a
huge influence on his work. He published his fantasy debut in 2015 and since
then has released nine book and a novella. He lives in the West Midlands with
his partner and two cats. When he’s not writing novels or podcasting, he can be
found drinking real ale, reading books or watching TV.

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