But By The Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons
Reviewed by by Casee Marie on October 24, 2012
Sometimes a book will challenge us to root ourselves in its meaning and venture into new psychological or emotional territories that will ultimately cause us to reflect on how we see the world. Sometimes a book will challenge us in a more basic way, through narrative and formatting, and its creative expression goads us to work hard and embrace the infinite way in which literature can be portrayed. But By the Chance of War, a new and monumental work from Richard C. Lyons, is a book that encompasses both of these aspects, presenting the reader with a truly epic journey into the expansive ability of prose while encouraging our deep reflection on the subject within its pages. The territories Lyons explores are age-old and eternally conflicting: that of mankind’s historical gravitation toward war and the effects this destructive nature has continuously wreaked on society and the world throughout time.
But By the Chance of War presents four separate stories, all representing drastically different times of war and technology while also reflecting the stunted perception that has kept mankind rooted in its destructive mindset. Part One, Mathura, follows India’s ancient Gupta Empire in a fierce battle against the Ephthalite Huns. The story is brought alive by the passion of the prince, Chandra Gupta, as he struggles valiantly with the weight of his newly-inherited kingship and the betrayal of those close to him. Part Two, Niagara, documents the fall of Fort Niagara from the French to the British during the Seven Years’ War. Dominating the focus of the story is the stoic and determined Seneca Indian tribe, whose world has been disturbed by the armies from Europe and who must align themselves with surrender to the English after a betrayal from the French. Part Three is Amiens, which takes the reader to the trenches of the First World War where Colonel Byron Blunt strives to see the end of the war without losing another son to the fighting. Colonel Blunt’s struggle takes a disastrous turn when he finds treason within his family name. Lastly, Part Four’s Moriah takes us to nondescript modern times where America and Israel play central roles in a conflict that could lead the world to nuclear devastation. Perhaps the most alarming, significant and breathtaking story in the book, Moriah reflects the ultimate power struggle between mankind and most strongly evokes a sense of deep reflection from the reader as we’re moved to consider what time and technology might hold for the world.
One of the most spectacular things about But By the Chance of War is the mode in which the stories are written: a system of rhyming poetry woven into the formatting of a play. Each part of the book is given its own character list, map, and set of acts and scenes with which to relay its tale while the narrative of the characters presents a marked poetic style that beguiles its reader. Between the extraordinary formatting of the book and the expanse of history it relates, the details of which undoubtedly required monumental research, it’s clear to see why Lyons dedicated years of his life to the creation of this work. As with all such works, when a good deal of blood, sweat and tears goes into the making of it there’s a strong likelihood that the reader will be required to devote a certain amount of perseverance to fully grasp the full concept of the book. Fascinated by the presentation of But By the Chance of War, I was enthusiastic to devote such time, to study the book and to thereby immerse myself in it most fully, and for my efforts I was greatly rewarded. But By the Chance of War is staggering and impressive, unlike anything of its kind in both scope and artist achievement.
But By The Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons
Lylea Creative Resources
Reviewed by Sandra Shwayder Sanchez U.S. Review of Books
“Through fear of you Lord, the sun shines, winds blow From
you Lord, life comes and fates are bestowed.”
But By The Chance of War examines mankind’s impulse to make war in the context of four plays that are composed entirely of verse. Readers who enjoyed The Illiad and The Odyssey will find this an interesting experience. Each of the four verse plays takes place on a different battleground in a different historic period. The first of the four plays, Mathura, begins with the joining of two great armies of India, in the year 515 C.E, to fight the Ephthalite Huns. The second play, Niagara, involves the French, the English, and the Seneca in the year 1759 at Fort Niagra between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Seneca remain loyal to the French but that loyalty is not reciprocated. Amiens, the third play, is set in France in 1918 and features soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, and South Africa battling the Germans in the last major offensive of World War I. Moriah, the last and shortest is set in Jerusaleum in modern times. The United States comes to the aid of Israel when an accidental nuclear blast goes off. The plays can be read at different times in any order.
At nearly 500 pages of verse covering four different historic periods, this book is not one the average reader could expect to simply read cover to cover in a few days. The stories are developed slowly, and the person who reads solely for entertainment will be disappointed, but the reader who happens to appreciate this particular classical style will find it rewarding and perhaps discover the insights the back cover promises. The more sensible approach to this opus is to be patient, exploring each within the context of a series of book club discussions or even an entire course offered to students of poetics, classical literature, history, or philosophy. An epic work of this magnitude deserves that kind of time, attention, and scholarship.
Clarion Review (5 Stars)
Review: But By the Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons
by Joe Taylor July 3, 2013
Heroic couplet-form dialogue brings an epic feel to this survey of war and human nature’s destiny.
No one is more aware of the paradoxes inherent in war than its principals. In this epic survey, Richard Lyons takes to battlefields and staging areas to dramatize the tragic ironies and conflicting truths in human warfare.
But by the Chance of War is a stirring tetralogy of separate but thematically linked parts. The first three of these works are based on pivotal historical events: the invasion of the Gupta (India) Empire by the Huns (515 CE), the French and Indian surrender of Fort Niagara to the British (1759), and a German advance on British troops near the city of Amiens, France (1918). Part four is purely fictional, taking place in Jerusalem at a time very much like the present.
The dialogue is in heroic couplet, a format that, Lyons explains in his foreword, attempts “the reconciliation of two physically opposed lines.” Though the poetry may seem daunting to some readers, it lends gravitas to the dialogue and smacks of classic epic works.
Each part, a play in itself, features some new advance in the technology of war, but the human element is oddly consistent. Near the end of the final cataclysmic scene in part four, nuclear warfare having decimated half the planet, a Franciscan Brother cries, “Twas for us the beast in Nature to subdue, / But it’s the beast in us that subdues the world!” The lament is nearly an echo of the observation made by a Hindu priest to his Hun captors in part one: “Who would conquer all things must conquer one thing / Those desires of his soul which are limiting!”
Lyons also looks at the circumstances of war—that which is fought for and that which is defended. The Huns are “wonders of an hour” who are disrupting centuries of peace to invade the Gupta Empire. They fling “spears and stones, fire and arrows” to destroy a diverse, sophisticated culture. In Europe many centuries later, an assassination has set ten million men, most of them bound by alliances designed to keep the peace, to the trenches of World War I. The heroic sacrifice of life and limb is contrasted to betrayals of trust by nations as well as individuals. And the rage to avenge a wrong often results in the occurrence of more wrongs.
At times, Lyons’s warriors argue the folly of ignoring the “gathering evil” that is the enemy. At other times, characters see that “we are all prisoners here, of our ill ambition!” His men are honorable and principled as often as they reek of excessive desire and pride. During the French and Indian Wars, the British bought newly invented howitzers from a Frenchman. Many British officers deplore the moral lapse of the traitor even though they will benefit from it; one general considers not using a cannon bought from the enemy. His argument: “This victory ought not to be merely over foes / But a victory over our lesser selves.”
Richard Lyons’s work is a profound examination of the phenomenon of war. It is also a proposal that men should not despair in the struggle over their “lesser selves.”
Review: But By the Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons
Reviewed by Michelle Robertson for Readers’ Favorite
But By The Chance of War by Richard C. Lyons is a poetic novel written in theatrical form, introducing readers to the concepts of poetic writing, war, and human nature. But By The Chance Of War consists of four chapters written as pieces in a play, each
presenting a different era of war. This introduces readers to the impulses human nature brings when conflicted with the experiences of war or just the mere thought of it. Each chapter or play piece provides references such as a map, details on the location, and who is going to be present and, of course, an overview of the scene for readers to vividly create their own scenery.
The first piece begins in the year of 515 C.E. when two armies fight in India. The second piece begins in 1759 at Fort Niagara involving the French and English armies. The third piece begins in 1918 France, during World War 1 but features soldiers of many countries such as Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia. The fourth piece begins in present day Jerusalem when the United States and Israel together face a nuclear blast.
But By The Chance Of War is a book that will cause readers to reflect upon emotions and expectations of how they ultimately see the world. The author offers a in-depth look into human nature and its connection to and hunger for war over time. The book is over 480 pages long, thus making it a read that cannot be rushed or skimmed due to its size and also its uniquely written style. A reader that is not interested in the theater or not familiar with poetry perhaps will not find this book for them. Readers who have studied or are interested in military history, psychology, and theatrical poetry will enjoy But By The Chance Of War immensely. Bravo, Richard C. Lyons.