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Authors: Paul Levinson

Unburning Alexandria

BOOK: Unburning Alexandria
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Also by Paul Levinson:



Borrowed Tides (2001)

The Plot to Save Socrates (2006, eBook 2012)

Dr. Phil D'Amato series

The Silk Code (1999, eBook 2012)

The Consciousness Plague (2002)

The Pixel Eye (2003)



Mind at Large: Knowing in the Technological Age (1988)

Electronic Chronicles (1992)

Learning Cyberspace (1995)

The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution (1997)

Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium (1999)

Realspace: The Fate of Physical Presence in the Digital Age, On and Off Planet (2003)

Cellphone: The World's Most Mobile Medium, and How It Has Transformed Everything (2004)

New New Media (2009, 2012)





Paul Levinson



JoSara MeDia

Unburning Alexandria

Copyright © 2013 by Paul Levinson

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

1st ebook edition published May 2013 by JoSara MeDia

An earlier version of Chapter 0 and Chapter 1 was published as “Unburning Alexandria” in
Analog Magazine
, November 2008

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Cover illustration by Joel Iskowitz


Table of Contents

A Note to Readers

Previously in
The Plot to Save Socrates

Chapter 0

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15



Also By Paul Levinson

Other Titles by JoSara MeDia


Thanks to Tina Vozick, Simon Vozick-Levinson, Molly Vozick-Levinson, Larry Ketchersid, and Audrey Ketchersid who helped with proofreading the manuscript. Thanks to Stan Schmidt and Trevor Quachri for helping with the publication of the “Unburning Alexandria” novelette in
in 2008, and thanks to Joel Iskowitz for his cover illustration for this novel. And last but not least, thanks to the biggest group of all: the many readers and reviewers who have been asking since 2006 for a sequel to
The Plot to Save Socrates



To Tina, who frequently seeks to rescue me from the flames.

Previously in
The Plot to Save Socrates

Sierra Waters, a graduate student in 2042 New York City, is given an unusual manuscript by her mentor Thomas O'Leary, who soon after disappears. The manuscript is a previously unknown dialogue in which Socrates receives a visitor after Crito on the eve of Socrates's death - a man who claims to be from the future and offers Socrates a chance to escape the hemlock that won't change history: a clone of Socrates will be given the hemlock, so Socrates can escape to the future. Sierra is not sure what to think of this manuscript, but she and her boyfriend Max go off to London in search of Thomas. There they discover a room with chairs which can travel through time, as explained to them by William Henry Appleton, the great 19th-century American publisher, who has used such a chair to travel to the future. Sierra and Max travel to Londinium 150 AD, where Sierra to her horror sees Max attacked and killed by Roman legionaries. She goes to Alexandria, where she meets Heron, the enigmatic ancient inventor, and his student Jonah. Sierra is now attempting to save Socrates - in the way indicated in the manuscript - as much as she is looking for Thomas, and her travels take her to Phrygia (later Asia Minor) in 404 BC, and the bed of Alcibiades, Socrates's beloved student. Alcibiades, who in our history is killed by Spartan mercenaries when in bed with a concubine, is saved from this fate when Heron arrives with legionaries minutes before the mercenaries arrive, and awakens Alcibiades and Sierra. In the ensuing escape and aftermath, Sierra and Alcibiades fall in love, and Heron enlists them in the plot to save Socrates which he is now traveling through time to set in motion. But Sierra and Alcibiades gradually come to realize that Heron - or some future version of himself - is trying to kill them. In the end, Sierra not Heron rescues Socrates and takes him to 2042, where Socrates meets with Thomas, who has reappeared and is thrilled to see the philosopher. But Alcibiades is injured in the rescue and he and Sierra are separated. Desperate to find him, Sierra goes to Alexandria, 410 AD, where she has reason to think Alcibiades may have gone, and where she takes on the identity of Hypatia, who in our history was killed by fanatics in 415 AD.

A Note to Readers

Chapter 0 of
Unburning Alexandria
was published as Chapter 11 of
The Plot to Save Socrates
"author's cut" ebook in December 2012, but was not published in the original hardcover (2006) and paperback (2007) editions of
The Plot to Save Socrates
. I included it as Chapter 0 in this novel so that readers of the printed editions of
The Plot to Save Socrates
would have the entire continuing story before them in this novel. Slightly different versions of Chapters 0 and 1 of this novel were also previously published as a novelette in
Analog: Science Fiction and Fact
magazine in November 2008.

This novel contains a mix of real and fictional characters. An "Appendix" has been included at end of the novel, with brief biographies of real people in history who either appear or are significantly mentioned in the novel.

"The Library of Alexandria's destruction was one of the greatest intellectual catastrophes in history." - W. C. Dampier,
A History of Science
, 1929/1942


Chapter 0

[Alexandria, 413 AD]

Sierra walked quickly past the Library in Alexandria, sandals slapping on stones.

No clocks were on its walls. But if there had been an hour hand and a minute hand, in alabaster or some other white mineral that matched the walls, she knew the minute would be pressing the hour, and the hour would be twelve. The Library was at its end–


She turned around. "Synesius, an unexpected pleasure! You should have sent word. Ptolemais to Alexandria is a long way to travel for a surprise visit." She knew he was desperately in love with her, in need of her, especially after the grievous loss of his wife and two boys. She cared about him, but was in love with no one likely alive in this ancient world.

"The winds were kind. I boarded the ship four mornings ago, and here I am."

The sun had just set behind him. Synesius was about the same age as Sierra – he would have been about ten years younger than the original Hypatia. He had been Sierra's student for an intense year, shortly after she had first replaced Hypatia, who had died of a swift fever. Today, Synesius looked older than both of them put together. Dark pouches anchored his eyes, deep creases mapped his forehead.

"What is wrong?" she asked him, though she could think of a dozen things.

"People of my faith are angrier than ever about you and your pagans. I am concerned about your safety."

Sierra scoffed. "Why, if you have such confidence that yours is the one, true, inevitable faith, do you have such anger towards others? Surely, if your faith is right, all others including mine will fade of their own accord."

"Not all of us want to kill you," Synesius replied. "I certainly do not." He blushed, slightly. "Most of us indeed believe that in time the whole world will be Christian. But there are fanatics among us – Nitrian young men – who see their mission as cleansing the world of all impurities, immediately, and these include the purveyors of impure thoughts. Your beauty and intelligence make you the most dangerous purveyor of all. They burn with hatred – I have seen it."

Sierra turned from Synesius and the colors behind him and looked again at the Library. It was bronzed and dignified in this light. "My father did his best to stave off the bloodshed, to contest with ideas not knives, but he lost that battle." She was talking about Theon, who was Hypatia's biological father, not hers. Theon had succumbed to the same fever as Hypatia, which had cut short Sierra's attempt to locate the cure for Socrates's illness. But when Hypatia's death was imminent, Sierra had taken some of Hypatia's DNA, travelled to Athens and the future, and reconstructed her face and vocal chords so that she looked and sounded like Hypatia. Sierra returned and took Hypatia's place.

For the Alexandrian world of 410 AD and all subsequent history, Hypatia had recovered. If she looked slightly different, if her voice sounded off, that was ascribed to grief over the loss of her father and her own close encounter with death. . . .

Unfortunately, that same history had Hypatia dying by vicious assassination in 415 AD. But that was still nearly two years away. Sierra had crucial work to do, but no intention of staying in Alexandria that long. But what, then, was the cause of this visit from Synesius today? Some cloaked danger that her reading of history had not disclosed?

"Your father was a wise man, as you his daughter are wise," Synesius said. "Indeed, you are wiser still – you have an understanding, a perspective, that speaks of centuries, not just years."

"Thank you," Sierra replied. "A high compliment from the Bishop of Ptolemais."

"Yes, a compliment," Synesius said, "but a warning, too. In return for your wisdom and the awe you evoke in people, you court death from the Christian fanatics."

"What would you have me do?"

"Leave with me," Synesius said. "Come with me to Ptolemais. There is nothing here for you now, just scrolls and memories. You can take the memories with you. And the scrolls are dwindling."

"I am devoted to saving them, and to stemming the exodus of scholars from Alexandria," Sierra said.
And finding the cure for Socrates, if it exists.
She had deliberately come back here near the end of Theon's life, in case he had not learned about the cure until his last years. But she had not counted on Hypatia dying at the same time, and now she was obliged to pursue this phantom cure without their assistance.

BOOK: Unburning Alexandria
3.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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