A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain is one of those stories that has inspired a host of others. Any time you have a modern-day protagonist inexplicably traveling back in “time” to the days of King Arthur, you can thank Mark Twain for that plot. It’s one that is used ever so much in movies and television.
This trope can be fun, albeit campy. Most adaptations come off as cheesy on the big screen (See Black Knight, starring Martin Lawrence), but when done right, it can produce some thought provoking moments. Twain’s original story has many of these.
Hank Morgan is an engineer from nineteenth century Hartford, who, after a bump to the head, finds that he has traveled back in time to the sixth century, right in the middle of King Arthur’s reign. Bringing with him knowledge of the future, he is able to convince the “uncivilized” people of the time that he is a great sorcerer (and that the famous Merlin is nothing but a humbug). Twain uses the voice of Hank to parallel his own ideas about the romanticism of knights and chivalry, and about the corruption of the church and religion itself. The irony and subtle humor make for great satire, a lot of which is still applicable today.
The story itself does tend to meander at times (which Twain is wont to do). There are tangential subplots that are unnecessary and tedious, which cause the story to drag more than it should. At other times, the story is thoughtful and engaging. It is a rollercoaster of transfixion.
Overall, it is a good story, and one that will make the reader think once the narrator gets past talking about the importance of setting up a stock-exchange.
Extra Note: I “read” this book as an audiobook read by John Greenman. It was downloaded from Librivox.org.