Zafiro's second entry in the "Thrilling Thirteen" collection of thirteen novels- though this isn't really a novel, it's a pair of short stories. VeryZafiro's second entry in the "Thrilling Thirteen" collection of thirteen novels- though this isn't really a novel, it's a pair of short stories. Very well done, no half-stars needed here....more
Did what it claimed to do - threw a lot of mythology and history of mythology at me in hopes that a wee bit of it might stick. (Time will tell.) It'sDid what it claimed to do - threw a lot of mythology and history of mythology at me in hopes that a wee bit of it might stick. (Time will tell.) It's a little uneven - it goes deeper in one area and wider in another, and in some cases some of the alternate names and timelines can get a little confusing especially with the speed at which they come at you, but I think that's the nature of the subject. How accurate or comprehensive this is I can't really say - after all I read it because I know virtually nothing of the subject matter.
Probably more of a 3-1/2 than a 3 but we don't get half stars....more
Saylor sets his book in the city of Rome (and what will be the city of Rome, as the book starts well before the founding). While the writing is oftenSaylor sets his book in the city of Rome (and what will be the city of Rome, as the book starts well before the founding). While the writing is often somewhat plain (I say "often" because some chapters flow a lot better than some others), and occasional purple prose passages almost prudish in their choice of descriptive words, the story is captivating - especially if you are someone like me who is easily triggered by historical references to go look things up online. While it's historical fiction, the fiction isn't uppermost (the history is), but it's enough to put you in the city, and Saylor fabricates some strings to tie you into and hold you through the 800-year span of the story.
Pure history aside, it's interesting to contrast some of the political and societal struggles described in this book with those of our times. It seems to me that the author put things in such a way that you'd see some parallels and draw these comparisons, but in an afterword he declaims this notion, saying that these are things of people then and now, and the commonalities are natural. But I note that he specifically brings it up in order to deny it.
Clearly this book skims the surface of Roman history and mythology. It would take a whole lot of books of this size to do otherwise and would probably have a very limited audience to boot. But that's fine - it's a story set in a historical context. Individual human experience is so brief, making it hard to really grasp how large history is, hard to feel that length of time, hard to bring it close in any way. This book enhances that sense; in fact, many of the characters in this epic have lost their own historical certainties and contexts and are faced with their own sense of being dwarfed by time....more
An interesting and enjoyable read, marred sometimes by the somewhat wisecracky tone of the author (another commenter used the word "hipster" which isAn interesting and enjoyable read, marred sometimes by the somewhat wisecracky tone of the author (another commenter used the word "hipster" which is sort of on the right track, but not exactly the right word). It (the style) is somewhat hit-or-miss, I think; sometimes it made me chuckle, sometimes it annoyed me. But overall it made for a very enjoyable read, following the goings-on of the certain figures in the Massachusetts area in that particular Puritan time. I'll happily read others by her.
Again I wish we had half-stars here. 4 is too much, 3 is too little....more
Phew, this book has a lot of words. Or maybe it just seems that way because they were written so long ago and the faded vocabulary they draw from andPhew, this book has a lot of words. Or maybe it just seems that way because they were written so long ago and the faded vocabulary they draw from and the faded prose they assemble into is so hard to make out.
Written in 1841 or thereabouts, this book purports to be an examination of various ways in which people en masse are subject to, as the title says, popular delusions and madnesses - delusions and madnesses that are often specifically of their time and place (e.g. witch mania or religious crusades) but just as often are about general human folly (e.g. various economic bubbles that come back again and again in one way or another). It often turns more into a litany than an examination, for example presenting scores and scores of stories of people who went in for things like alchemy and magnetising.
My impression of this book is a bit uneven. Many sections were fascinating -- those on money-making schemes, economic bubbles, the Crusades among them; some were a bit tedious, or at least ended up that way due to their length. Occasionally the prejudices of the author, or maybe just the times he wrote in, seem to come up against what he was trying to say. All in all it was well worth reading, with the good parts way overshadowing the bad.
I should add that it's not exactly a page-turner. I slogged through it over quite a length of time. In addition to the density of the material, this is just another one of those books that encouraged or required me to turn to outside reference material a lot (i.e., a netbook computer and the Internet), sometimes so that I could look further into some historical reference, sometimes so that I could look up one of the many dusty old unfamiliar words, and sometimes so that I could attempt to translate a foreign phrase that the author tosses out liberally, apparently expecting the reader to be far more literate than I. I don't know how people used to read books like this with only their own brains to turn to - fortunately I don't have that restriction....more
It's long. There are 8o pages of introduction before you get to page 1 - some 50 or so by the author, providing some background mateWow. What a story.
It's long. There are 8o pages of introduction before you get to page 1 - some 50 or so by the author, providing some background material for the reader, and the rest by George Seaver as a preface to the 1985 edition, shedding a little light on the life, character, and habits of the author. These both make great reading: I recall thinking that if the book was as enthralling as its lead-in material, I had something to look forward to. And it was, and I did.
The book is about Scott's 1910 expedition to the Antarctic. The expedition is remembered for Scott's drive on the Pole, but the book also deals with some other of its aspects. Just the telling of the trip from England to New Zealand, and then again the one from there to the Ross Sea, would be an amazing read. But then it really gets going.
The title of the book comes from a mid-winter trip along one side of Ross Island, some 70 miles or so, by three men (one of them the author) dragging a sledge through constant night, gale winds, and temperatures typically -65F (sometimes below) for over a month - all to get a penguin egg. This was the Worst Journey, but that epigram is meant, I'm sure, to echo across the entire trip.
The writing is, for the most part, very matter-of-fact. You're not told, for example, about every time someone falls through a crevasse and has to be hauled back up; you've been told that it happens several times a day and you should simply remember that if the conditions are present, it's probably happening. Quite a lot of the story is told by excerpting diary entries from one man or another, and those diary entries have that same property: there's no dwelling on the hardships (though you are informed of the conditions that produce them), and certainly not on any problem the writer might be having. The reader is expected to understand these things from hints and small mentions. It all seems very stereotypically British in that regard. And yet it still grabs you. You feel the days go by, the progress being made, the failures, the small daily trips and chores, the wet, the dry, the weather, and on and on.
I don't think that imagination can come anywhere near what it's like to live that life for a moment, let alone for three years. Fun to try, though, from my living room....more