This review will have 'spoilers', but not for Jim and Harry's progress on building the catapult, or anything of that nature, just the kind of catapultThis review will have 'spoilers', but not for Jim and Harry's progress on building the catapult, or anything of that nature, just the kind of catapult they chose to build and the history that is worked through the book.
I read about this book several years ago, and, especially as someone who loves the eras of history during which a catapult was the height of war technology, I thought it sounded interesting.
Honestly, I had thought that it would be along the lines of several projects I had followed with interest before - about attempting to recreate some piece of ancient technology or feat of building. It wasn't, but I didn't let that stop me from getting into the book.
The book itself is a bit odd, though perhaps I should have expected that from a book with this title and premise.
I had expected them to build a traditional catapult, from the title, which is what they did. I did not expect such a bit of a run-down on other varieties, including some incorrect imprecations on the trebuchet - which is not, as the book suggested, simply a variety of catapult, but a different type of weapon entirely.
There were some discussions about different interpretations of catapults, say, that different cultures used, and for various reasons, which was compelling, particularly viewed through the lens of Harry's mechanical background.
The pieces of history woven through the story of their own catapult are interesting, and largely to do with the catapult's importance through different wars. I did read with a grain of salt, however, as at least two of the accounts I read in the book said things I know from my other research to be untrue. I assumed that perhaps history had made some further stretches since this was published, as it was over twenty years ago.
In fact, I had assumed that the history in the book would exclusively have to do with catapults, in some way. Because of this, coming into a discussion of atomic bombs was somewhat startling, and not a little off-putting - and the rather graphic descriptions of the effects of the atomic bombs when utilised were . . . well, I'm sure you can imagine.
The things that were written about the bombs were largely discussing the process of inventing them, and scientists themselves. There were some very interesting things I hadn't known about some of the scientists' lives and work after the project was disbanded, even, which I was intrigued by, though surprised to find in the midst of this particular narrative.
Nevertheless, though I might not have appreciated the shock of some of the history included, I was happy to have some context included along the process of the expected narrative - it also helped to liven up some parts that were, by necessity, a bit dull.
When I reached the end of the book, it felt a little lacking in some way, perhaps because I had gotten too involved in the project, and the way the book sort of tapered of was not quite the ending I had envisioned or hoped for. Perhaps I'm simply too used to reading fiction, and reality doesn't quite compare. I can't say.
The interactions and dynamic between the two friends on the subject of the catapult were engaging, and occasionally nearing on painful - because it is so easy to empathise with them, and the strain that such a project put upon them and their friendship.
All in all, it was a good, though not enthralling, book. I would recommend it more to people who are interested in the modern mechanics of things than the past application of historical mechanisms....more