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Thread: Book Club (January 2007)

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    FORT Fogey Cornedbeef's Avatar
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    Book Club (January 2007)

    This is a very good idea and it should be continued. If anybody has an idea for a new book, that would be a good read feel free to post it here.

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    Old Timer tvjunkie's Avatar
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    Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

    Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.
    Thus reads an ancient stone at Thermopylae in northern Greece, the site of one of the world's greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 B.C., on a narrow mountain pass above the crystalline Aegean, 300 Spartan knights and their allies faced the massive forces of Xerxes, King of Persia. From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish. In Gates of Fire, however, Steven Pressfield makes their courageous defense--and eventual extinction--unbearably suspenseful.

    In the tradition of Mary Renault, this historical novel unfolds in flashback. Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of Thermopylae, has been captured by the Persians, and Xerxes himself presses his young captive to reveal how his tiny cohort kept more than 100,000 Persians at bay for a week. Xeo, however, begins at the beginning, when his childhood home in northern Greece was overrun and he escaped to Sparta. There he is drafted into the elite Spartan guard and rigorously schooled in the art of war--an education brutal enough to destroy half the students, but (oddly enough) not without humor: "The more miserable the conditions, the more convulsing the jokes became, or at least that's how it seems," Xeo recalls. His companions in arms are Alexandros, a gentle boy who turns out to be the most courageous of all, and Rooster, an angry, half-Messenian youth.

    Pressfield's descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They are also meticulously assembled out of physical detail and crisp, uncluttered metaphor:

    The forerank of the enemy collapsed immediately as the first shock hit it; the body-length shields seemed to implode rearward, their anchoring spikes rooted slinging from the earth like tent pins in a gale. The forerank archers were literally bowled off their feet, their wall-like shields caving in upon them like fortress redoubts under the assault of the ram.... The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks.
    Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie!'...till you can find a rock.

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    FORT Fogey Leftcoaster's Avatar
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    Thanks for the clueing in prompt, Cornedbeef. I'd likely have missed this for a year before stumbling upon it (I was afraid you were saying it was The Legend Of Bagger Vance that had been chosen)

    Quote Originally Posted by tvjunkie;2219341;
    From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish.
    Of course I never doubted they'd perish, having known in advance they did, but a couple of moving scenes among scores involved the Spartan king Leonidas, having given leave from the battle to the Spartan's still living allied forces and non-Spartan support elements stating convincingly (not that his men required convincing) the reasoning necessitating the remnant Spartan force standing their ground to their certain death though they'd earlier been offered quarter, that as well as sharing his projection of the historical legacy of the Spartans as a people.


    Quote Originally Posted by tvjunkie;2219341;

    In the tradition of Mary Renault, this historical novel unfolds in flashback. Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of Thermopylae, has been captured by the Persians, and Xerxes himself presses his young captive to reveal how his tiny cohort kept more than 100,000 Persians at bay for a week. Xeo, however, begins at the beginning, when his childhood home in northern Greece was overrun and he escaped to Sparta.
    I'll have to revisit Mary Renault. I'd read a book or three of hers years ago, but I don't recall any of them grabbing hold of me like this book did.

    Xeones is obviously an intregal character, but this book is awash with notable characters, beginning with Zeones childhood mentor Bruxieus up to and including the merchant Elephantinos.


    Quote Originally Posted by tvjunkie;2219341;
    Pressfield's descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They are also meticulously assembled out of physical detail and crisp, uncluttered metaphor
    Breathtaking is a spot on description, both of the battle scenes as well as the description of the Spartan society and the studied insight the author demonstrates regarding psychological motivation and group dynamics.

    Its in tales like this one of mankind at what may arguably be regarded at its worst that I've often found the most telling positive validation of humankind as a species.

    This story abounds with heroics and nobility, including the type shown by Rooster, the half-Messenian bastard son of a Spartan hero that embraced his meaner (by Spartan terms) Messenian roots and risked his life not once but twice spurning the offer of entering a path toward Spartan citizenship, infuriating those snubbed. Though the main focal point is on the men, there's a different type of heroic nobility shown that applies exclusively to women.

    Quote Originally Posted by tvjunkie;2219341;
    The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks.
    Even the enemy is shown in good light in the book, several characters individually described in noble fashion and the warriors acknowledged for their bravery.

    This novel is an outstanding window onto a moment in time and place, even the gods came alive.

    And I'll not think of these people as primitive in any way any time soon, not with the way they trained, not with the manner in which they dealt with battlefield injury.

    If anything, they come across as superior to us in several if not many ways.

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    FORT Fogey Leftcoaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornedbeef;2240853;
    Leftcoaster, thank you for your analysis of the book
    Thanks for pointing the thread out to me.

    I'm curious though as to what kind of post is supposed to be made about the book one has read in the Book Club thread?

    I wanted to go on and on and on about this book, but restrained myself, not wanting to spoil the experience for others that haven't but might choose to read it.

    On a movie departure, I saw an ad last night for 300, a movie coming out shortly dealing with the same subject matter. The trailer moved too quickly to tell for certain, but it looked like it plays up supernatural attributes that don't exist in the book.

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    FORT Fogey Cornedbeef's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leftcoaster;2240983;
    Thanks for pointing the thread out to me.

    I'm curious though as to what kind of post is supposed to be made about the book one has read in the Book Club thread?

    I wanted to go on and on and on about this book, but restrained myself, not wanting to spoil the experience for others that haven't but might choose to read it.

    On a movie departure, I saw an ad last night for 300, a movie coming out shortly dealing with the same subject matter. The trailer moved too quickly to tell for certain, but it looked like it plays up supernatural attributes that don't exist in the book.
    You can put spoiler tags around the subject matter you deem will ruin the plot. I never heard of that movie, but will check out the trailer.

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