25 January 2019

Book Review -- Mechwarrior Dark Age: Pandora's Gambit

Pandora's GambitPandora's Gambit by Randall N. Bills
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A short review of this one. Like a lot of genre fiction, this one just goes through its paces. It's pretty pedantic and even boring. It does give some insight into the power struggles going on in the Dark Age between the different Marik factions, but that's not enough to recommend. What little action there is is tedious and not exciting. I do give it three stars, because it's not that bad and the information is useful to some extent; it's just not great.

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Book Review: Lustrum by Robert Harris (Cicero #2)

Lustrum (Cicero, #2)Lustrum by Robert   Harris

Lustrum is the second novel in Robert Harris's Cicero trilogy. Please see my previous review of Imperium for some details on my thoughts concerning Cicero and Caesar.

This novel literally picks up where the first leaves off: it is the morning of the day that Cicero is to sworn in as consul and it starts with a bang: a mutilated corpse part of some ritual sacrifice and ceremony! Bad omen!

This novels highlights the fact that there are some pretty unpleasant people in Ancient Rome. Once again, the narrator is Tiro, Cicero's scribe and slave. Even Cicero is not immune to the miasma that is the politics of Late Republican Rome. Seen as the savior of Rome in a tumultuous time, he is awarded the title pater patriae, father of his country; this was the first time in Roman history that it was awarded for a non-military action. This goes straight to his head, and sets him up for the inevitable fall. Cicero manages to bumble around and make an enemy of Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, just before the First Triumvirate is formed.This leads to his exile from Rome during to political maneuvering by his enemies and that's where this one leads off.

Part of the novel's message is the fact that there are truly few close, trustworthy friends in the political arena. Everything is about the pursuit of power, advantage, and expediency. It is very difficult to remain true to one's belief system in the face of such adversity, but it can be done. Cicero learns this, but a little late in the series, as it were. If I were to use theatrical standards for this trilogy, Lustrum is obviously Act II; the hero has peaked and pummeled down to his lowest point. I can presume that the next novel in the trilogy, Dictator, will conclude on a heroic note for Cicero. As a historian, I'm pretty sure of that fact.

As an aside, a lustrum in Ancient Rome was a five year period, half of a decade and the period of a census. At the end of the lustrum, one of the two censors would sacrifice on behalf of the Roman people and state to purify them. So, while the novel covers a space of five years of Cicero's life, the title is also endemic of his purification by fire that ends in his exile, but also to him realizing the truth and returning to his noble path.

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Book Review: Imperium by Robert Harris (Cicero #1)

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome (Cicero, #1)Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert   Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imperium is the first novel in the Cicero series by Robert Harris of Fatherland fame. But before I discuss it,I must backtrack and make a statement.

I love Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. That being said, as a citizen of a democratic republic, I really don't like Caesar much anymore, and four of the seven novels really focus on Caesar and glamorize him. When I was younger, I was guilty of that as well. However, I am older and Marcus Tullius Cicero is more of hero to me now since he was a man who tried to save the Republic. In On Law he wrote "Salus populi suprema lex esto, (the safety of the people shall be the highest law)." That was the moral standard he lived by.

In his novel, Harris uses the affectation of speaking through Cierco's scibe, a slave named Tiro. Tiro actually existed and was a close confidante of Cierco; Tiro was very intelligent and created the first real shorthand system for taking notes and abbreviations and symbol that are still in use today, such as "ibid"and the ampersand (&). He was known to have authored a biography of his master Cicero, but that tome is lost to use in the mists of Antiquity on the other side of the Dark Ages.

Imperium follows Cicero's cursus honorem, or path of honor, that is, his journey to achieve the Consulship, the highest elected office in Ancient Rome; former consuls had tremendous prestige, moving to the front of the Senate benches and speaking first in the Senate during debates. It also made one's family premiere in the City. I will not spoil this for those who know little of Ancient History. I will say that this is the literary equivalent of a drama and not a blockbuster action movie. If political intrigue is your thing, this is most assuredly your book.

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