Thursday, May 19, 2016

Christianity 350-550 AD

The followers of Christ in the 1st century AD were members of a sect that originated in Galilee. There were many such sects within Roman Empire, some more famous, some less. But, for some reason only Christianity became a dominant religion in the Roman world by middle of 4th century.    

How this happened? I thought this book would provide some explanation about this subject. Not really. In general it is not even clear what this book is about. It jumps from one topic to another. It does discuss how wealthy Romans started to accept Christianity and transferring their wealth to the Church. But after reading almost third of this really large book I have no idea why the authors needed so many pages to tell us that.

This book was disappointment for me.

posted by David

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Count Belisarius": a historical novel set in 6th century Byzantine Empire

I was very eager to read this book. First, I enjoy historical fictions based on true events. Second, I read Robert Graves' other novel about Roman emperor Claudius and it was great. So I had similar anticipation about this novel too. 

Byzantine empire achieved its greatest military glory in 6th century and general Belisarius was chiefly responsible for its success. Many heard of Emperor Justinian. But unlike some other famous Roman and Byzantine head of states, such as Caesar, Trajan or Basil II, emperor Justinian did not himself involve in military affairs. So it was general Belisarius who actually conducted successful "blitzkrieg" against Gothic and Vandal kingdoms occupying territories of former Western Roman Empire.

So, this novel is about general Belisarius. However, as soon as I started reading this novel, my immediate feeling was that some "magic" was missing in it. It is written in a style easily understandable even for 4th/5th grade school children, but it totally lacks "intensity". It was written in very formal, unemotional language.

I admit I stopped reading it at the time when Justinian becomes Emperor and Belisarius is sent to the eastern borders to fight Persian armies. What I read up to that point was not interesting enough for me to justify further reading. 

posted by David

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My take on Orhan Pamuk's "My name is Red"

I started to read this novel but after 100 pages or so I totally lost interest in it. Someone might say that good stuff will come later, but in my view, if writing is not able to capture readers attention within few pages, the author should not expect that reader will be patient and stick with the novel till the end.    

As you might know, based on my reviews, I really enjoy historical novels. I thought historical novel set in late 16th century Istanbul is quite interesting.

However, unlike Iain Pears' historical mystery novel "An Instance of the Fingerpost" that has the similar structure as Pamuk's novel, "My name is Red" is divided into so many small chapters that it makes it very cumbersome to follow.

I did notice that within first 100 pages of the novel Pamuk mentioned Tamerlane's name (14th century Mongol Khan) several times. It appears that Tamerlane had inflicted on Ottoman Turks severe psychological and national trauma that lasted very long time. I am referring to Ottoman defeat and capture of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid by Tamerlane's Mongol army in the battle of Angora in 1402.
posted by David


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

John Scalzi's "Fuzzy Nation"

I enjoyed reading this short science fiction novel. It was funny too that is quite rare.

The novel is about exploration and exploitation (E&E) of alien planet Zara 23 by a big [evil] Corporation. One of the contractor, who is a decent guy but has a little bit non-scrupulous nature, comes across sentient and sapient "animals". 

Galactic rules dictates that once sentient species are discovered whole of E&E operation on the planet should stop. As it happens both corporation and this particular contractor would greatly benefit financially by continuing E&E on the planet.

In the end, "good" nature wins over greed and contractor with the help of few friends and sapient "animals" called "fuzzies" defeats Corporation and independent fuzzy nation is established on Zara 23.     

posted by David