From Publishers Weekly
There's a mountain of solid scholarship entertainingly dished out in this fact-based historical tale of an ancient trading mission in the years following the death of Alexander the Great. But the featureless "and then" narration renders the story at once engrossing and flat. Dispensing facts chiefly through dialogue, Turteltaub not so much narrates as lays out the trading journey of the Aphrodite, under the command of two Rhodian cousins, Menedemos and Sostratos, as they attempt to carry, among other items of cargo, a peacock and some peahens safely from Rhodes to Pompeii in Italy. Along the way, the cousins, who are paired off like an ancient Greek version of Oscar and Felix (Menedemos is the roustabout, Sostratos the accountant), take their own and each other's measure and play a part in larger historical events. But because there is little authorial direction with everything communicated through his characters' mouths, third-person narration is almost nonexistent the story and the history are flavorless and forgettable. Turteltaub (familiar to readers of science fiction as Harry Turtledove) may have intended this stripped-down style to add to his tale's realism, but there is little life behind his impressive armada of facts. And since we share their thoughts but little of their inner life, the two main characters rarely rise above their schematic position as opposites. The journey of the trading vessel Aphrodite may have covered hundreds of miles, but the reader will end this novel still waiting for the book's real journey to begin.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
A painless way to learn history is to read a well-researched historical novel such as this latest from Turteltaub (a pseudonym for novelist Harry Turtledove, author of Justinian, LJ 6/15/98). Here, he instructs and entertains with a novel of Rhodes in 310 B.C.E. Menedemos and Sostratos, two very engaging (and very different) cousins, are traders on the Mediterranean in such exotic cargo as silks, wine, and peacocks. Their adventures as they journey from Rhodes to Asia Minor and Italy form the basis of the story. Along the way, we learn about sailing, dress, eating, and other everyday customs of the Hellenistic world. Although the book has maps and a table of weights, measures, and money, it suffers from the lack of a glossary; unfamiliar words frequently interrupt the flow and do not always have contextual clues, limiting the pleasure one would take in this otherwise well-written book. Fred M. Gervat, Concordia Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.