Some books have significance and value beyond their pure value as novels. Certainly The Scarlet Fig is one such - the long awaited third Vergil novel from the late Avram Davidson. Its value as fiction is high enough, mind you. It's very characteristic of late Davidson, stuffed with evidence of his erudition, the prose complicated, eccentric, enjoyable for those of us who have a taste for Davidson's prose. (That said, often a bit prolix, perhaps a bit too precious.) The story concerns Vergil's travels after he leaves Rome ("Yellow Rome"), fearful of accusations of having tarnished a Vestal Virgin, and also menaced by piratical Carthaginians. He visits many strange shores: Corsica, Tingitayne, the Region called Huldah (and its beautiful eponymous ruler), the island of the Lotophageans, where he drinks of the Scarlet Fig, and finally the Land of Stone in North Africa. All along we witness much magic and many wonders - all reflecting the altered Rome of Davidson's Vergil Magus, a Rome reflecting the legends that accumulated in the Middle Ages: so, gloriously grotesque satyrs, victims of the cockatrix, the dogs of the Guaramanty, etc. I enjoyed it greatly, particularly the character of Vergil and the mix of darkness and strangeness throughout. It is also beautifully presented: a large handsome hardcover, with beautiful illustrations, and much excellent additional material to the novel: afterwords by both Davis and Wessells, and several appendices including a few "deleted scenes" and reproductions of some notecards from Davidson's collection ("Encyclopedia") of Vergilian research.