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by Stephan Grundy
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from $0.77

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual "coming of age" novel, November 14, 2000
This review is from: Gilgamesh (Hardcover)
Between my memory of having read Gilgamesh in a college history class, and my pleasant experiences reading Stephan Grundy's previous historical fiction novels, I happily anticipated the release of this novel and was not disappointed. It more than just an adventure story.
I cannot speak for how accurately Gilgamesh's legend is rendered, but I will say that as in Grundy's previous novels, he did an excellent job evoking the world Gilgamesh lives in. In particular, he makes the ancient Sumerian religion seem real, as a major aspect of the various character's lives. This last is important, because although the novel tells the story of the king and hero Gilgamesh, it also tells the story of a person coming to terms with and accepting the influence of the divine (in this case the Sumerian goddess Innana) into his life. In a sense, it is a romance between Gilgamesh and the goddess. Though a brave man, he fears her because accepting her means accepting that he will one day meet his death. He has great strength and vigor, being "two thirds god and one third man" but with it comes something like "peter pan syndrome" and he lacks sympathy and understanding for his subjects. He confuses personal heroism in battle with the kingly duty to protect his subjects-- even from his own dreams of glory. His courage, in light of his refusal to admit the possibility of death, is closer to recklessness. Nevertheless, for all his flaws he is an engaging character, as are the other characters in the novel are who are forced to deal with him.
Yes, some of the characters are bisexual-- but a careful reading reveals that the homosexual activities of certain characters (discreetly presented) are a signal that the character is turned toward him or herself, taking comfort in human friendship when unable to accept the goddess into his or her life (while showing the importance of human friendships). I believe Grundy's intent in including these episodes was to express his theme, not to be "trendy." Gilgamesh at first can only love his friend Enkidu, because only Enkidu is "like him" in physical prowess. Initially it is an egotistical love, but after tragedy and physical weakness befalls Enkidu, Gilgamesh learns that he still loves his friend for his nobility of spirit. Ultimately, just as Innana gives Enkidu the gift of civilization, Enkidu's love and friendship gives Gilgamesh the understanding that he needs to finally accept Innana as well as his own mortality in order to become a complete, mature man and a good king.

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