- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (April 14, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312371063
- ISBN-13: 978-0312371067
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 49 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Give Me Back My Legions! Hardcover – April 14, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Alternate history icon Turtledove probes the intrigues and battles surrounding Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar's attempts to control uprisings in Germanic lands circa A.D. 9. Caesar appoints Publius Quinctilius Varus, formerly a successful governor of Syria, to become the new governor of Germany, and Varus sets off bolstered by three legions from the overextended Roman army. Sure that he is headed for further glory, Varus is unaware that crafty Prince Armenius, who serves in the Roman army but secretly seethes in indignation at Rome's plans to make Germany another conquered territory, is planning a massive revolt. Turtledove rotates through many points-of-view, from Caesar to slaves and soldiers, to give a panoramic look at the epic battle of Teutoburg Forest, laced with telling details of ancient military life and strategy and lightened with humorous interludes. The fantastic action scenes and taut narrative make this a fine addition to the ancient Roman battles canon. (Apr.)
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Little details stand out. Stirrups had not been invented, so getting on a horse, and staying on one in battle, was a lot harder. Correspondence addressed to older people was written with large letters so they could read it. There were no glasses.
Slavery was practiced by both cultures, but there were different attitudes. A Roman master was more likely to beat his slave, but a German was more likely to kill his. German society was freer: Taxes were a Roman innovation for them. However, Germany was a more violent space. Quarrels were settled by the sword rather than by lawsuits.
Having finished the novel, I am now reading _The Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest_. This has happened many times in my life: I read a novel with some particular historical setting, then I read non-fiction to learn more about the period. I have learned a lot history this way. It started about 45 years ago with _Lest Darkness Fall_. I was a teenager when I read it, and I must confess that part of my motivation then was to learn what the Empress Theodora complained about :-)>
This book takes an interesting chapter in military history and fictionalizes it, something I often enjoy, so I came into this as a pretty receptive reader. It is decently written, but really contains only enough for a short story or novella. The characters are flat and do not develop at all. The insights are repeated ad infinitum. Romans look down on Germans, but their Greek slaves look down on them. Do we need to be reminded once per chapter? Augustus rules with an iron first from afar, we are told once per chapter. The Romans are a formidable foe in the open field, Arminius muses, every time he sees them march or make camp or dismount or mount.
It has all the repetition of Greek epics with none of the poetry. You could make a fine drinking game by spotting the repetitions, as long as you don't read too fast.
If Turtledove at his best is a minor artist in his genre (military and historical fiction and fantasy), then this book feels like a cheap poster print. Copy and paste and get it done.