January 10, 2004

Books: The Sacred Land

Recommended:

Harry Turteltaub (2003), The Sacred Land (New York: Tor: 0765300370).

Book Description: In Over the Wine-Dark Sea and The Gryphon's Skull, H. N. Turteltaub brought to life the teeming world of maritime Greece, in the unsettled years following the death of Alexander the Great. Now Menedemos and Sostratos, those dauntless capitalists of the third century B.C., have set sail again--this time to Phoenicia. There Menedemos will spend the summer trading, while his cousin Sostratos travels inland to the little-known country of Ioudaia, with its strange people and their even stranger religious obsessions. In theory, Sostratos is going in search of cheap balsam, a perfume much in demand in the Mediterranean world. In truth, scholarly Sostratos just wants to get a good look at a part of the world unknown to most Hellenes. And the last thing he wants is to have to take along a bunch of sailors from the Aphrodite as his bodyguards.

But Menedemos insists. He knows that bandits on land are as dangerous as pirates at sea, and he has no faith in Sostratos's ability to dodge them. Meanwhile, it turns out that the prime hams and smoked eels they picked up en route are unsalable to Ioudaians. (Who knew?) And worst of all, Sostratos's new brother-in-law has managed to talk their fathers into loading the Aphrodite with hundreds of amphorae of his best olive oil--when they're trading in a region that has no shortage of it. It's a hard day's work, hustling for an honest drachma.

It's not Aubrey/Maturin, but it is nevertheless a very nice excursion to the Mediterranean late in the fourth century B.C.... A past that is truly another country.

Posted by DeLong at January 10, 2004 08:11 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Brad -- Harry Turtledove (Turteltaub's other name) is one of the finest practitioners of alternative history, and if you haven't seen them, start with "How Few Remain" in which the South wins the Civil War, allied with Britain and France, and the North allies with Germany. Up to six books now, it's a rare franchise.

Posted by: Jim Shirk on January 10, 2004 10:20 AM

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Brad -- Harry Turtledove (Turteltaub's other name) is one of the finest practitioners of alternative history, and if you haven't seen them, start with "How Few Remain" in which the South wins the Civil War, allied with Britain and France, and the North allies with Germany. Up to six books now, it's a rare franchise.

Posted by: Jim Shirk on January 10, 2004 10:23 AM

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The Sacred Land is out in Hardcover, I see. Bodes well for the continuance of the series, but it will be a long year before it comes out in softback.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on January 10, 2004 04:12 PM

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