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The Agricola and the Germania (Classics S.)
The Agricola and the Germania (Classics S.)
by Tacitus
Edition: Paperback

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Britons and Germans take on the Roman Empire., 23 Aug 2003
This volume is made up of two important works from the Roman empire. The first is a biography of Agricola, who was the most succesful Roman governor of the Britons and the second piece is an account of the Germanic race, both written by Tacitus, who was the son-in-law of Agricola.
'The Agricola' shines a light on the Britons and tells their story to the wider world for the first time. It is in this slim volumne that we learn of the tribes who resisted Roman invasion and we meet Calgacus, the first Caledonian to be recorded a place in history. The speech which Tacitus attributes to this warrior is one of the most poignant I have ever heard. On the eve of battle against the Roman legions, Tacitus places some wonderful words of liberty in his mouth. Of the might of Rome Calgacus says, "To robbery, butchery, and rapine, they give the lying name of government; they create a desolation and call it peace".
Why would Tacitus invent a speech which is so critical of the empire he represents? Perhaps he felt guilty because the Caledonians were not beaten in the battle as we have been led to believe. Perhaps the battle never even took place. Of the empire and those it enslaved, Tacitus is very honest. He speaks about how certain Britons embraced Roman life and its arcades and banquets and tells us that "the unsuspecting Britons spoke of such novelties as 'civilization', when in fact they were only a feature of their enslavement".
'The Germania' is an account of the characteristics and customs of the tribes which stretch from Denmark in the north west to Lithuania in the north east and right down to modern day Romania, so it is not limited to the tribes which make up modern Germany.
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Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High voltage electric sheep plug us into the PKD world., 28 May 2003
There are two things about this novel which make it superior to the film 'Bladerunner', which was based on this sci-fi classic. Firstly, the novel places our anti-hero bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, in a collapsing marriage where his wife spends most of her time wired to an emotion machine called a mood organ. The role of the wife in the novel is to show the reader the burned-out futility of this future world, an Earth which is dying and being abandoned by the masses for a better life on Mars. This leads us to the second reason why the novel deserves to be read. It focuses on the desire of the hero to own an animal in order to keep up with his neighbours. With the environment badly damaged, animals have become rare and have taken on the identity of the ultimate status symbol. But poor Deckard owns an electric sheep, which looks like the real thing, but is little more than an object of shame.
What Deckard really needs to do is retire (kill) a group of six androids who have come to Earth from Mars to escape their bondage and live in freedom. But these super-smart androids are dangerous and have to go. If Deckard can destroy a few in his role of bounty hunter, then he will be able to afford to buy a real animal which could even patch up his marriage.
The book is an early thumbs-down to the role corporations play in society. First published in 1968, it portrays a future where amoral companies can design androids and unleash them on the world without considering the dangers. The robots have been created to help us, but with a high level of artificial intelligence, they mimick us. They become greedy and materialistic like humans and eventually turn on us.
Another interesting point is the way that Deckard and those around him have retained their own sense of materialism, even though the Earth is falling apart at the seems. Philip K. Dick had a vision of the future which wasn't pretty. And some of it has already come true.


Warlords: Ancient, Celtic, Medieval
Warlords: Ancient, Celtic, Medieval
by Tim Newark
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Visigoths to Dracula: 1500 years of warfare., 27 May 2003
This book follows Europe's fighting spirit frpm the tribes who hit back against the Roman Empire to the dramatic and bloody campaigns of Vlad Tepes, the historical Dracula. It is very Euro-centric, with only the Mongols, Moors and the Arabs threatening this scenario. The book also features numerous well illustrated plates which really make the pages come alive.
Most of your favourites are here, although there are a few striking omissions. There is no King Edward of England and no sign of his foes Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. And no Joan of Arc either. However, this is compensated by the inclusion of Jan Zizka, the blind Hussite warrior from Bohemia who trained a peasant army into an elite fighting force. He adapted the tools the peasants had, turning wagons into what can only be described as medieval tanks. There are very few books currently available in the English language which mention Zizka and for that reason alone, I can recommend this book. He deserves to be known outside the Czech Republic.


Cocaine Nights
Cocaine Nights
by J. G. Ballard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cocaine Nights is snort to be sniffed at., 26 May 2003
This review is from: Cocaine Nights (Paperback)
What people are failing to see about Ballard is that his novels remind or inform us that below the surface there can often be some heavy stuff shifting about and 'Cocaine Nights' explores this fully. Set in what seems at first to be a bland Spanish ex-pat resort, we follow Charles Prentice who arrives to clear his brother of a murder he quite clearly did not commit, yet has admitted to.
At first Prentice is disgusted by the amoral characters he comes across, who seem to be middle class facists with no sense of right or wrong, but gradually they suck him into their world and he becomes a clone of his brother.
The whole of the end of the 20th century is here: sex, guns, drugs, crime and neck braces. This is a cable TV, mobile phone, Rolex watch dream gone horribly wrong, which puts forward the original idea that we are becoming obsessed with leisure and sun loungers and are becomimg lethargic if not catatonic. Lethargic to such a degree that crime as a means of excitement is justified if it wakes people up and gets them talking to each other. It's beautiful, scary stuff.
I would also recommend 'High Rise' by the same author and his examination of a possible future within fortified leisure cities, 'Supe-Cannes'.


MARSHAL NEY: The Bravest of the Brave
MARSHAL NEY: The Bravest of the Brave
by A. H. Atteridge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.31

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a desk in a legal office to the battlefield at Waterloo, 26 May 2003
Marshall Ney was called 'The Bravest of the Brave' by Napoleon, Emperor of the French. Napoleon was Ney's boss and had so much faith in him he gave him a Marshall's baton and made him a Duke. Not bad for the son of an inn keeper who was bored stiff as a clerk in a legal office after he left school. His father had fought for Frederick the Great and the son wanted some glory of his own and joined the Hussars during the fallout of the French Revolution. This book - which is a reprint of a previously hard to find work - follows Ney on his amazing journey which took him all the way to Moscow with Napoleon and is with him on his famous march back from Russia when he commanded the rear guard and displayed a courage which saved the French army from being wiped out.
The book portrays Ney in a sympathetic manner, showing him as a man who turned his back on corruption when most others in his position benefited from it. The tale of his wedding day is most touching, when he invites two elderly peasants to share the day with him because it is their wedding anniversary.
This book was previously only available 2nd hand from antiquarian booksellers, so I advise you to buy a reprint while it is available and learn about a great man who lived his life in a dignified manner, never once sinking to the level of those around him. If you want other books similar, 'Marshall Murat' by the same author and 'Napoleon and His Marshalls' by A.G. MacDonell are back in print also.


The Art of War (Shambhala classics)
The Art of War (Shambhala classics)
by Sun Tzu
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.23

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An edition for warriors and pacifists alike, 26 May 2003
I know what you are thinking. You are about to skip past this review because you don't see the point in yet another version of this Chinese introduction to warfare, no matter how legendary it is. True, Sun Tzu did seem to have insights into warfare which have since benefited many commanders, but there are just so may editions out there. Well, you are wrong. This translation is one of the most impressive I have come across and was pieced together with a love and attention which could single it out as one of the very best translations available.
The Denma Translation Group are against war. They point out that Sun Tzu's work encourages the commander to attain victory without destroying the enemy forces and thus creating a state of resentment within those who have been conquered.
Aswell as getting the new translation, we also get the standard verion without any explanations of the text and several background essays, including a very enjoyable one about leadership in the form of the 'Sage Commander', who is the personification of the military (or even non-military) leader at the heart of the Art of War.
This translation has aspirations that it can be used in a positive way in non-warlike situations and that people can apply it to aspects of life in a peaceful way. The message is clear, that we can achieve success with humility and with an understanding of our opponent which treats them as human beings with aims and dreams of their own.
If you liked this for it's Chinese philosophy, perhaps you might want to buy a copy of the 'I-Ching' or if you see yourself as a 'Sage Commander', perhaps you could buy 'On War' by Von Calusewitz or even 'The Prince' by Machiavelli.


Napoleon on the Art of War
Napoleon on the Art of War
by Napoleon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Military thought and organisation at its highest level, 26 May 2003
Thanks to Jay Luvaas we finally have a volume by Napoleon Bonaparte, which explains the organisation, deployment and uses of his military - his Grand Army - which dazzled Europe and the World in a way no other exponent of the military art has done.
This edition follows the acclaimed 'Frederick the Great on the Art of War' and displays originality in the way the editor shows how the modern U.S. military have adopted Napoleon's concept of army corps to create their own 21st century art of war.
When you read the words of Napoleon you learn that he was an enlightened and highly intelligent individual, who despite his ego, was immersed in the pursuit of attaining knowledge and thanks to this book, re-distributing what his years as a military commander had taught him. And he was not so vain as to believe he was the greatest, showing a willingness to learn from the campaigns of history and to apply them to his own adventures.
However, he was unique and this edition recognises that, leaving us with a well edited book as opposed to a rambling train of thought. And we would have expected no less from Mr. Luvaas who was the first Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army War College.
My recommendations for further reading are, by my own admission, fairly obvious. Firstly, 'In the Words of Napoleon' which was edited by R.M. Johnston. Then we have 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu. The new Denma Translation of that work is worth reading. And finally, 'On War' by Karl Von Clausewitz.


The Bruce (Canongate Classics)
The Bruce (Canongate Classics)
by John Barbour
Edition: Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A labour of love translation of Scots epic poem, 26 May 2003
The first thing which strikes me about this translation of John Barbour's poem chronicling the life of Robert the Bruce, is the vast time and effort which must have gone into it over a period of years if not decades. There are plenty of historical notes which accompany the translation, meaning Professor Duncan has has done all the hard work, so the reader can sit back and enjoy the story of King Robert's fight to keep his crown and expel the English from Scotland.
The original text appears in the book on the right hand page while the translation appears on the left page, meaning you can read the translation of each page first and then get stuck into the original, bit by bit. Otherwise, it would be too overwhelming and I must give that the thumbs-up. It is not easy reading the original and when you have finished the book, you do feel as if you have achieved something.
If you buy this, I can also recommend 'The Bruce' by Nigel Tranter, which is an historical novel about the life of King Robert. While many people look down at such things as being nonsense, it is clear that Tranter had studied a copy of John Barbour's epic. You may also want to buy 'The Wallace' by Blind Harry (the John Gilbertfield translation) which is basically the same idea as 'The Bruce', but about William Wallace.


Blind Harry's "Wallace"
Blind Harry's "Wallace"
by William Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This blood and gore epic will have your heart racing., 26 May 2003
Recorded by a blind minstrel, name of Harry, this epic poem of classical proportions records the life of one William Wallace. It was written over 100 years after Wallace died for his part in the Scottish Wars of Independance, yet it is considered the main source of information on the life of the warrior knight, famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film 'Braveheart'.
This particular version is the William Hamilton translation, which cleans-up and modernises much of the original in a way which allows the 21st century reader to enjoy the poem without having to scratch their head at every single word. Therefore I would recommend this 1722 version above the original. I am from Scotland, but even I would struggle with the Blind Harry version.
The poem follows Wallace from his days as an Ayrshire boy, through much splitting of skulls and slicing of throats, to his death in London in 1305 and each page is alive with both humour and dare I say it, an anti-English sentiment. But I feel we can forgive Blind Harry for this as he did live in an era where things were happening in Scotland which were not unlike what has recently happened in the Balkan Wars.
I must salute Luath Press for their book. It is the first Luath book I have owned and I particularlly love the illustrations by Owain Kirby, especially the way they are placed at key pieces of the text to indicate when, for example, a female figure appears in the poem.
This book is Scotland's Homer (not Simpson - Doh!) and deserves to be presented to a wider audience, which I'm sure this edition will do.


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