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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, rich and erudite, 18 July 2004
By 
L. C. Jones (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
Creation takes the reader to a singular time in human history, when the Persian Empire of the Great Kings, the Indian kingdoms of the Ganges, Confucian China and Periclean Athens were simultaneously at their peak. Through the eyes of one man, a half-Persian, half-Greek, who travels for many years through these varied and brilliant empires, we experience worlds we have lost. He himself is the grandson of the Prophet Zoroastrus, and aide to the Great King Darius, and as Persia's roving ambassador, encounters legendary Greek figures, three generations of Persian kings, marries into the Indian royal house soon to conquer the Gangetic plains, meets the Buddha and encounters Confucius. This vast and ambitious work is simultaneously a fictional autobiography, an exploration of a sublime and fascinating era and its civilisations, and a story of one man's ceaseless inquiry into the nature of existence, truth and human origins. The title of the book is the focus of this ceaseless quest, and through this sweeping, exciting novel, the reader will find himself educated - without realising it - on the differing views of civilisations whose existence has ended, but whose ideas have lived on. Gore Vidal's painstaking research grants him absolute mastery over his subject matter, and his skill as a writer make this a splendid, majesterial and moving work of fact-fiction.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary combination of erudition and creativity, 23 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
Vidal demonstrates an uncanny ability to grasp the finer details of ancient cultures and bring them to life. I come to this conclusion because of my own familiarity with one of the philosophical sytems and cultures covered - and here he achieves an extraordinary versimilitude with regard to the day to day life of the teacher and his followers, and the political intrigues surrounding the ruling aristocracy. A wonderful book with a strong narrative thread and for much of the time with the authors tongue firmly in cheek.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible trip to our cultural origins, 26 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
This marvellous novel pick us to the beginnings of the Occidental Culture guided by Cyro Spitama, a supposed descendant of Zoroastro, the persian prophet. With him we visit the ancient Greece of the V century b.C. ( the Presocratic Greece), The magic India ( Budha, Janin) and the misterious China ( Lao tse, Confucius ). In his long life, Cyro will know all the inportant evens of this decisive century: the century in which the greatest empires were built.
Leonardo Benito de Valle y Bermejo
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vidal's best, by far, 10 Jun 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
Having read it many years ago, I bought this book as a gift fora friend in the hospital... Just for fun, I opened it up to peruse it a bit. And then I became totally engrossed and read it again cover to cover. THat is the test of a great book: you can read it again and again and see more each time.Of all of Vidal's novels, this one has the most ideas: the main character (a Persian ambassador to Athens who despises what he hears Herodotus reading) recounts his meetings with the creators of the several great cosmological systems, that is, monotheism, buddhism, and confucianism, all of whom may have lived within one person's lifetime. These are some of the principal systems that have undergirded world civilisations ever since. Vidal recounts them with fascination and acid wit.But that is not all. At the core of the book is a portrayal of court life at the high noon of the Persian empire, a hotbed of intrigue, fellowship, and sex. You learn about subject Babylon, Xerxes' alcoholism, and the governance via eunichs from the inner chambers of the queen's harem. What is most original is that Vidal sets Persian civilisation in stark contrast to the more primitive Greeks, who were enjoying their own golden (Periklean) age. This neatly turns our Western self image of Greek glory on its head, and is hilarious as well as effective satire (though Vidal is so subtle that I may be misreading him here).

Highly recommended, the best historical novel I ever read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars creation gore vidal, 15 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
this is a thought provoking, erudite, witty, gripping, andd immensely enjoyable read. A delight for lovers of ancient history .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vidal's inimitable style makes ancient history gripping fun, 2 Sep 2012
By 
T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
Set in the period 520-445 BC/BCE, "Creation" gives a panoramic view of the known (and partially known) world of Eurasia, through the eyes of an educated and influential Persian nobleman, Cyrus Spitama. As well as choosing one of the most pivotal and intellectually vibrant periods of world history, Gore Vidal manages to fit in an astonishing collection of kings, religious leaders, and philosophers. As the back cover blurb (possibly influenced by Vidal) remarks, Cyrus Spitama is "probably the greatest namedropper who ever lived". To begin with, he is the grandson of the prophet Zoroaster (Nietzsche's Zarathustra), who founded the Zoroastrian religion. Then he meets the Great King Darius and his Queen Atossa, and grows up a close friend of their son Xerxes - later to be Great King himself - and Mardonius, the general who fought many of Xerxes' campaigns in Greece. As ambassador to India, he rubs shoulders with kings and princes (mostly charming, insincere, cruel and murderous) although he is equally interested in the religious ideas of the Jains, Hindus, and Buddhists - including Buddha himself, Sariputra, and Ananda. Later, Xerxes sends Cyrus Spitama to pioneer an overland route to Cathay (what we now know as China, although at the time the land of Ch'in was only a small part of Cathay). There, he encounters both Master Li (Lao Tse) and Master K'ung (Confucius), and witnesses their influence on the political life of the contending dukedoms. Finally, in the reign of Xerxes' son Artaxerxes, he is sent as ambassador to Athens, and it is here, in the closing days of his life, that he dictates the whole amazing story to the young Democritus - later famous for his insistence that everything in the universe is made up of atoms. Among Greeks, Cyrus Spitama's path crosses those of Anaxagoras, Artemisia, Aspasia, Callias, Demaratus, Herodotus, Hippias, Pericles, Protagoras, Themistocles and Thucidydes. Regrettably, others such as Aeschylus, Pythagoras, Socrates and Sophocles are only mentioned in passing - in a typically elegant piece of Vidalian contempt, Socrates gets exactly one paragraph which focuses entirely on his shortcomings as a mason.

Thanks to the book's highly imaginative and well-informed design, Vidal is able to interweave many different strands - politics, war, trade, geography, clothing, food and drink, music, architecture - with Cyrus Spitama's travels and his highly stressful (not to say intermittent) personal life. As grandson of Zoroaster he maintains a lifelong belief in the Wise Lord Ahura Mazda and the need to hold to the Truth against "the followers of the Lie". That, in turn, implies utter rejection of the older Aryan gods (devas) such as Anahita/Aphrodite, Varuna, Mithra, Brahma, Ishtar, Bel-Marduk and the rest. It was during Cyrus Spitama's lifetime that the Magi, the hereditary priesthood of the Persian empire, were gradually persuaded to forsake the worship of the old gods and accept Zoroastrianism - much as the Romans gave up their pantheon in favour of Christianity 750 years later. Over and over, Cyrus Spitama compares and contrasts the various teachings he hears from Pythagoras, Buddha, Lao Tse and Confucius with the simple dualist faith of Zoroastrianism (which has so much in common with Christianity). Can something arise from nothing? If not, how did the universe ever begin? If so, how and through whose agency did the miracle happen? Are we doomed to myriad rebirths (possibly in different forms) until we can attain nirvana? Or do we live once only? And if so, when we die will we be judged by God and rewarded or punished - or do we simply vanish, like a candle that is snuffed out? According to Vidal, "[i]f nothing else, this narrative is a sort of crash course in comparative religion and ethical systems". But don't let that put you off; it is also full to bursting with intrigue, strategy, gossip, harem conspiracies, battles, hideous cruelty, and the most wonderful pen portraits (often miniature) of some of the most famous and striking people who ever lived.

Incidentally, "Creation" serves as a useful contrarian view of classical Greece - as good in its way as Tom Holt's in Goatsong. Volume One in the The Walled Orchard Series, The Walled Orchard, and Alexander At The World's End. The European cultural tradition has, almost without exception, taken the side of the ancient Greeks - especially the Athenians - against the Persians and other Asiatics. Characteristically, Vidal seizes with both hands the opportunity to show us the other side of things. Just as typically, he uses real facts for ammunition. Item: while every Persian nobleman was brought up to tell the truth and never to break his word, the Greeks were notorious liars and given to changing sides whenever that promised to bring them advantage, even if it meant betraying their own cities. Item: while the Greeks practised slavery, on which their civilisation rested quite as much as that of the antebellum American South, slavery was forbidden in the Persian empire. (Although the Great King was wont to consider all living people his slaves, where everyone is a slave no one is). Item: the Greeks were violently racist, deeming all those who didn't speak their language "barbarians" fit only for slavery, whereas the Persian empire (which included nearly half the world population) was notably and emphatically tolerant. Right from Cyrus the Great, the kings were careful to preserve each subject people's native institutions, customs, religions, and even local forms of government. Nothing if not thorough, Vidal also casts aspersions on Greek cleanliness, food, music, and religion.

Much of Gore Vidal's prolific output was limited by its subject matter. Literary criticism, books about earnest young homosexualists and Americans abroad, even his political writing - incisive as it was - didn't live up to the depth of his insight and the brilliance of his style. It was when he turned to historical fiction that Vidal's art really gained traction and did itself justice. In "Creation", he may have been aiming to turn out the ultimate historical novel by covering as much seminal ground - and as many world-famous men - as possible.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, rich and erudite, 18 July 2004
By 
L. C. Jones (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Creation takes the reader to a singular time in human history, when the Persian Empire of the Great Kings, the Indian kingdoms of the Ganges, Confucian China and Periclean Athens were simultaneously at their peak. Through the eyes of one man, a half-Persian, half-Greek, who travels for many years through these varied and brilliant empires, we experience worlds we have lost. He himself is the grandson of the Prophet Zoroastrus, and aide to the Great King Darius, and as Persia's roving ambassador, encounters legendary Greek figures, three generations of Persian kings, marries into the Indian royal house soon to conquer the Gangetic plains, meets the Buddha and encounters Confucius. This vast and ambitious work is simultaneously a fictional autobiography, an exploration of a sublime and fascinating era and its civilisations, and a story of one man's ceaseless inquiry into the nature of existence, truth and human origins. The title of the book is the focus of this ceaseless quest, and through this sweeping, exciting novel, the reader will find himself educated - without realising it - on the differing views of civilisations whose existence has ended, but whose ideas have lived on. Gore Vidal's painstaking research grants him absolute mastery over his subject matter, and his skill as a writer make this a splendid, majesterial and moving work of fact-fiction.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars creation by Gore Vidal, 31 Dec 2009
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
a very engrousing book.But only to be read for pleasure, of which, I should think it was only intended for,as it's pure fiction with a few facts thrown in for good measure.
Putting this aside,it is a very enjoyable read, if you are interested in this era in our history.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very very impressive, 4 July 2004
By 
This review is from: Creation (Hardcover)
This is one of those books you will push your children to read
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a clever man, 30 July 2009
This review is from: Creation (Paperback)
What a clever, funny, sympathetic man Vidal thinks himself to be. There are a number of nice touches, such as the contempt all the really old civilisations feel for Athens, then at the point of becoming the fountain of the modern world, and the incredulity with the sages greet the idea of a religion where the creator decides to create evil to tempt humanity, but essentially this is Vidal showing off. Unlike Julian, Vidal's other foray into ancient history, it lacks drama: a considerable failing in a book that needs to persuade you to read 600 plus pages. It's an interesting read and I felt pleased to have got through it, but it's too long and too full of the drolleries Vidal imagines himself delivering to the best audience in the world.
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Creation
Creation by Gore Vidal (Paperback - 23 Sep 1993)
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