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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, although not his greatest work
Anthony Burgess is a fine author and brilliantly erudite on the early Roman era. He has become best known for Clockwork Orange but while this is the most scandalous and scabrous of his works, it is arguably not his best. I am a great admirer of his Malaysian trilogy and most people reckon that Earthly PowersEarthly Powers (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)is his...
Published on 8 Sept. 2012 by Angus Jenkinson

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
As I wrote in my review of '1985', the fiction of Anthony Burgess appears to have suffered and languished in the years following his death in 1993 with his reputation sustained largely by 'A Clockwork Orange' (1962). This is not a welcome situation, as that slim volume, whilst clever, inventive and provocative, is but a small part of a far larger oeuvre.

Here...
Published on 7 Mar. 2009 by Music Lover


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, although not his greatest work, 8 Sept. 2012
By 
Angus Jenkinson "angusjenkinson" (Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kingdom of the Wicked, The (Paperback)
Anthony Burgess is a fine author and brilliantly erudite on the early Roman era. He has become best known for Clockwork Orange but while this is the most scandalous and scabrous of his works, it is arguably not his best. I am a great admirer of his Malaysian trilogy and most people reckon that Earthly PowersEarthly Powers (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)is his masterwork, but he did write a trilogy on the early Christian era that is so inventive, fearful, shocking, inspiring and thought-provoking that it deserves wide readership. The books accompanied a very high quality TV series (and a film was made), but each can stand alone.

In this book, we cover the period of the nasty Roman emperors - from the end of the life of Tertullian, sunk in erotic depravity, through the worse demonic madnesses of Caligula and Nero(orgies, casual killing, family murder, the gladiators in the amphitheatre, torture) through the civil unrest leading up to the comparative sanity of Vespasian. Perhaps you might wonder why you need to be interested in such remote two-millennium-old histories, but but this is eye opening on the potential viciousness, courage and compassion of humanity and thought-provoking in that it is exactly in this period that early Christianity makes its way through the Mediterranean world.

These are the two sides of the story; we travel between what happened in Rome and what happens in the Empire as Paul, Peter, Philip, Luke and the other disciples/Apostles begin to change the world. We are shown a world where Roman law really counts for something; Paul makes frequent use of it for his own protection, and administrators and the Roman army follow its justice, rough as it is, since it includes crucifixion and beheading as well as slavery as regular treatment for criminals, with a fair degree of due diligence. Emperors are however above the law and therefore ignore it. The Christians have come with a new law. It is a time of seismic change in European and world history.

Burgess deals with all this with great erudition and mastery, creating a convincing fictional storyline heavily dependent on narrated history from the period. He turns the disciples, into credible characters. It is incredibly readable, plausible, literary and navigates quite brilliantly the problems of readers who may vary from the devout to the atheist.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kingdom of the Wicked, 20 Nov. 2009
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J. Erskine - See all my reviews
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Anthony Burgess always gives a really excellent read. It tells of the beginnings of Christianity as a politically expedient phenomenon as the faith began some years after the death of Christ. It might sound boring but it's done in an interesting and human way. I bought this as I wanted to read it again and this time keep a copy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars kingdom of the wicked, 28 May 2009
I found this book very good and it put the Roman Empire and the emergence of the Christian Church into a readable context. Was doing a course on the period at the time but although fiction it is based on fact and I am looking forward to re-reading it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 7 Mar. 2009
As I wrote in my review of '1985', the fiction of Anthony Burgess appears to have suffered and languished in the years following his death in 1993 with his reputation sustained largely by 'A Clockwork Orange' (1962). This is not a welcome situation, as that slim volume, whilst clever, inventive and provocative, is but a small part of a far larger oeuvre.

Here Burgess explains that this book was written partly for its own sake, but also partly as a preparation for, and expansion of, his writing for a television series 'A.D'. Whilst this observation might seem unimportant, placed at the end of the book, it does point to one of the key characteristics of this novel, which is broad and sweeping in a highly cinematic manner.

The narrative, provided by Sadoc, son of Azor, seeks to write and complete the account, in Greek, begun by his father regarding "the career of Yehoshua Naggar or Iesous Marengos". However, whilst Jesus does appear at the beginning of the novel it is fleeting, intended to spur his disciples to begin their mission of.....

Of what? The novel begins to follow the attempt by the disciples to understand the nature of the task before them, and the question as to whom the message is to be taken to. This tension is clearly expressed in its relationship with Judaism, accelerated by the conversion and dominance of Saul, whose zeal dramatically impacts upon the direction of the new faith.

This process is neccessarily set against the machinations of the Roman Empire, and the wickedness of power and excess, fulfilling the promise made by Sadoc as the book begins "...You may expect to meet all manner of wickedness in what follows".

In character and execution this is typically familar Burgess, language twists and turns, meanings are distorted and exploited in a fantastically playful manner that propels the narrative at speed. Burgess seizes upon and plays with a motif taken from Catallus (una nox dormienda), setting the moral hope of the new religion against the absolute certainty of death, particularly where faith alone must justify and support the truth of the resurrection.

Whilst there is no questioning the intelligence of the polymathic Burgess, after two readings there is a sense that on this occasion this isn't (of itself) enough. Rome, as a symbol of wickedness and earthly uncertainty, provides a host of Emperors and paramours willing to pursue power and pleasure at any cost, but as the story progresses the character distinctions between the Emperors blur, as each excess is replaced by another in predictable fashion. In contrast the disciples offer a moral counterweight but little else, no character is sufficiently or fully realised to engage the reader, leading to a sense of superficiality in the presentation and execution.

This creative imbalance, further evidenced by the paucity of descriptive writing, is especially true of the physical environments through which the characters move. In contrast, the dialogue fizzes with inventiveness leading to complete enthrallment to Burgess the writer, a presence that never allows the characters to achieve the illusory narrative independence so critical to character engagement. Perhaps such apparent shortcomings might be ascribed to the circumstances informing the writing of the text.

Ultimately it is the dialogue that saves the story, as Burgess demonstrates the vitality of language. He was a writer of outstanding ability, and his warm intelligence abounds throughout the text. Whilst not his most engaging or convincing effort, it is a book worthy of your attention.

Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars '... an ignorant carpenter, burbling about love', 10 Mar. 2011
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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Very few writers display a gift for the creation of a whole world to such excellent effect as Burgess at his best. Perhaps here he is not quite at his best (for that, read Earthly Powers (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)), but it seems dishonest not to praise a writer with such bold ebullience, such breadth of background knowledge, and such wit as to know exactly what to do with that knowledge; and how not to go too far. It would be easy to do that, after all, when some of his protagonists are the early Roman emperors, who, as we know, often went much further than too far in their private - and public - lives.

The narrative also follows the exploits of Caleb, a young and ambitious Jew, whose adventures the narrative tracks, (allowing an occasionally welcome semi-secular perspective) and the early years of the Christian sect: Peter, Matthias, Saul (later Paul), etc., whose lives are dogged by persecution and hardship and whose deaths are documented throughout this long, trammelled, exhaustingly entertaining book.

That you follow these stories at all coherently (which history tells us they were not) is a tribute to the bumpy prose, the colloquial charm, the Pythonesque antics, the remorseless brilliance of the writing. Anthony Burgess, polymath and sly genius, take a bow.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, 12 Sept. 2014
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A literary classic and a very unusual depiction of the acts of the disciples at the time of , and shortly after, Christ's death. Not a reverential work and the reader is left to decide what is a miracle and what is not. Paul is very credibly described as are other characters whether fictional or minor historical ones
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to believe, but this is a ripping yarn..., 22 Sept. 2013
By 
Ransen Owen (Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kingdom of the Wicked, The (Paperback)
It may be hard to believe, but this long novel is a ripping yarn!

The Jewish/Christian strand intertwines with the Roman Empire strand and both are entertaining.
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Kingdom of the Wicked, The
Kingdom of the Wicked, The by Anthony Burgess (Paperback - 23 Feb. 2009)
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