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Top Customer Reviews
In this masterful retelling of the ancient Sumerian Gilgamesh epic, the author spins the story out into a lengthy (565 page) book that both entertains and educates the reader about ancient Sumer. Part of what I liked about this book is that certain parts of the dialog are taken directly from ancient Sumerian sources, which adds greatly to the books realism. The characters are richly defined, and the story is fascinating, while at the same time many details of Sumerian life are woven in.
As a small complaint, the author did delight in describing Gilgamesh's sexual escapades, both heterosexual and homosexual, in voyeuristic detail. I thought that that was unnecessary, but that it did not overly diminish the impact of the story, either. Overall, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in ancient Sumer or in high quality fantasy literature.
[If you are interested in daily life in ancient Sumer as seen from a merchant family's viewpoint, then I would still recommend The Three Brother of Ur by Jenny Grace Fygson.]
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I cannot speak for how accurately Gilgamesh's legend is rendered, but I will say that as in Grundy's previous novels, he did an excellent job evoking the world Gilgamesh lives in. In particular, he makes the ancient Sumerian religion seem real, as a major aspect of the various character's lives. This last is important, because although the novel tells the story of the king and hero Gilgamesh, it also tells the story of a person coming to terms with and accepting the influence of the divine (in this case the Sumerian goddess Innana) into his life. In a sense, it is a romance between Gilgamesh and the goddess. Though a brave man, he fears her because accepting her means accepting that he will one day meet his death. He has great strength and vigor, being "two thirds god and one third man" but with it comes something like "peter pan syndrome" and he lacks sympathy and understanding for his subjects. He confuses personal heroism in battle with the kingly duty to protect his subjects-- even from his own dreams of glory. His courage, in light of his refusal to admit the possibility of death, is closer to recklessness. Nevertheless, for all his flaws he is an engaging character, as are the other characters in the novel are who are forced to deal with him.
Yes, some of the characters are bisexual-- but a careful reading reveals that the homosexual activities of certain characters (discreetly presented) are a signal that the character is turned toward him or herself, taking comfort in human friendship when unable to accept the goddess into his or her life (while showing the importance of human friendships). I believe Grundy's intent in including these episodes was to express his theme, not to be "trendy." Gilgamesh at first can only love his friend Enkidu, because only Enkidu is "like him" in physical prowess. Initially it is an egotistical love, but after tragedy and physical weakness befalls Enkidu, Gilgamesh learns that he still loves his friend for his nobility of spirit. Ultimately, just as Innana gives Enkidu the gift of civilization, Enkidu's love and friendship gives Gilgamesh the understanding that he needs to finally accept Innana as well as his own mortality in order to become a complete, mature man and a good king.
(...)P>As for what I liked - there were quite a few places where the descriptions were original and poignant enough to make me want to continue ploughing through the monotonous stuff. I like Grundy as a writer, and enjoyed his "Attila's Treasure" much more than "Gilgamesh." I liked the potential that several of the characters in Gilgamesh had, and found Enkidu and the Shamhatu particularly intriguing as people that could have been depicted in a much deeper way, but I never really saw them expanded to their full potential. The book did make me want to search out more information on the Gilgamesh epic, although the downside to that is that I'm looking for something that is better written than Grundy's book. (Sorry!)