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4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Avon Books (Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380794535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380794539
  • Product Dimensions: 38.9 x 20.1 x 11.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Format: Hardcover
Two-thirds god and one-third man, Gilgamesh rises to become Ensi (ruler) of Erech. But, he is both as powerful as a wild bull, and as impetuous as one. The people cry out for someone to tame Gilgamesh, and the gods respond by making him a comrade, a brother in all things. However, when this comrade doesn't tame Gilgamesh, but merely changes the direction of his fears and desires, then how is Gilgamesh to learn his lessons? This is the story of a hero--the adventures he has and the lessons he learns.
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.]
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By A Customer on 1 Mar. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Appears to be a love it or hate it book. I loved it. Hard to put down and a fantastic view of another culture. Keep up the good work Stephan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars 18 reviews
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! 13 Oct. 2000
By Joseph M. Morgan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the first few pages, I was transported to ancient Erech, involved in the lives of the characters, and hooked on this most ancient of epic stories. Grundy has a way of bringing larger-than-life characters forth in ways that make them immediately important to the reader as people, not merely as archetypes. Whether he is writing about fighting or love-making, he does it with an appreciation of the skills involved that make you pity his enemies and envy his lovers. He has the rare combination of excellent research and creative story-telling ability that marks the best keepers of legend. I recommend this book not just because the Gilgamesh story is culturally important, but because it is a GOOD story, and even better when told by a master.
8 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of time. 20 Oct. 2000
By Pythagoras - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This reads like a very bad Harlequin Romance set in Sumeria. Bad research, bad writing, bad plot. I could not get past the first 100 pages without gagging so it went into the garbage can --
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual "coming of age" novel 15 Nov. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Between my memory of having read Gilgamesh in a college history class, and my pleasant experiences reading Stephan Grundy's previous historical fiction novels, I happily anticipated the release of this novel and was not disappointed. It more than just an adventure story.
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been much better. 23 April 2004
By Amy N-K - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I guess I can't say I hated this book, as I did finish it. My main complaints are about the uppers and downers of coming across something I enjoyed, just to be annoyed moments later by a cliche description, a misspelling (not sure if these are Grundy's misspellings or an editor's) i.e. "rainment" was used several times instead of the correct "raiment." I wanted to hear more about Enkidu as a character, less about how he looked like a lion (and made love like one, etc.). Grundy made sure we were very well aware of each character's beard, skin, and hair characteristics... over and over. Did I mention that Enkidu is like a lion? If not, let me mention that metaphor again to the point of nausea. Oh, and the En definitely has a dry, gravelly voice. Let's just say I would have appreciated a little more variety in the descriptive narrative. In particular, description of characteristics beyond the outer bodies throbbing in ecstasy would have been nice.
(...)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!)
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breathtaking Read 14 Jan. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Being new to the writings of Stephan Grundy, I was initially somewhat daunted by the sheer scale of this book. At 550+ words, and with no previous knowledge of the Gilgamesh saga whatsoever, I figured that this might not be a book for the fainthearted or, indeed, the uninitiated. I need not have worried. Quite simply, Grundy's 'Gilgamesh' is a breathtaking read. His vision of early Sumeria, and its elaborate (and to us, somewhat alien) rituals and culture is brought vividly to life by an author of consummate skill to the extent that I, a reader with no prior knowledge, might almost have found myself living there. Greater still is Grundy's gift for characterisation. His book is crammed not with the usual main players and plot enabling secondary props, but by living breathing characters, superbly drawn by the author with a passion for life and a depth of compassion and humanity which defies description. This is a richly woven tapestry which can be read on any number of levels, from that of straight forward adventure to deeply moving treatise on the folly of pride, the futility of regret and the individual's powerlessness in the face of the inevitable. I have no idea how true to the 'original' Grundy's version of Gilgamesh is, but his research looks to have been impressive indeed if the book's afterword is anything to go by, and I will certainly be reading Maureen Gallery Kovaks translation, as cited, not to mention Grundy's other works. In short, buy 'Gilgamesh' - this is an awesome read and a handsome retelling of an epic tale; it has a breadth of passion and a scale of grandeur which - if you have the slightest shred of humanity, will surely take your breath away.
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