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Imperium Hardcover – 4 Sep 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 357 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 4 Sep 2006
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (4 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091800951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091800956
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (357 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 177,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Fascinating… Imperium masterfully dramatises issues not only
pertinent to a vanished world but to our own.’ -- Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

‘Genres ancient and modern have rarely been so skilfully
synthesised… Gripping and accomplished.’ -- Tom Holland, Guardian

‘Harris [is] a truly gifted, razor-sharp writer... Enormously
-- Daily Telegraph

‘Harris’s best so far, rapid and compelling in narrative…
thoroughly researched but also, which is more important, thoroughly
imagined… Irresistible’ -- Allan Massie, Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

'Masterful' Sunday Times

Ancient Rome is the setting for the stunning new novel from Robert Harris, the number one bestselling author of Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel and Pompeii. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Robert Harris is probably my favourite author. Fatherland, Pompeii, Archangel and Enigma are all cracking good reads. Essentials, even. However, if one criticism could be levelled at their author, it is that they all seem to follow a vaguely similar theme. Each follow a different hero on a detective-style mystery set against the backdrop of a massively powerful, but, we gradually find out, fundamentally corrupt, political instituation, where the denouement sees the hero's actions sending shockwaves through the system in which he lives.

The novel Imperium takes a break from this theme. We follow Marcus Cicero, Roman lawyer, orator and statesman, as he follows his dream of becoming one of Rome's two Consuls.

Harris excels in creating three-dimensional characters (Dan Brown, sit up and take note, with your bland Hollywood cut-outs). Imperium is populated by alternatively brilliant, flawed, amusing, venal and/or monstrously cruel Romans. I followed their individual rises and falls with glee. Harris plays particularly well to Cicero's historical strength - that of his public oratory. The scenes set in the senate and court houses are worth the entry fee alone.

Having discarded the crutches of the plot devices used in his prevously mentioned books, Harris does not quite manage to recapture their cannot-put-downability. However, this means Imperium is merely very good, rather than a must-read.

On a side note, it's interesting to compare the two different, but very nearly contemporary, Romes of Conn Iggulden's Emperor series (lots of wars and disciplined Roman legions) and Robert Harris' Imperium (politicking, scheming and intrigue).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Through Latin A level and later at university, I read a great deal of Marcus Tullius Cicero's writings and found them, unusually, very hard going. While we all appreciate that he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, brain and linguistic ability, he comes across, nonetheless, as an arrogant bore, stuffed full of himself and with an incredbile ability to irritate others. His ability to write golden Latin is beyond all doubt, and Queen Elizabeth I's proudest boast was that she could write "Ciceronian" Latin.

"Against Verres", the speech that is the subject of this novel, is Cicero's prosecution of Verres, ex-Governor of Sicily. Verres, even given Cicero's hatchet job in 70 BC, seems to have been a pretty loathsome creature who plundered and intimidated his subjects openly and without remorse or guilt. The remainder of the novel is concerned with Cicero's climb up the greasy pole to real power and all the resulting intrigues and plotting. Fascinating stuff, and as Mr Harris said, if what he propounds did not actually happen, then something like it probably did. After all, 2 + 2 generally makes 5 - ish.

Harris has obviously done his research here and the bones of the historical fact are fleshed out by a very entertianing novel. He is an extremly funny writer in an "ars celat artem" way and the various discussion and debates in this novel are extremely amusing: Cicero's comments about marriage will make you laugh out loud, and many other passages will cause you to smile.

Harris' characterisation is very good indeed, and Cicero comes over as a prissy, self-important, principled yet proud man who in real life I have always found insufferable. In this, he appears rather like a cross between the late Bob Monkhouse and Rumpole of the Bailey and becomes likeable.
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Format: Hardcover
Imperium proved to be my vessel for my first venture into the works of Robert Harris. This 400 page epic really is a fantastic read. The style, written from the point of view of the protagonist's slave, Tiro, is light enough to provide easy reading while providing enough artistic flourishes to invoke fascination and respect for this fantastic author. Several reviews have commented on the fact that this book isn't thrilling, but I must disagree. Yes, the book is not action-packed with violence, fighting, sex, etc, but through Harris's characterisation, attention to detail and quasi-non-fictitious style we, that is the audience, are truly drawn into the world of Cicero and his political conquests; a truly thrilling experience. One section of the book which is particularly thrilling, yet still within the political context of the book, is near the end when Cicero dispatches his loyal slave Tiro, inventor of the short-hand system, to spy on a meeting between some rival senators. The tense atmosphere which oozes out of the pages in this section really will have you stuck text! However, the real beauty of this book has to be its setting, as well as Harris's ability to encapsulate the reader in the world of the ancient Roman Empire; never for a moment are we forced to accept that this is a work of fiction, and it can easily be believe to be a translated copy of Tiro's real memoirs from long ago. This really is a truly excellent read, I recommend it to anyone.
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Format: Paperback
I have always viewed Robert Harris as the thinking man's thriller writer. He sets most of his books in historic eras, or bases the plot on history, and researches brilliantly. However, too often I find that as his books reach their end they descend into the realm of the bizarre e.g. `The Ghosts' confused finale or `Archangel's crazy twists. Harris is perhaps a less thinking man's writer than I first imagined. That is until I read `Imperium', his best and most intelligent book to date. Gone are the thrills to please the masses and instead Harris allows the wonderful story of Cicero and his note taker Tiro to capture the reader.

Cicero came to prominence in one of the most iconic periods of Rome; he was there for Pompeii and the rise/fall of Julius Caesar. In his lifetime the structure of the Roman Empire would change. The great historic events are enough to whet my appetite, but Harris research skills and great writing add so much more. Harris imbues Cicero with many elements of our own politicians; he is willing to bend his values to pursue power. This does not make him a bad person, just someone who is believable. After `Imperium' Harris went on to write `The Ghost', I felt that his Roman epic had more to say about a certain former British Prime Minister than his modern set thriller ever did.

With a great story fill of intrigue, `Imperium' is only made better by Harris' quality writing. The book is improved further by the fact a lot of what Harris wrote actually happened. Rome has been an inspiration to writers for centuries and if they continue to produce as good a book as here, this process will continue for many centuries more.

Sammy Recommendation
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