Tides Of War Paperback – 5 Mar 2001
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If readers of epic historical fiction are influenced in their literary choices by successful films in the genre, then the timing of Steven Pressfield's Tides of War could not be better, with the cinematic release of Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Ironically, the very qualities that distinguish Scott's movie are here in greater concentration: tremendous historical sweep; strong, well-defined characters and bloody confrontations. The one area in which Pressfield definitely possesses the edge, though, is the fierce intelligence and rigorous authenticity of his remarkable book. As a picture of the ancient world, it is nigh unbeatable but it is the characterisation of the soldier protagonist Alcibiades (who becomes a central figure in the war between Athens and Sparta) that is Pressfield's greatest achievement.
Alcibiades is a brilliantly wrought conflation of ancient and modern sensibilities, the perfect conduit into this savage world. On the battlefield, Alcibiades has never known defeat but his success has created ill feeling among his political opponents in Athens. A trumped-up charge of treason forces him to flee to Sparta, where he engineers a series of military triumphs. However, his heart lies in Athens and, through a series of savage confrontations (both on the battlefield and in the equally dangerous political arena), he moves inexorably towards his unwritten destiny. It will be no surprise to the readers of the equally impressive Gates of Fire that this exuberant panoply of a far-off age is so luminously rendered. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"PRAISE FOR TIDES OF WAR: 'The very qualities that distinguish Ridley Scott's Gladiator are here in greater concentration...it is nigh unbeatable'" (Amazon.co.uk)
"'Extraordinary...Pressfield produces an even greater spectacle - and, in its honest, incremental way, an even greater heart-tugger - than in his acclaimed tale of the battle of Thermopylae ...The political complexities between Sparta and Athens, not to mention the cultural competition between them, are handled with a clarity that enlightens and captivates the reader at once...On every page are colour, splendour, sorrow, the unforgiving details of battle, daily life, and of the fighter's lot. Unashamedly brilliant, epic, intelligent, and moving'" (Kirkus Reviews)
"'Pressfield has an impressive grasp of military history and an even more impressive ability to convey his passion in print. His battlefield scenes rank with the most convincing ever written - you can almost feel the slash of sword on skin and sense the shattering mix of panic, bravery, blood lust and despair'" (USA Today)
"'Every inch the equal of its predecessor' Publishing News 'A brilliant evocation of an heroic age...which sets alight the imagination and which thrills the soul with the trumpet tone of battle'" (Northern Echo)
"'Brings the destruction of ancient Athens vividly to life...Steven Pressfield has literally bookended the golden age of classic Greece...He continues to excel in depth of research, humanization of antiquity and power of description'" (Los Angeles Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
Like in life, Pressfield's characters are varying shades of grey - deeply flawed, making valiant attempts at self-justification.
The background to this tale, the Peloponnesian war, is a difficult conflict to comprehend. In effect a civil war, one doesn't expect outrageous acts of heroism similar to those described in Pressfield's depiction of the Persian wars. Add to this the remarkably complex character of Alcibiades and the uneasy decline of the principal nation states of Athens and Sparta.
What the author has achieved is remarkable: he breathes life into an ancient and distant culture, made the crazy decisions of the Athenian powers seem plausible, and turned the central character into a slightly deluded superstar of his time.
I think this was a difficult work for Pressfied to create, but he has pulled it off.
However, Tides Of War is much different. 'Mature' is a word used by other reviewers, and it sums it up quite neatly I think. Whereas Gates Of Fire was hardpacked action most of all, Tides Of Was is much more into the psychological aspects of the events, and focuses on it's characters rather than the story. Oh, not that there isn't action, cause there's plenty, but there's much more to it.
First time I read this novel, I was very sceptical - for the very same reasons as mentioned above. It was not until I was something like two thirds through the book that it really made it's impact on me. However, once I had finished this book, I couldn't put it out of my head. It's got so many fascinating aspects of the human psyche and how the individuals clear thought becomes clouded by the persuasive pull of the mass hysteria. One might argue that the character of Alcibiades is glorified here, and he might be, but that's somewhat besides the point - the point is, that this story brings numerous examples of how the genious is pulled down by the lessers envy and greed, which in the end is bad for everyone, even the ones who did it. That's the real tragedy of human history that has been repeated time after time.
Oh, and don't forget, this tells the story of one of the most important wars in western civilization history. Go play with the thought of what might've happened if Alcibiades had been allowed to pull of the attack on Syracuse, and had defeated the Spartans.Read more ›
One of Pressfield's outstanding qualities as a writer is his ability to impart a consistent mood to his works; his character depictions and style of writing follow the dominant mood he intends to convey. In this book the mood is one of subversion of virtue to expedience, betrayal, fickleness and political machination. The difference between Doric and Ionian individual values and how those values were subverted to become the handmaidens of expiediency to achieve political ends - to the ultimate political destruction of both sides - underpins the entire work.
One of the value shifts explored was from personal sacrifice for the good of the community to personal gain as more important than the good of the community. This shift has been echoed in recent times by the American Democratic Party and Britain's Labour party finally reaching the realisation that they were unelectable if the centre piece of their policies remained individual sacrifice for the greater community good. For this and many other reasons, such as power projection and 'hearts and minds' politics to prosecute a war, Pressfield's book has an astonishing modern relevance.
Even though Pressfield's narrative contains some archaic constructions to give the book a 'contemporary feel', he uses modern language in dialogue to better allow us to empathise with character who is speaking. The effect is pleasing and works well.
I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anybody who has an interest in the Pelloponesian wars, or an interet in the study of what makes charismatic people tick.
Although the book was quite enjoyable and well written, I just did not get the buzz out of it that I had got from Gates of Fire. At times the story dragged a little, almost to the point of boredom. I'm not sure why, but it just did not have the sparkle of the previous one.
Steven Pressfield is still a master at drawing his reader into the story and his descriptions of battle and warfare techniques are second to none. Almost to the point of leaving the reader sweating with fear and exhaustion at the brutal and barbarous battle tactics used in these ancient encounters.
It would certainly be unfair to decry the book as a bad novel. It just had something lacking for me, personally. I am sure many people will think it is a terrific read and I hope they do.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I intended only giving this book 2 or 3 stars, for reasons cited below. But I felt compelled to change this to 4 because of the last few chapters. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jill Hudson
This is the story of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War, as seen through the eyes of an Athenian marine and assassin (the book is framed as him giving his confession as he awaits... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Y
The conflict in this book lasted 27 years, Gates of Fire lasted 1 week, why do you keep rating them against each other? Read morePublished 11 months ago by L. Hayes
I read the previous, Gates of Fire, which was tremendous. This is a let-down as could not connect with the main characters at all.Published 19 months ago by Ronnie
Following on from "Gates of Fire" Steven Pressfield stuck with the ancient Greece theme and wrote this book "Tides of War" supposedly about Alcibiades and the... Read morePublished on 30 July 2014 by Neil Lennon