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S. Flaherty "steve3742" (Nottingham)

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Amazon: pay living wages to your workers
Amazon: pay living wages to your workers
by Amazon Anonymous
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pay up, you tightwads, 11 Jun. 2014
OK, I'll put it on the line here: I'm not going to buy another book from Amazon until they pay all their workers - permenant or temporary - the living wage. I mean, it's not like they can't afford it. One of the most profitable companies on Earth and they're behaving like this. It's despicable.

Assassin of Gor: Gor Book 5
Assassin of Gor: Gor Book 5
Price: £3.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sex Trafficking in Ancient Rome, 10 May 2012
OK, volume 5. This one's set in Ar again, a thinly disguised Ancient Rome. Tarl Cabot goes there to investigate the activities of the Others, the ones who work against the Priest Kings. We learn a bit more about them and even see one, briefly, though you don't get this confirmed till volume 7.

In Ar, the Others are backing a bunch of sex traffickers, who are kidnapping Earth women and trafficking them to Gor. They use the funds this generates to enhance their political power and so a lot of the book is taken up with the internal politics of Ar and the struggle to become emperor (Ubar).

All of this is OK and makes an interesting read. There's some twists and turns including some I didn't see coming when I first read it. And it does read like a typical novel of ancient Rome with tarn races instead of chariot races, etc. One good thing about the Gor series was its ability to have different settings - last volume we were with the Mongols (the Wagon Peoples), this volume in ancient Rome (Ar), next volume in the Pirate enclaves of the Caribbean (Port Kar) and there are Vikings and Arabs coming up.

What unifies all of them, of course, is Norman's One Big Idea, that All-Women-Secretly-Want-To-Be-Slaves. So, of course, the victims of the sex traffickers end up liking their situation and realising that it's fulfilled them as women (because That's-What-Women-Really-Want.) This is quite revolting to read when you consider the fate of real life victims of sex trafficking.

Perhaps I'm taking it too seriously? It is a fantasy, after all. But Norman seems so serious about it and goes on about it at such length that I feel he's trying to make a point here. He really believes that the women kidnapped from Eastern Europe by the Russian Mafia and forced into prostitution will end up liking their situation and realising that it's fulfilled them as women (because That's-What-Women-Really-Want.) Or, at least, that they will if it's done by Gorean sex traffickers.

And, as standard for Norman, one of the women sex-trafficked from Earth is a feminist, a proud, arrogant, independent woman who, by the end of the volume, is forced to admit the error of her ways and submit herself to a man (because That's-What-Women-Really-Want.) I really do wonder at his history - I mean, this crops up so often that it has to be reminiscent of something.

I really wonder why I'm reading these, sometimes. OK, next volume is set in Port Kar, a pirate hangout based on Port Royal (the wickedest city on Earth) but with ancient Greek biremes and triremes rather than renaissance frigates and sloops. The books get a bit of nasty from this volume onwards, as I remember (you thought they were already a bit nasty? They get worse. Trust me.)

Nomads of Gor: Gor Book 4
Nomads of Gor: Gor Book 4
Price: £3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good story, but...., 6 April 2012
OK, volume 4, Nomads of Gor. I read this at the age of about 15 and thought it was good. Coming back many years later, I was wondering what it'd be like - I've done this with other books I read when I was 15 and found that they're not as good as I thought back then. these things don't always stand the test of time.

But not to worry, this ones actually quite good. Tarl Cabot goes looking for the last egg of the Priest-Kings amongst the Wagon Peoples of Gor (Mongols). He ingratiates himself with them but before he's started, they gets a message, delivered by someone from Earth, saying that he's not to be trusted and should be killed. He realises, then, that there are Others working against the Priest-Kings, trying to get the egg before he does and to stop him from getting it. The Others (not seen or named till volume 7 or 8) play a large part from this point onwards. At the same time as he's doing all this, there are politics involved as the Wagon Peoples have their 10-yearly great meeting to maybe choose a Khan of Khans and the city of Turia, never taken by the Wagon Peoples, gets involved in all of this, or at least some of its inhabitants do.

It's a good story, reasonably paced and well written. Norman uses his trademark habit of going off on huge descriptive digressions whilst in the middle of something, but I'm used to that and think it does a reasonable job of giving the background. Cabot's bromance with Kamchak of the Tuchuks (one of the four tribes of the Mongols) is handled well and there's a bit of a comedy turn with another character, Harald of the Tuchuks, in the latter half of the book. The end, whilst I did see a lot of it coming even at 15, is still well written and well plotted. All in all, a good read - I think this is where Norman started to get more professional as a writer, having learned his craft in the first three.


There's always a but with Gor. Cabot meets his latest squeeze early on and she's a woman from Earth. She is, of course, enslaved by the Wagon Peoples and Cabot feels a bit sorry for her (he's still a soft Earthman, he's not yet shed his soft Earthly ways and become a hard Gorean.) Around chapter 25, he finally gets her into bed. And then we have Norman's One Big Idea again, the All-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves schtick. Or, as Cabot puts it:

"On Gor," I said, "the myths have it that only the woman who has been an utter slave can be truly free."

And he proceeds to teach her what this means. There follows a Bondage/Domination sex scene (although there's surprisingly little explicit sex) at the end of which, of course, the woman (from Earth, note) realises that All-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves:

"It is strange," she said. "I am a slave girl. But I am free. I am free"... She kissed me on the shoulder. "Thank you," she said, "Tarl Cabot, for freeing me."

This, it should be noted, is also the longest chapter in the book and so Norman must have seen it as important. Myself, I was anxious to get back to the siege of Turia. B/D isn't my sort of thing. No doubt that's because on Earth:

"the men are taught that they must not be men and the women are taught that they must not be women... these old secrets and truths [have been] subverted to the requirements of a society conceived in terms of interchangeable labour units, each assigned its functional, technical sexless skills"

This, unfortunately, accompanies Norman's increased craft in writing. We'll have something like this at least once in every book now, accompanied by examples, often from Earth. And often proud, self-reliant women, also. A proud woman of the Tuchuks gets the Gorean treatment in this volume and there were similar cases in the past few volumes and there will be in the next few also. I wonder... Did something happen to Norman? I mean, the guy's a PhD, the very definition of a geek (I read a blog from someone who'd met him and apparently he's a small, not very prepossessing man), and I wonder if maybe he had a crush on some hugely popular princess at school. And she turned him down, mocked and belittled him, the way nearly all of Norman's women mock and belittled Cabot. So he writes about what he'd like to do with them...

Pointless speculation, though. In summary, this is a good read, though you can skip chapter 25 if that's not to your taste.

I don't know how long I'm going to go on reading these. I remember the next one as being quite good and that the books start to turn a bit nasty from volume 6 onwards. I'll see how long I can bear it.

The First Barsoom Omnibus: A Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; Warlord of Mars
The First Barsoom Omnibus: A Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; Warlord of Mars

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Buy This!!!, 5 April 2012
Because, as somebody's already mentioned, they're available for free from Gutenberg.

There's recently been a film, which I haven't seen, and that's why I re-read these. This volume includes the first three volumes, A Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars. The first one is good, the second one is better but the third one slips a bit and isn't that great.

In the first volume, John Carter, a Confederate cavalry officer who's immortal, gets ambushed by Indians and then transported to Mars by astral projection. He meets various different types of Martians and has various adventures before getting the girl in the end. A pretty standard planetary romance plot. The second volume, as the title implies, involves an examination of the religion of Mars and the third ties up all the loose ends.

So, having described the plot, lets examine the book. Another reviewer has said that Burroughs was racist and sexist, but this is unwarranted, at least the first bit. Carter (and Burroughs) were both Southerners and you might expect any white male from 1912 to be racist, but it doesn't really come across in the books. There are a number of different races on Mars, Red, Green, White, Black and Yellow Martians and neither Burroughs nor Carter seem to favour or disparage any in particular, apart from the Red Martians, but perhaps that's because Carter's girl is a Red Martian.

As for sexist, well OK, there's probably something to that, at least from 21st century viewpoints. Mars, absurdly enough, is a very traditional, Victorian style society when it comes to the place of women. It's a woman's job to support her menfolk as they set about keeping the Empire, sorry Mars, safe. Even Carter's Having said that, it's nowhere near as sexist as Gor, a comparison some have made, quite unjustifiably. Some female characters shine and Carter wouldn't have survived volume 2 without help from one in particular. A huge contrast to Gor.

Even after a hundred years, the first volume still reads well (it's the hundredth anniversary this year! Celebrate by reading the book.) But they're free from Gutenberg. So don't buy them.

Priest-Kings of Gor: Gor Book 3
Priest-Kings of Gor: Gor Book 3
Price: £3.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The First, Explicit, Mention of his One Big Idea, 5 April 2012
OK, Book 3 of Gor. Tarl Cabot goes to confront the priest Kings about having destroyed his city and, as you've probably guessed, gets involved in the internal politics of Priest-Kings, which result in a civil war. We get to meet the mysterious rulers of Gor and understand something about the machinations that led to Cabot's presence on Gor. Can't really say much more without giving away some spoilers.

The book is very different from the others in the series, as it's not set within Gorean society but instead within a more Science Fiction setting. This disconnect from the rest of the series is jarring and that's one reason I've downgraded it (I understand a later volume does something similar with the Steel Worlds of the Kur). But it does a creditable job of answering all the questions readers will have been asking since volume 1.

But this volume is also notable for being the first EXPLICIT presentation by Norman of his One Big Idea, the idea that All-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves. It's worth quoting:

"As I thought of our primeval ancestor standing in the mouth of his cave one hand gripping a chipped stone and perhaps the other a torch, his mate behind him and his young hidden in the mosses at the back of the cave I wondered at the genetic gifts that would insure the survival of man in so hostile a world, and I wondered if among them would not be the strength and the aggressiveness and the swiftness of eye and hand and the courage of the male and on the part of the woman - what? ... It seemed possible to me that one trait of high survival value might be the desire on the part of the woman to belong - utterly - to a man... If she were too independent she would die in such a world and if she did not mate her race would die... Perhaps if she were thrown by her hair to the back of the cave and raped on furs in the light of the animal fire at its mouth this would have been to her little more than the proof of her mate's regard for her, the expected culmination of her innate desire to be dominated and his."

As you can see by the ellipses, I've cut it down a bit. Norman does go on about this One Big Idea a lot. It turns up pretty much in every book from now on, usually longer, in more detail, often more than once, ad nauseaum.

It's hard to know how to react to this.

Firstly, some people I've read on the net say that Norman is being satirical. That when he says that All-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves or shows a woman being enslaved and whipped and coming to love the man who whipped her (because That's-What-Women-Really-Want), we should no more take him seriously than we should take Jonathan Swift seriously when he advocates cannibalism in A Modest Proposal.

But I don't buy this. Swift is being obviously satirical, there's no trace of satire in Norman, not when he advocates his One Big Idea. And I've read interviews with him. Here's one from 1996:

"Many women respond to strength and force. They like it. They want it. Most women want a man capable of mastering them... I frankly suspect that the matter is biological, and that this does lie somewhere within ALL women [emphasis mine]... Force in itself is not evil. The male sex is naturally dominant, and the female dominance-responsive... In the master/slave relationship one has, symbolically and beautifully expressed, a celebration of the glory of nature and the reality of dimorphic sexuality... Ultimately, of course, the male is the master, and the female is the slave. He and she will have it so"

And so on. I don't think there's any doubt that Norman seriously means what he says.

I could criticise this. I could say that the Man-The-Hunter stereotype he uses to show women's essential nature has been rejected by most anthropologists, who consider human nature to be just a little bit more complex. I could point out that in most Hunter-Gatherer societies, hunting provides around a fifth of the tribes food, the rest being provided by women gathering food. I could ask even if we accept the Man-The-Hunter idea, how, exactly, does that lead to women wishing to belong utterly to men as an evolutionary trait?

And I could ask where he gets the idea that ALL-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves? I don't think it's in good taste to speculate on the sex lives of authors, but in the interview I've quoted from (and another book of his), he as good as tells us that he's indulged in Bondage and Domination and that he really liked it and so did the woman (women?) involved. Well, good for them, whatever shakes your rattle. But to extrapolate from that the idea that ALL-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves is a huge step. And one that he offers no evidence for. The most you get is anecdotal - most Romance novels (which are written for women, and therefore are trying to cater for What-Women-Really-Want) contain scenes where the man behaves in similar fashion (though I guess they fall short of putting a slave collar on her and whipping her.)

I don't read Romance novels so I don't know how true this is. But I don't think that a) Every woman reads and enjoys them (or even that every woman would read and enjoy them but is too ashamed to admit it); b) aside from a small minority, I don't think rape fantasies are that popular, even in Romance novels and c) even ignoring the above, there's a difference between fantasy and reality. Gorean Pleasure Slaves exist on Earth. It's called Sex Trafficking and it's nothing any woman would fantasise about.

So I'm not too keen on his One Big Idea. The most you can say about it is that it's a sexual fantasy translated onto a Science Fiction setting. I could probably cope with it better if this was clearer and if Norman didn't insist on saying that ALL-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves all the time.

Anyway, 2 stars because the disconnect from Gorean society is a little dull in places. Though not that dull, I'd give it 2 and a half if possible. The next one, Nomads of Gor, I remember as being one of the best when I read it at the age of 15. It'll be interesting to see how it stands up.

Outlaw of Gor: Gor Book 2
Outlaw of Gor: Gor Book 2
Price: £3.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pointless digression into Propaganda, 3 April 2012
OK, book 2 of Gor. Tarl Cabot gets taken back to Gor and finds that the Priest Kings have destroyed his city (Ko-Ro-Ba) and driven its people into exile. He vows to confront them about this and so sets off to the Mountains of Sardar, where the priest kings live...

So far, so good. Meeting the Priest Kings at last and finding out a bit more about them might make a reasonably decent story. In fact, it does make a reasonably decent story - for volume 3. Because he's only just started on his journey when he gets sucked into the politics of the city of Tharna, and that's what takes up the rest of this volume.

Tarl Cabot finds out that Tharna is a rarity in Gor, a city ruled by a woman, where the women have more rights than on the rest of Gor... and straight away, you know where this is going. Yes, it's one of THOSE stories, the Wouldn't-Society-Be-Terrible-If-Women-Were-In-Charge story, followed by the Oppressed-Men-Revolting-Against-Their-Mistresses story. Only this is Gor, so instead of the book ending with a relatively equal society, as these stories tend to, Tharna ends up a normal Gorean city, with all that that implies for the status of women. The women of Tharna are given six months to find a husband or become slaves and everybody's much happier. Even the women. ESPECIALLY the women, because That's-What-Women-Really-Want, as Norman never tires of telling us.

Tarl Cabot takes more steps along the road of shedding his soft Earthly ways and becoming more Gorean. But he's still relatively humane here. When he's in a slave market and he comes across a woman who'd betrayed, tortured and imprisoned him, he buys her and sets her free (much to her disgust, because All-Women-Secretly-Want-To-Be-Enslaved-By-Men, as she tells him.) Later in the series, volume 10, he's in a similar situation with another woman, an ex girlfriend of his. He whips her bloody and rapes her. Because he's shed all his soft Earthly ways by then. Not to worry though, she ends up liking it (because That's-What-Women-Really-Want, as Norman mentions about a hundred times in that volume.)

God, I really shouldn't be reading these books. But, you know, I read them when I was a teenager and was sort of fond of them. Coming back and re-reading them as an adult, it's quite a shock.

Putting aside the sexual politics... well, actually, you can't, for this volume. The book is ABOUT sexual politics, a clumsy piece of propaganda that was relatively new to me at 14 but that I've read a hundred times since. And the others did it better. Perhaps 2 stars is too much.

Tarnsman of Gor: Gor Book 1
Tarnsman of Gor: Gor Book 1
Price: £3.99

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The problem of Gor, 3 April 2012
What to say about Gor? What to say about the first Gor book?

Ok, lets deal with a few things first. John Norman believes that women - all women - can only be sexually fulfilled by being dominated by and submissive to men. He writes about this in the 30 or so Gor books, because the books are set in a society similar to that of the Greek city states, and so practice slavery. And Norman, in later volumes, writes in excruciatingly tedious length about how being enslaved fulfils these women sexually. As a bit of an aside, he seems to like a lot of other things about Spartan, sorry Gorean society also, but it's this one that he goes on about at great length and that has earned him the most criticism. This book is less explicitly in your face about it than the later ones, but it is there.

At this point, it's probably a good idea to examine the plot for a bit. Tarl Cabot, an Englishman teaching English history in the US, gets kidnapped whilst camping and taken to Gor, a planet that orbits our sun exactly opposite to Earth. There he meets his father and gets involved in the usual activities you get in planetary romances - a war, a journey across inhospitable landscapes, capture and torture by various enemies and, of course, meeting and getting the girl at the end. This is all done reasonably well. Norman's writing style is unusual, he's very descriptive (and gets more so as the series develops). By this I mean he'll mention something that Tarl sees - a Home Stone, the Gorean Caste system, a Tharlarion (riding lizard) - and then go on about it for a page or so, describing it, talking about the way it fits into Gorean society, the philosophy behind it, etc. This sort of exposition gets a bit irritating at times (and has been the subject of much mockery in the parodies of the series you can get, Gay, Bejeweled, Nazi Bikers of Gor being one of the best) but I find it OK, even interesting. The book is written in the first person, by the way, all Tarl Cabot's reminiscences.

Norman has written in interviews about how he thought a great achievement of his was to examine Gorean society "from the inside", i.e. on its own terms, not from a 20th century point of view. The problem here is that his protagonist, Tarl Cabot, is a 20th century man. This is a bit of a problem if you want to examine a culture from the inside and so this book deals with Cabot slowly starting to change his opinions and becoming more Gorean in outlook. Specifically, he starts out reasonably even-handed towards Talena, the love interest who he accidentally captures whilst raiding her city, but eventually realises he needs to enslave her (mainly for security as she tries to kill him). And, of course, once he starts to dominate and enslave her, she falls in love with him (because That's-What-Women-Really-Want - this is a pretty constant theme in the books, the main theme you might say.)

Norman is less in your face about this than he is later on - later volumes have multi-page monologues from Tarl Cabot about how women really want to be enslaved and dominated and how they're unfulfilled by the soft men of Earth, etc. - this sort of stuff will pop up at least once in each novel, along with examples of uppity Earth women having been kidnapped from Earth and taken as slaves to Gor falling in love with the Gorean men who enslave them. But for this book, he only uses the example as Tarl Cabot learns to shed his soft Earthly ways and become more a Gorean. By volume 6, Cabot is a Gorean in every way that matters and so we really do start to examine the culture from the inside.

But back to this one. The thing is, the story and writing aren't too bad (which is why I've given it three stars) and the All-Women-Really-Want-To-Be-Slaves drek is pretty much in the background - Norman's more subtle here than his later work. And I wish he'd stayed that way.

I should hate these books, really. I mean, I'm not the most PC of people, but I don't think that all women secretly yearn to be enslaved and dominated by men, etc. Some women, sure (there's a Gorean subculture of BDSM with lots of men and women who act out roles from the books), but not all or even many. And even with the Gorean subculture it's not the same. BDSM people tend to take elaborate precautions to ensure that things don't go too far, safe words and suchlike. Real slavery - which unfortunately isn't a fiction in some parts of the globe - has no such safeguards.

So I'm really not sure why I'm giving it three stars. I sort of liked it, I guess. I shouldn't, but I did.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2012 11:05 PM BST

Pommies: England Cricket Through an Australian Lens
Pommies: England Cricket Through an Australian Lens
by William Buckland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destroy the ECB, 8 May 2009
An excellent book detailing the problems afflicting English cricket - mainly the myopic ECB. An explanation as to why we didn't win the Ashes for 18 years and why we're unlikely to win it for another 18 years unless something radical happens. An explanation as to why the Aussies see their cricket on TV for free and still beat us hollow, belying the ECB's excuse that taking Murdoch's shilling (and excluding most of the population out of televised cricket) would improve the game - if our 5-0 Ashes defeat during the first year of this disgraceful arrangement wasn't proof enough. An explanation as to why, when offered a 70,000 seater cricket stadium FOR FREE, the ECB TURNED IT DOWN!!! (The idea was that the Olympic stadium currently being built should, after 2012, become a national Cricket stadium in the same way Wembley is a national Football stadium and Twickenham is a national Rugby stadium. The ECB turned it down. Read the book to find out why.)

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East
by Robert Fisk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.91

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whodunnit story of the middle east, 17 July 2008
I was reading this book on Christmas Day and a friend of mine noticed me doing this and remarked jokingly "have you worked out who did it yet?" I replied yes, you meet the guy who did it in the first chapter. The rest of the book is an examination of why.
The guy who did it is, of course, Osama bin-Laden and Fisk details his three meetings with him pre September 11th. As might be expected, he's analysed his interviews with hindsight to see if there was any indication he missed that might indicate what was being planned. There were some indications, but who could have believed that he was serious or doing other than boasting? Fisk printed his interviews with Osama bin-Laden before September 11th and they elicited no stir of opinion - nobody took his threats seriously or figured he'd be able to carry them out.
The rest of the book details why he did it. The history of pretty much every country in the middle east and an examination of how the west was and is complicit in shaping the problems that afflict the region now. Much of this Fisk tries to connect to his father, who fought in the first world war when the boundaries and spheres of influence that define the middle east today were set up. I get this - it's not hard to see - but I think he fails to connect his father explicitly to these events (he was only a soldier, after all, not a policymaker or diplomat) and these sections don't gel that well - Fisk is trying to come to some accommodation with his dead father, some closure with his father's death, which is all very well but sort of private, IMO.
But the rest of the book is well worth reading. A country by country account of the middle east (with the exception of Lebanon, as he's covered that in detail in another book) starting with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, going through The Gulf Wars, the Armenian Genocide, Israel, Algeria, etc. and ending with the American invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Full circle.
Definitely worth reading. Sort of long, but you can read each chapter separately.

The October Horse (Masters of Rome)
The October Horse (Masters of Rome)
by Colleen McCullough Doctor of Neurophysiology
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The end at last!, 24 Oct. 2003
So, here it is. Must be nearly 10 years since I read 'The First Man in Rome' and so started on Colleen McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series. Now, at last, the whole lot can be viewed as one.

This one follows right after the last, there's no annoying 5 year gap like there was between 'Caesar's Women' and 'Caesar' If you know anything about history (or even if you don't) you probably know a lot about what's going to happen. This book takes up the rest of the Civil War and - surprisingly - goes on past Caesar's famous assassination and onto the end of the second civil war with the battle of Phillipi, with Octavian/Augustus taking his first steps along the road that would make him the first emperor. I suppose McCullough had to add a postscript, she couldn't just end with the death of Caesar - after all, she began it before the birth of Caesar.

So what to say? Well, it's a worthy climax. The book is as good as any of its predecessors and also shares its faults. The main one, and this has been inherent throughout the series, is McCullough's hero-worship of Caesar (which seems to rub off onto Augustus by association) Caesar can do no wrong, in this book, hence Marcus Antonius' atrocities committed in Rome were all down to him, not Caesar. So she makes Antonius a deadly enemy of Caesar, a little strange considering how much power and responsibility Caesar entrusted him with. Not that I'm doubting that there was friction and rivalry between the two but I think she exaggerates in order to whitewash Caesar. And, likewise, she never gives any serious consideration to the idea that Caesar wanted to be emperor, even after the Civil War is over and Caesar is emperor in all but name, she has him going on about how he'd been forced to do this and how he'd have preferred to have just become one of the 'Grand Old Men' of the Senate but his enemies FORCED him to march on Rome and seize more power than any man in the world had known up until then. Poor guy! The incidents in which Caesar acted as though he'd like to be an emperor are all dismissed by McCullough as machinations of Marcus Antonius or (in one case) Caesar's health problems (she does something similar with Augustus, giving him asthma to explain why he ran away at the battle of Phillipi. She says she's as likely to be right as wrong seeing as ancient sources didn't know too much about health, but I think someone would have mentioned Augustus having asthma.)

And, as in its predecessor, you have the revolting spectacle of McCullough 'justifying' Caesar's atrocities in Spain, in terms of Realpolitik again. I am aware that people had different values 2,000 years ago, but a massacre is a massacre and even Thucydides could see that, 2,300 years ago. McCullough's 'justifications of this are as convincing as Slobodan Milosovich's or Ariel Sharon's and just as repellent.

That aside, though, this is a good end to the series. And the series as a whole is worth reading.

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