3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Very Good Book with Minor Editing Problems,
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This review is from: Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome (Hardcover)
This is an excellent book. It's very hard for me not to give it five stars, but the poor quality of the editing leaves me no choice. The book itself is filled with valuable information that is difficult to find elsewhere. There are no other books on Stilicho in English, and so for that reason alone this book is a valuable addition to academia. There were several other reviews complaining about the organization, but I felt that it worked better than his previous book, Belisarius: The Last Roman General. In that book his divisions were annoying since he spent the first third of the book laying out the background for the wars before he dealt with the man. This book is divided similarly, but manages to keep one's interest better by having all of the divisions take place in chronological order and deal with Stilicho. Thus the background information is presented in a way that makes it feel like it aids the story, not one that feels like a digression. I know that this is primarily a military history, but to be effective it has to function as a biography as well and that requires a tighter focus on the subject.
Now for the editing. Like his last book this one seems badly edited and poorly put together, although not to the same extent. It is filled with poor word choices and errors that should have been taken out by any halfway decent editor. When I first read Belisarius, I assumed that the book had been rushed to print, but this one has the same problem. An example of this problem from page 54: "It is very hard for military men to pay full price for goods from people they are protecting. Instead, they are likely to have expected a discount for any goods bought from the people they are protecting." The repetition of the subject and the exact same wording of the two lines is a major no-no for any publisher. While it might be only a stylistic error it is indicative of a general lack of care. Not in the research mind you, I didn't spot a single fact that he got wrong (although I freely admit I haven't gone over it thoroughly searching for one). All of the errors are the kind that should have been caught by his editor.
So again: a very worthwhile book that I can wholeheartedly recommend, but at the same time I truly hope that Mr. Hughes gets a better editor in future. He has a work on Aetius planned that should prove fascinating and it would be a shame if he marred it the same way as his first two biographies.