Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the virtues of war.

One of my favorite novels of the last fifteen years or so is Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire", the tale of the Spartans at Thermopylae told from the perspective of a Spartan squire on the ground. I re-read that book about three times a year, and it's not only a great historical novel, but excellent prose period.

The other day, I was browsing around at Barnes & Noble when I came upon another one of Steven Pressfield's books. This one was called The Virtues of War, and the book jacket said it was a first-person account of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire. Since I'm a military history junkie, I had to crack it open to the first page and give it a glance.

Sometimes, I buy books just based on the quality and impact of the first page alone; this was one of them.

It starts thusly:

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another."

The book is an amazingly intense and intelligent reflection of Alexander's life from boyhood to the peak of his power, narrated by Alexander himself as related to a squire. All the battles--Gaugamela, Issus, Granicus, Hydaspes--are presented not in the detailed blood-and-guts style of Gates of Fire, but from the perspective of Alexander himself. The book is as much of a study in leadership as it is a tale of military conquest or memoir.

Anyway, those of you into military history (you know who you are), go to the bookstore and give this one a try.

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