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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Tides of War

Tides of War - Steven Pressfield Tides of War is a good historical novel. However, it's for readers that can tolerate a complex narrative that describes events over the 27 year span of the Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 BCE). The story is told through three narrators; a man interviewing his grandfather Jason who in turn was a lawyer who many years earlier represented Polymides who was a close confidant of Alcibiades. In other words, it's a description of an interview in which an older person is describing earlier conversations with still another person who told him about many still earlier conversations and events. These three narrators are fictional characters, however Alcaibiades was an actual historical soldier extraordinaire. Who was Alcibiades? Well, if you make it through this book you will never forget the name. The question I'm asking after this book is why is Alcibiades so relatively unknown?

I find that the book's format allows the various narrators as they pass along the story to ponder the meaning of life and history during a time of war. In doing this the book gives a look into the thinking of the era. But to understand the book the reader needs to keep reminding him/herself who's doing the talking and when the current conversation being described took place. But the reader who becomes immersed in the story will be rewarded with a description of a time and place (the end of the classical period of ancient Greek history) that has the ring of authenticity. Socrates makes a number of appearances in the book. As a matter of fact, the climax of the story occurs on the same day that Socrates takes the hemlock.

One can find many scary parallels with current international relations and domestic politics. In case you're not up on the details of the Peloponnesian War, the historic cradle of democracy, Athens, lost the war.