June 21, 2007

Gratuitous Summer Solstice Book Review


Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell. (Cornwell writes the Richard Sharpe series, which I've always enjoyed.)

I wrote a review of this book two years ago and feel absolutely no shame whatever in simply repeating myself:

All I can say is that if you like your early Bronze Age history long, uneven and Machiavellian, this is the book for you. It is a vast novel that purports to follow the life of one Saban, who eventually becomes the architect of Stonehenge, as he is battered about Wiltshire and South Wales by the forces of Nature, Religion, Politics, Greed and Sex. The book comes with a complete set of stock Dawn of Civilization characters- the Good Hero, the Eviiiil Warlord, the beautiful Blond Babe, Witches, Warlocks and Wise Elders. In fact, the best part of the novel is Cornwell's Afterward, in which he impishly states that the entire story is complete buncum, since nobody knows much of anything about the culture of the period or the reasons behind the construction of Stonehenge. However, his survey of hard archeological evidence to date is also quite interesting.

I say the book is uneven for two reasons - first, Cornwell displays the same fault I often find in the Sharpe series of hammering what he thinks are important points by mind-numbing repetition. Second, he has an odd way of short-changing his characters' lives (and deaths) by neglecting to give us much insight into them and instead devotes too much ink to descriptions of physical surroundings and activities. I also note that Cornwell didn't bother very much with trying to pitch the dialogue to the times, but instead simply gives us modern-sounding characters dressed up in prehistoric costumes.

All in all, though, an enjoyable lightweight summer book. Lots of fighting, obligatory ritual, em, fooling around, and intrigue. Perfect for when you don't feel like having to think too hard.

Yips! from Gary:
"The Druids...No one knows who dey were...or...what dey were doin'. But dere legacy remains."

Posted by Robert at June 21, 2007 10:50 AM | TrackBack

My favorite part of Spinal Tap by far, as an old 70s prog rock fan.

Posted by: The Colossus at June 21, 2007 09:23 PM

I still laugh out loud when I see that.
My husband is one of 4 brothers. The other 3 were in "boy hair bands" when this movie came out. They didn't find the movie quite so funny!

Posted by: Babs at June 22, 2007 11:50 AM

I liked the Sharpe series, I like reading about the Bronze age(at least the mediterranean Bronze age, and I like alternate history type fiction. But after your review I don't think I will waste my time with this book.

I am currently reading Victor Davis Hanson's "Wars of the Ancient Greeks"

Posted by: kyle8 at June 22, 2007 04:55 PM