Ratty (blinger) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 19 & 20 - 2014

Book 19: The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of the Iliad by Caroline Alexander – 277 pages

Description from Goodreads:
Few warriors, in life or literature, have challenged their commanding officer and the rationale of the war they fought as fiercely as did Homer's hero Achilles. Today, the Iliad is celebrated as one of the greatest works in literature, the epic of all epics; many have forgotten that the subject of this ancient poem was war-not merely the poetical romance of the war at Troy, but war, in all its enduring devastation.
Using the legend of the Trojan war, the Iliad addresses the central questions defining the war experience of every age: Is a warrior ever justified in standing up against his commander? Must he sacrifice his life for someone else's cause? Giving his life for his country, does a man betray his family? How is a catastrophic war ever allowed to start-and why, if all parties wish it over, can it not be ended?
As she did with The Endurance and The Bounty, Caroline Alexander lets us see why a familiar story has had such an impact on us for centuries, revealing what Homer really meant. Written with the authority of a scholar and the vigor of a bestselling narrative historian, The War That Killed Achilles is a superb and utterly timely presentation of one of the timeless stories of our civilization.

This is a very detailed analysis of the Trojan war in literature, questioning not whether it happened, but how accurate the background information in it is in comparison to more verifiable information from the time. It looks at artifacts, documents etc, and compares information in those to things like the region discussed in the Iliad, the metals, animal use, communities, military structure etc. It’s quite fascinating, even though it obviously doesn’t validate the overall story of the Iliad. For the Trojan war nerds of the world.

19 / 50 books. 38% done!

6829 / 15000 pages. 46% done!

Book 20: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – 509 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
WHAT WAS LOST WILL BE FOUND...Washington DC: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned at the last minute to deliver an evening lecture in the Capitol Building. Within moments of his arrival, however, a disturbing object - gruesomely encoded with five symbols - is discovered at the epicentre of the Rotunda. It is, he recognises, an ancient invitation, meant to beckon its recipient towards a long-lost world of hidden esoteric wisdom. When Langdon's revered mentor, Peter Solomon - philanthropist and prominent mason - is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes that his only hope of saving his friend's life is to accept this mysterious summons and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon finds himself quickly swept behind the facade of America's most historic city into the unseen chambers, temples and tunnels which exist there. All that was familiar is transformed into a shadowy, clandestine world of an artfully concealed past in which Masonic secrets and never-before-seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth. A brilliantly composed tapestry of veiled histories, arcane icons and enigmatic codes, The Lost Symbol is an intelligent, lightning-paced thriller that offers surprises at every turn. For, as Robert Langdon will discover, there is nothing more extraordinary or shocking than the secret which hides in plain sight...

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages, and thought I’d be really into it particularly because I have actually been to D.C. and have a bit more of a reference in what Langdon is describing. The problem is, whilst Davinci Code, and Angels and Demons had plots that you could almost believe, this one really descends into the world of unbelievable. It feels like Brown decided to write a book about ‘The Secret’ and try to make it believable. I really wanted to like it, and I was really fascinated by the stuff about the Masons (my great grandfather was a Mason – never knew him), but the rest of it was just fanciful, I couldn’t sit there and go ‘oh yes, I see how one could draw those conclusions’. Very pseudo science-y. The pacing is also a bit slow though the writing quality itself is improved. The twist I didn’t necessarily see until the last little bit, but its very ‘big movie’ typical, and that kind of cheapened it. Not a bad read, if you can suspend belief a bit more than you would have done for the previous two, but could have been better.

20 / 50 books. 40% done!

7338 / 15000 pages. 49% done!

Currently reading:
-        Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages
-        Westminister Abbey: Official Guide by Dean and Chapter of Westminister – 120 pages
-        The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss – 323 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages
Tags: academic, conspiracy fiction, scholarly, thriller, war

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