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Tides of War by Steven Pressfield

Tides of War (2000)

by Steven Pressfield

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    The Profession: A Thriller by Steven Pressfield (viking2917)
    viking2917: The Profession seems strongly based on Tides of War...

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Pressfield is hard to fault in this historical fiction centred around the Athenian general Alcibiades. If I have any criticism, it is of the format, where one narrator is written entirely in italics for pages at a time, and the reader must be constantly on guard to remember which narrator is at work, and to plow through the italicised text without giving up in despair. I was fortunate to have read Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War before reading Tides of War, and this work fills in many gaps, particularly those glossed over by Thucydides. Whether this is a result of Thucydides' not completing the history to the bitter end, where Alcibiades plays a more prominent role, I am not sure. Nevertheless, Pressfield's research is evident, and while he admits that the work is historical fiction and he has exercised literary licence to make the story work, his approach, much like in Gates of Fire, is as clever as being independently wealthy. There are many themes, ideas, philosophies, and sentiments weaved in and throughout the story that force one to think about democracy then and as we experience it today. It is hard not to draw parallels of the end of the Athenian Empire with the end of the American Empire I would argue we are witnessing today. That said, Pressfield has not written a political commentary, but rather a story about individuals and their actions against a backdrop of social and political turmoil. The reader can only hope that Alcibiades was as great as he is depicted by Pressfield, and take solace in the extent of his foibles so that it might give lesser mortals a sense of hope despite their own inadequacies. Is this better than Gates of Fire? I think his earlier novel reads better, but the lessons to be gleaned from Tides of War seem less-clichéd than the done-to-death exploits of the 300 at Thermopylae, and for this, I think, this work deserves the gong. While George Bernard Shaw's masterpiece was, for him and me, Back to Methuselah, Pygmalion will always be the popular standout. I think it is the same with these two great novels of historical fiction, but you could do worse than to read anything written by this author. ( )
  madepercy | Nov 7, 2017 |
A bit slow in development and low on action for my taste. ( )
  RamzArtso | Sep 15, 2013 |
Excellent. Pressfield ticks all the boxes.

The story of Alcibiades, somewhat sympathetically told, as he strives to win for Athens glory and success, which was ultimately to prove disastrous both for Athens and himself. Well written, obviously well researched, entertaining, but sad, for anyone who values the ancient Greek world, and Athens at the height of its cultural glory. ( )
  Traveller1 | Mar 30, 2013 |
Fiction: Novel based on the life & career of Alkibiades. NOT one of my favourites; tho' I picked it up from an Athens' bookshop's English language shelves, the language in it leaves much to be desired ... ( )
  JaneAnneShaw | Nov 24, 2010 |
This novel just didn't work for me. From the start, I found the framing device and levels of narration annoying and contrived--I know Pressfield did similar things in Gates of Fire and The Virtues of War and it suddenly occurred to me that I'm pretty sure I've heard that kind of thing was used in ancient texts. But the way Pressfield does it still feels contrived and hence annoying. And for a novel in which Alcibiades is fairly central, Alcibiades seems distant and doesn't really come alive, which means it's hard to understand why people were so seduced by him and would put up with hardship to fight in his army/navy. ( )
  mari_reads | Oct 2, 2010 |
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... the worst enemies of Athens are not those who, like you, have only harmed her in war, but those who have forced her friends to turn against her. The Athens I love is not the one which is wronging me now, but that one in which I used to have secure enjoyment of my rights as a citizen. That country I am attacking does not seem to be mine any longer; it is rather that I am trying to recover a country that has ceased to be mine. And the man who really loves his country is not the one who refuses to attack it when he has been unjustly riven from it, but the man whose desire for it is so strong that he will shrink from nothing in his efforts to get back there again.
--Alcibiades addressing the Spartan Assembly in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
She [Athens] loves, and hates, and longs to have him back ...
--Aristophanes, on Alcibiades, in The Frogs
For Christy
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My grandfather, Jason the son of Alexicles of the district of Alopece, died just before sunset on the fourteenth day of Boedromion, one year past, two months prior to his ninety-second birthday.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553381393, Paperback)

After chronicling the Spartan stand at Thermopylae in his audacious Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield once again proves that it's all Greek to him. In Tides of War, he tells the tale of Athenian soldier extraordinaire Alcibiades. Despite the vaunted claims for Periclean democracy, he is undoubtedly first among equals--a great warrior and an impressive physical specimen to boot: "The beauty of his person easily won over those previously disposed, and disarmed even those who abhorred his character and conduct." He is also a formidable orator, whose stump speeches are paradoxically heightened by what some might consider an impediment:
Even his lisp worked in Alcibiades' favor. It was a flaw; it made him human. It took the curse off his otherwise godlike self-presentation and made one, despite all misgivings, like the fellow.
This tale of arms and the man requires two narrators. One, Jason, is an aging noble who serves as a sort of recording angel of the Athenian golden age. The other, Polymides, was long Alcibiades' right-hand man, yet is now imprisoned for his murder.

As they were in his previous novel, Pressfield's battle scenes are extraordinarily vivid and visceral. This time, however, many of these elemental clashes take place on water. "As far as sight could carry, the sea stood curtained with smoke and paved with warcraft. Immediately left, a battleship had rammed one of the vessels in the wall; all three of her banks were backing water furiously, to extract and ram again, while across the breach screamed storms of stones, darts, and brands of such density that the air appeared solid with steel and flame."

In addition to his gift for rendering patriotic gore, the author excels at quieter but no less deadly forms of combat. As Alcibiades' star rises and falls and rises again, we are escorted directly into the snakepit of Athenian realpolitik. Bathing us in the details of a distant era, Pressfield is largely convincing. But it must be said that his diction exhibits a sometimes comical variegation, sliding from Homeric rhetoric to tough-guy speak to the sort of casual Anglicisms we might expect from Evelyn Waugh's far-from-bright young things. No matter. Tides of War conquers by sheer storytelling prowess, reminding us that war was--and is--a highly addictive version of hell. --Darya Silver

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:24 -0400)

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As commander on land & sea, Alcibiades was never defeated. Kinsman of Pericles, protege of Socrates, the warrior was renowned as the most brilliant & charismatic personality of his day, as--fearlessly ambitious, politically ruthless--he forever altered Athens' destiny. During the twenty-seven-year Peloponnesian War, he swept from victory to victory, seemingly invincible. And then, in a shattering twist of fortune, he tumbled from glory. Recounted by Alcibiades' trusted bodyguard & hired assassin in a mesmerizing death-row confession, Tides of War is historical fiction at its finest--a rich & moving flesh-and-blood retelling of one of history's pivotal conflicts, written by an incomparable master of historical fiction.… (more)

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