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Steven Pressfield

Author of Gates of Fire

31+ Works 13,287 Members 403 Reviews 23 Favorited

About the Author

Author Steven Pressfield was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad in September 1943. He graduated from Duke University in 1965 and joined the Marine Corps. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked as a copy writer, taxi driver, bartender, tractor-trailer driver, fruit picker, and worked on oil show more rigs. He then moved to California and began writing screenplays. In 2000, his debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith. He primarily writes military historical fiction set in classical antiquity. Most of his novels are told from the first-person perspective of the main character. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: George Ikonomopoulos

Series

Works by Steven Pressfield

Gates of Fire (1998) 3,362 copies
Tides of War (2000) 931 copies
Do the Work (2011) 871 copies
The Afghan Campaign (2006) 663 copies
Last of the Amazons (2002) 571 copies
Killing Rommel (2008) 436 copies
The Warrior Ethos (2011) 243 copies
The Profession (2011) 206 copies
The Legend of Bagger Vance [2000 film] (2001) — Original novel — 167 copies

Associated Works

The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know (2015) — Introduction — 183 copies
Freejack [1992 film] (2000) — Original book — 39 copies
Army of One [1993 film] (1993) — Writer — 9 copies

Tagged

Alexander (36) Alexander the Great (78) Ancient Greece (229) ancient history (62) art (115) business (50) creativity (247) ebook (96) fiction (808) golf (80) goodreads (50) goodreads import (37) Greece (181) historical (140) historical fiction (841) historical novel (43) history (196) inspiration (52) Kindle (136) literature (38) military (97) military fiction (36) military history (36) non-fiction (331) novel (106) own (35) Peloponnesian War (38) Persia (44) philosophy (41) productivity (47) psychology (70) read (93) self-help (173) Sparta (107) Thermopylae (76) to-read (970) unread (45) war (177) writing (278) WWII (41)

Common Knowledge

Birthdate
1943-09
Gender
male
Nationality
USA
Country (for map)
USA
Education
Duke University
Organizations
US Marine Corps
Awards and honors
Honorary Citizen (Sparta, 2003)

Members

Reviews

So much different than most of my reading and so good! Character development, story, history (presumably accurate), and terrific insight into men, women, and children of an era that is largely unfamiliar to me.

The results of the Battle of Thermopylae (this story) and the following Battle of Salamis (see Carnage and Culture by Hanson) may be the reason that Western Civilization exists today. Overstated? I don't think so.
 
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dlinnen | 89 other reviews | Feb 3, 2024 |
If there is a capital mistake to ever be made than it is to misunderstand the people, trying to put them into the stereotypes one can live with because knowledge that someone cannot be categorized and catalogued (as Mulder would say) is always terror for those in power.

One of the science fiction stories that left huge impression on me was the story Warrior from the Dorsai universe. In it Donal Graeme goes back to Earth to punish a man who managed to psychologically twist his brother so much that he caused huge loss of life for one of the Dorsai commands. While Graeme starts his own psychological operation against the powerful brother he constantly gets misunderstood and underestimated by his opponent that at the end Graeme wins the battle and war by just using his opponents wrong starting premise, without need to inflict any physical harm. He won because Graeme was never a soldier but a warrior. And there is quite a difference between the two.

And here we have a similar situation.

Story protagonist is Telamon, our man at arms, former legionnaire turned mercenary. He is given an offer he cannot refuse - save his own life and help Roman Imperial command in Judea to obtain the secret letter sent by early Christian sect to European based hideouts. Everyone thinks of Telamon as yet just another mercenary ready to bloody his sword but as story progresses it is visible that Telamon is not just killer for hire. He is man dedicated to profession of war (or as he says strife). He sees entire life as a constant struggle - metaphorical and physical - so he decides to become a master when it comes to winning conflict situations of any sort. When he fights he is engaged but - which is important thing - he approaches it rationally and not emotionally. As story progresses and Telamon's quest gets more and more involved with the quarry he chases, he starts to show increasing professional respect towards these members of the sect that are so willing to suffer in order to protect their own - in contrast with the world they live in where everything has its price. Although outnumbered by Romans these religious outcasts (I especially liked the way author portrayed official Jewish religion perspective on early Christians) do not flinch and are more than ready to give their lives for the cause. While this portrayal of early Christians for me is a little bit too much of romantic view of things - I think they were much more pragmatic people than emotional activists considering that alternative was extermination - it is easy to see how their dedication and willingness to fight for the cause struck a cord with Telamon.

Man without the cause to live for, especially in a deadly world of professional soldiers is a ghost, lost and wandering the world, almost seeming to be a person seeking self-destruction. In a world of warfare if one finds himself in situation when he cannot justify the actions of his side he finds himself between a rock and a hard place because in war there is always quite a few questionable situations one will find himself in. And Telamon, being a non-Roman who ascended through auxilia ranks until joining the Legion, could hardly identify with the Roman Empire and it is obvious that in his time he was involved in bloody activities that forced him to leave the Legion and start living as a mercenary. At the end Telamon does find a cause [and no it is not religious one but deeply human] while fighting side by side with his allies and getting saved by them not once but multiple times.

We are given all the gritty details of the professional soldier of the time - there was no quarter given and considering there are no stand off weapons here everything is up, close and personal. While all the military action might sound as adopted from temporary war scenes it is not that difficult to imagine that Roman Legions after decades and centuries of warfare that made them the ultimate war machines in the day (and proved their worth when Legion model of war was resurrected by innovators in Renaissance period) would be not unlike professional soldiers of today - with only difference being inability to fight the enemy from afar using guns. Author gives us some insight into the life in the Legions and the way they were used in war operations. While this might not be completely faithful to the historical records, author manages to show how waging of war in its basics did not change at all from the first time people met at the battlefield.

We are shown how in murderous business of counterinsurgency there is no line between civilians and soldiers - unfortunate turn events that still remains true in remote and wild areas of Asia and Africa. Torching of Corinth was done in such a detail that one can easily imagine the destruction of Carthage and treatment its citizens received from the Legions.

Do note that this is not a story with a happy ending (same as excellent book The Profession by the same author). In here people die, nobody is safe from projectiles or sword and while our protagonist does survive very hard ordeals he is left with lasting scars and experiences loss more than once.

Excellent book on the professional soldiering and importance of serving the greater good. Highly recommended to everyone interested in military fiction.
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Zare | 7 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
Well this was unexpected. I came across this novel while looking for the latest Pressfield's book (Man at Arms). Premise sounded interesting and I decided to give it a try...... and I can say, what a ride.

Entire novel is like a wild child that had "End of Days" and Millenium TV show for parents. Same as its parents focus is on the latest and deadliest popular fear and hysteria - for 1990's it was Year 2000, destruction of everything and end of times (imagine the surprise on Jan 2nd, then 3rd, 4th and then June, August, man oh .... 2001/2/3/....) and as a cherry on top the most ridiculous plot ever - Y2K bug!!!! So now it is global warming, and not in couple of centuries but in a decade from now (because, hey, why waiting next 100 or 1000 years - people want destruction now!!!!! people need drama, they need to feel something because they are bored tbh!!!!). I am getting off topic, sorry.....

So ever fierce and ever destructive natural disasters hit the Earth in [a very] near future. At the same time in NY several mysterious murders take place, and investigation proves that NY murders have chilling similarities with the murders taking place across the world. Working on the case is NYPD elite unit, DivSix, with detectives Manning (old warhorse) and Dewey (rookie) - soon they will find themselves involved in the mystery linked to Judaism and legend of 36 righteous men whose very existence prevents the God from obliterating the humanity and entire world. Problem is righteous men are slowly being killed off one by one by a mysterious person who also insists on constantly taunting detective Manning while offing the people left and right.

So basically these natural disasters and destruction are not actually result of acts of men but Heavenly wrath gaining power because barrier [those 36 righteous men] is getting weaker and weaker by the moment. Now ... that 's a twist, ain't it.

Entire story is told in form of Dewey's report about the murder investigations. This can be off-putting to some because (a) story is told from the first person and (b) conversations and details are given as transcripts. I liked it but I understand it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Author manages to portray all the characters in a very interesting way. Everything we find about Manning is from perspective of Dewey, his co-workers and his reactions on every clue they come across that are transmitted through his facial ticks and not much through actual conversation. Manning is an anachronism but it is clear that everyone respects him because he is first and foremost a professional. Dewey is rookie women detective assigned to work with Manning. While she is aware her partner is moody, old cop that tries to reject the ever present intrusion of technology in every day life and is not that chatty, she is tech-savvy and representative of the new generation - quick-learner, witty and capable. Together they will try to stop the destruction of the humanity while fighting the bureaucracy and [which is more or less a cliche] screaming and arrogant boss and his cohorts - all of them concentrated on "Russian threat" .... and man, that twist in the middle was magnificent.

New world is not that much different from our own (minus the natural disasters of course) - lots of dispossessed people living in the wild and parks, migrating from one country to another and avoiding being assimilated in the new society so they clash with police and army (that are again controlled by state/corporations - your standard cyberpunk depressing world), whole parts of the NY turned in ghettos, various nationalities looking down on other nationalities (I truly enjoyed Dewey's comments on Asian suburbs) and living in tightly knit communities that think they are better than everyone else. There are riots, social networks spying on everyone and everything and corporations just doing their business as usual, because while many will protest against them everyone can be bought (as I said, not so different from our own world (minus the natural disasters, of course)). Technological impact in society is given in a kind of everyday activities. Reader wont be bombarded with various technological marvels but we get the picture of the world in which both technological wonders and drastic economical divide can be found.

And this brings me to the ending. Now, I understand that happy ending is not always possible (Rosemarie's Baby, Carrie and Omen usually come up as an example in this end-of-the-world genre) but this ending was .... depressing. For me ending looks hurried, all the questions raised, true nature of the mysterious assassin, why all the mocking of Manning ..... nothing is answered. It just ends in a sort of a Doom-game-style finale and then couple of more pages it ends for real (creating more and more questions without clarifying anything) in a most depressive way possible. I just wish ending was more .... substantial? And maybe more on the light side - show that sun above the miles of nuclear and radioactive cloud coverage - Matrix style!

Excellent novel, story flows very fast and you can imagine every scene with your inner eye. For me only downside is ending because it just seems very abrupt.

Recommended to thriller fans.
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Zare | 4 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
In short this is "Hammers Slammers" placed in near future. In more details ... this is story set a decade in the future, that is warning on what happens when charismatic person shows up during the turbulent times for a nation and unleashes his natural ambition to reach the highest position possible. Author manages to tell the story in very clear and fast paced way, with excellent portrayal of mercenaries themselves, media that will follow whomever pays the more (or whomever they are too much afraid to antagonize) and two-faced politicians. Battle scenes are fast, bloody and merciless as they are, technology is given as part of scenery (which is the way I like it, no constant bombardment of various weapon specs) and you can just visualize light assault vehicles chasing one another and exchanging fire or strike team infiltrating the heavily protected area to destroy their target.

If your first thought when I mentioned charismatic, ambitious military leader was Julius Caesar - you are right. Story revolves around USMC general Salter, military genius, retired (to be more precise dishonorably discharged) who becomes field commander of the largest mercenary forces in the world - Force Insertion. After several successful campaigns in the Middle East he soon becomes the CEO of the freelancer's company. His goals are not know to anyone, officers and soldiers are told only what is required to execute the mission and nothing more. He commands units and equipment sub-contracted from other mercenary troops in the world, light infantry, black ops, artillery, tanks, assault helicopters, fighter crafts, drones ... name it Force Insertion has it. Battle hardened troops are organized along the lines of Roman legions and cover area from Saudi Arabia to former Soviet republics in Central Asia bordering with Russia, China and India. All's good until Salter initiates operation that strikes fear into the Western world because no-one is sure what is happening.

Told from the perspective of Gent (Southern States' surname that I cannot spell :) ), commander under Salter in Marines and then commander of the numerous strike teams in Force Insertion (again under Salter). Through Gent we get details on how Salter lost his USMC commission, how Gent became his confidant and most importantly on ethics and morale when it comes to ruling the men that do fight for money first and foremost but generally they are living for a thrill of action and battle zone. To some it might sound barbarous and macho but in general military life did not change for centuries - only thing that changed in last 100 or so years was decline in number of fielded mercenaries on the battlefields and unfortunately that seems to be changing and mercs (like this fictional Force Insertion) are yet again becoming more and more widespread.

As time goes by and details (and methods) of Salter's and his political allies' actions start to surface Gent will have to make a decision - to fight with or against Salter. Salter, great game-player and manipulator extreme, ready to make a scene from every public event, scene that will bring him more popular support.

Ending was rather realistic (btw if you expect happy ending, you might want to skip this one) - at the end all power structures are mercenaries (as proved by the last year) and ready to do whatever is necessary to stay in power. I could not feel nothing but contempt for former secretary in US government from the book who tried to get place in future Salter's government but lost and then decided to change tactics. People might not like the forces who now form the "rebellion" but again, "enemy of my enemy is my friend".

In difficult times for every nation most dangerous are strong, capable and highly ambitious men and women capable to circumventing the laws of the nation and forcing their rule on the nation. People, masses, who are constantly in fear and having difficulties will always welcome that person (especially if money and gold is mentioned) - and voila, republic is lost and tyranny is born. Problem with tyrannies (kingdoms, empires and likes) is that while they can be established by capable men and women their successors are usually such failures that [following succession] nation find themselves in more precarious position (fast backward to city revolutions in 18th, 19th and 20th centuries...... hopefully in the future we wont have repetition of these same fights for freedom and rights). As Salter himself says, when people start to venerate warrior codes, be it mercenary code or Samurai code, then that signals that something is very very wrong with the society itself, it is indicator of coming turmoil.

And lets be honest - this person (or persons) does not need to come from what is traditional conservative organizations like army (excellent "Seven Days of May" comes to mind when it comes to coup d'etats). If last year proved anything is that all the little bureaucrats, mayors and governors, not to mention high-level politicians and/or their sponsors, are tyrants-in-making, so ready to take off liberties from others and so slow to give their ever greater powers back. And they will cling to power as long as they have convenient crisis at hand to use it to feed and boost that fear and melodrama so present and wanted in the general populace.

If one sentence can describe the book then it is - people that do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Excellent book on contemporary politics, mercenaries, warrior code and history. Highly recommended.
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Zare | 38 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |

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Works
31
Also by
5
Members
13,287
Popularity
#1,756
Rating
3.9
Reviews
403
ISBNs
291
Languages
20
Favorited
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