Steven Pressfield's new Alexander novel

Recommend, or otherwise, books on Alexander (fiction or non-fiction). Promote your novel here!

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Very thoughtful book

Post by jan »

:o HI Marcus, I really hope that you do read it through and that you will make some remarks about it. I know that publicists always write professional tributes to authors just to get readers interested, but sincere remarks are best. Steven had made a comment to me some time ago when we were exchanging letters, and I therefore always take a bit of a personal hit whenever I read one of his books. I had confided a lot to him about myself and so we are friends in a sense. He said something very pertinent and again in this book as in Virtues of War, I find proof of his statements. So while I may sound a bit defensive at times, it is because I am a bit too emotionally involved at times in this study of Alexander, and I know that Steven is a pro Alexander type whose opinions are much the same as my own in terms of his grasp of the times. He is a professional scriptwriter so writes always with Hollywood movies in mind too.

I honestly like his writing style. I prefer that men write books about men and that women write books about women. I know that authors have to think both roles, and I just find that romanticizing Alexander is the worst thing that anyone can do. I like the way in which Steven presents Alexander in this book better than Judith Tarr did in her book Lord of Two Lands. Women just cannot write like a man and that is a fact, like it or not.

I have been reading books by Colin Falconer on Cleopatra and the Sultan of the Ottaman Empire, and his writing is uniquely male. His attempts at thinking like a woman are interesting but just not quite as good as a woman's would be. He tries to think like Cleopatra but I know that a man cannot truly envision her as a woman would.

Sometimes I read to study style and imaginative presentation. As Alexander is such an interesting role model for men it is always much appreciated when I read how men view him rather than how women see him. And on that note, I must say that i was reading a Persian story about Alexander also and that made me realize that all the Roman bios are just Roman orientations and for Roman audiences. The Persian version of Alexander is so totally different that I truly had to laugh at the various ways that Alexander is portrayed. When I get the title and author's name correct I will post it. I just found it, read through one book on Alexander and not finished with the other yet. But it portrays Alexander as bedding down all of his harem one night at a time which I found utterly funny and delightful! Again, it is all fiction, but it made me see how the Persians believe and tell his stories.

In the final analysis, one can only read, think, and make one's own conclusions. For sure, Steve Pressfield has his own conclusions as you have yours, and I have mine.

I found Alexander to be exemplary, and I did like it that the Persians make him out to be just as good as gold too. I will post title and author soon as I get it correct!

Also, on the BBC Radio this week is a book by Antonia Fraser. I just listened to Monday's version of Loves of Louis XIV. Just passing it on... :oops:
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Post by alejandro »

Hi there,

I didn't want to start a new thread for this, but I just read Virtues of War (its Spanish version actually), and I found it substandard. Characters are plain, especially Alexander. I hate when the author makes him tell things explicitly (like "I'm the best warrior ever") rather than showing it is the case. I find it an irritating shortcut that sounds like an attempt to indoctrinate rather than to convince or to convey an idea.
The only thing that I enjoyed was the tactical analysis of the early battles which (though there are discussions about what actually happened) gave me at least a new perspective. Also, the rough comradeship between soldiers was a nice touch. But even these two elements became less and less interesting as chapters went by.
All in all, a bad book. Don't think I'll pick it up to read it ever again.

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Post by aleksandros »

The only good thing i found in the book was the battle of Issus and the march to Gaugamela.
You DO NOT write a novel about the whole life of Alexander in just one book. It is impossible!
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Post by Semiramis »

They say never judge a book by it’s cover. But with a few dozen books on my reading list already, that’s what I’ve been reduced to doing. Picked up Pressfield’s ‘Afghan Campaign’ and read the blurb at the back the other day. IMHO, it seemed he was more intent on making a point about the modern ‘Afghan campaign’ of the US army, rather than Alexander’s one in Bactria and Sogdiana. There were too many forced parallels, comparisons and anachronisms even in those few lines. I don’t want to read historical fiction that comes across only as a vehicle for pimping modern political points of view. This may not be accurate for the book itself at all but perhaps Mr. Pressfield and his editors could work on the way his book is being promoted?

But in all fairness, it would be difficult - if not totally impossible - to top Renault when it comes to Alexander fiction IMHO. Pure magic. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be at these forums if it wasn’t for the first two books of her Alexander trilogy. The only downside of Renault is the she manages to avoid the battles to a large extent. I'm ashamed to admit to being a big fan of battle sequences in both movies and books (fiction and non-fiction).
Yes, her Alexander is a near-perfect god in Renautl's writings, but the reader wouldn’t be very sympathetic to ruthless ego-maniac as a main character , would they? :) Her best trick is using the added advantage of telling the story mostly from the points of view of people who are literally in love with Alexander.

Has anyone read ‘Creation’ by Gore Vidal? I’d be interested in your opinions. It's set in the Achaemenid empire during the time of Darus the Great and Xerxes. Can kinda work as a prequel to Alexander's adventures if you want it to. :)


I haven’t even heard of “the Praise Singer”! How did that escape my attentions? Is it good?

Take care all! :)
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Pressfield's books

Post by ruthaki »

Here we are again, still discussion Pressfield's books. Although Gates of Fire was by far the best, I enjoyed the others too, including The Last Amazon (about Theseus). His style is different, but I think it's an easy read for novices at historical fiction, in particular The Afghan Campaign.

As for Mary Renault, I am constantly referring to her books for inspiration. I don't know why I gave away The Praise Singer and The Last of the Wine. They should have stayed in my library! But another of her brilliant stories (about actors) is The Mask of Apollo.

If you've ever visited the ancient theatres of Greece you will appreciate this story. And guess who has a 'cameo' role in the last few pages? Our boy, Alexander!
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Gore Vidal's Creation

Post by ruthaki »

P.S. I meant to add to my last post, that I had read Gore Vidal's "Creation" several years ago. I really enjoyed the first part of it and all the Greek and Persian history etc but it does tend to go on and on and on so it can become heavy reading. A remarkable amount of research though and for that it's commendable.
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Re: Pressfield's books

Post by amyntoros »

ruthaki wrote:Here we are again, still discussion Pressfield's books. Although Gates of Fire was by far the best, I enjoyed the others too, including The Last Amazon (about Theseus). His style is different, but I think it's an easy read for novices at historical fiction, in particular The Afghan Campaign.
Well ... as long as the books are available and find new readers we will be discussing them - after all, we still talk about Renault's books which were written long before Pressfield came on to the scene. Am not sure what you mean by "novices" at historical fiction though. Is there such a thing as experts on genres of fiction? :wink:

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Pressfields books

Post by ruthaki »

Well some of us prefer historical fiction (and write it) and therefore we are hardly 'novices'. In my writer's critique group there are a number of people who never read historical fiction, which makes it difficult really to workshop the kind of work I'm doing. They bear with it though, and give the best critiques they can. But I'll bet they never would ordinarily pick up at HF book to read. That's what I mean by 'novices'.
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Post by Efstathios »

Hello pothosians. I read the book and finished it just yesterday. Well, i agree with what you have said, although it was an enjoyable read. I didnt like the end. But anyway, it has some good elements. But i dont think Pressfield really tries to emulate how it was like then.

For example, the parts where he describes the new soldiers as the
"fishes" e.t.c, is somewhat diachronical, but surely the ancient Macedonians, or the ancient warriors in general were not "fishes".
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Re: Steven Pressfield's new Alexander novel

Post by Jeanne Reames »

re: nicknames ... it's correct that many English speakers look to a shortening of names, and of course, many modern Greek names have shortened versions, but not all of them are. Sometimes we may know the nickname. Apparently "Kraton" was the nickname for "Krateros." "Alekos" and "Sakis" are both common enough modern nicknames for "Alexandros." "Hephaistion" is no longer in use, but "Phaistas" or "Phaiton" seems likely to me. I checked with some Greek friends and that was our best guess. But ancient nicknames could refer to some other characterisitic, like Antigonos Monophthalmos (One-Eyed). He may just not have had one.
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Re: Nicknames

Post by sikander »


I am going to just drop a few thoughts in the discussion on nicknames. I agree that a writer of today has to connect with many readers of today, and often, the voice has to be familiar to the reader.
However, it's also important for writers to 1) avoid making people from another time play like people of today, 2) assume that how we use nicknames is a universal and 3) assume that people just naturally gravitate to nicknames for people, tribal groups, racial or ethnic groups, etc... in my experience, that is not always a given.

A lot depends on the individual, the society, the culture. I have worked places where each person might have multiple names- a public name, a clan name, a family name and an intimate name, and ALSO, a "nickname" used in public and even with a person being introduced by that name to a public event, but not called that by close associates or family. I have worked in places where, once the people knew you, they would give you a nickname, but it always reflected something about your personality or nature, NOT anything to do with your actual name.
I also have known many people who insist on their full name being used, and don't appreciate nicknames.
In some places, the public never learns a person's "real" name, because that is considered private and only for the immediate family.
Finally, in some novels, the use of shortened identifying labels, or nicknames, starts to sound too modern and somewhat juvenile, in some instances, or creates a diminishing effect if used poorly.
Ultimately, each reader will have to decide for themselves. But for myself, I find the use of too much shortening and nicknaming can become distracting.

I have to admit I am not much of a fiction reader (though there are a couple authors I look forward to reading in 2019), but will say reading these reviews helps me make decisions about presents I am considering buying .. <chuckling>..Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review the book.

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