Monday, May 28, 2012

'Spartacus: The Gladiator' by Ben Kane

How many times can the same story be told?  How many times can we stand to hear about the sinking of the ‘Titanic’?  How many times can we hear about the 1980’s Hockey Team?  How many times can we hear about some poor kid “making it” out of out of the drug infested ghetto?  How many times can we read about the might of Rome?  How many times can we read about how the might of Rome was almost brought to heel by a slave named Spartacus?

I don’t know about the prior but Ben Kane answers the latter with a resounding “Utique unus magis vicis carus civis , utique unus magis vicis” (at least one more time dear citizen, at least one more time)”.

Either the universe loves me and wants to see me read good stories, or I’ve just been extremely lucky in my book selection, but I have been on a freaking tear of magnificent books since April, and Ben continues that streak.  One difference however… this streak is bathed in blood.  Before you read this book I must warn you of one thing.  It’s brutally violent.  And not just the fighting; rather what goes on during the fighting and (especially, good lord) what goes on after the fighting.  I’m still reeling from one scene that involved Crixis and his henchmen.  So keep that in mind should you choose to venture forth.If you do indeed go on you are in for one heck of a read.

 It has to be hard to write a story that has already been told.  We all know, or at the very least heard of, Spartacus and his slave rebellion.  The ‘Starz’ mini-series has recently brought it back into our conscience as well.  So Ben at the very least must follow Spartacus as a recent commercial success, not to mention the other books that have been written before this one. 

But you know what?  He does just fine.  Matter of fact, he did so well that I was getting pissed at Chronos for allowing thirty minutes to only BE thirty minutes (my lunch time).  For me this was easily one of those books that you really do set everything aside because it’s just that damn good.
Why is it good?  Well let’s see… our first taste of blood comes on page, I don’t know FIVE!?!  As readers we know from the outside looking in that Spartacus is going to wipe the floor with the entrails of his enemies, but it’s so much fun to read about these hapless individuals and think “idiots”.  In ‘Spartacus: The Gladiator’ you have your historically factual characters; Spartacus, Crixus, Batiatus, Oenomaus, Gannicus, and more than a number of Romans sent to their deaths… I meant sent to fight.  Ben does use creative license to tell this tale, so for you purist out there who will invariably get your tweed jackets in a knot, SHUT UP and enjoy the damn story!

Ben doesn’t spend a lot of time with Spartacus in the ludus, but he does lay enough foundation to set up the rest of this story.  After Spartacus and his band of gladiators escape the ludus, they set about claiming their freedom one dead legionary at a time.  Wait, that’s not entirely true.  (*cough ahem*) “After Spartacus and his band of gladiators escape the ludus, they set about claiming their freedom ten hacked, eviscerated, screaming, eventually dead legionaries at a time”.  As weird as it seems that might be the easy part.

Having to deal with Crixus and his bloodthirsty followers would probably be the hard part.  One issue: Spartacus must make concessions with the captured women or see his entire rebellion fall.  And because of such we see enough blood lust and rapaciousness to make the Mongol Empire blush.  Ben holds nothing back with the telling of these horrendous events nor does he about the battles either. 

There are two main characters in this book whom I have yet to decide if I like or not though.  Spartacus’s woman Ariadne, and his friend Carbo.  Oh don’t get me wrong, they are very good in this story… I’m just not sure if I like them or not. J  I need to read ‘Spartacus: Rebellion’ (hell yeah there’s a sequel) to make up my mind.  It goes without saying that I enjoyed this book.  If you’ve gotten this far in my review after searching for this book then do yourself a favor and buy it.  Read it.  Send me a thank you eMail for recommending it and send Ben a gushing eMail for writing it.  He’ll write you back, trust me.  He’s cool like that. 


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