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As in the equally adroit Enigma, Harris takes a familiar historical event (there, the celebrated code-breakers at Bletchley Park, here the volcanic obliteration of an Italian city in AD79) and seamlessly weaves a characteristically labyrinthine plot in and around the existing facts. But that's not all he does here: few novelists who (unlike Harris) make a speciality of ancient history for their setting pull off the sense of period quite as impressively as the author does here. As the famous catastrophe approaches, we are pleasurably immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the Ancient World, each detail conjured with jaw-dropping verisimilitude.
Harris's protagonist is the engineer Marcus Attilius, placed in charge of the massive aqueduct that services the teeming masses living in and around the Bay of Naples. Despite the pride he takes in his job, Marcus has pressing concerns: his predecessor in the job has mysteriously vanished, and another task is handed to Marcus by the scholar Pliny: he is to undertake crucial repairs to the aqueduct near Pompeii, the city in the shadow of the restless Mount Vesuvius. And as Marcus faces several problems--all life threatening--an event approaches that will make all his concerns seem petty.
Other writers have placed narratives in the shadow of this most famous of volcanic cataclysms, but Harris triumphantly ensures that his characters' individual dramas are not dwarfed by implacable nature; Marcus is a vividly drawn hero: complex, conflicted and a canny synthesis of modern and ancient mindsets. Some may wish that Harris might return to something closer to our time in his next novel, but few who take this trip into a dangerous past will be able to resist Harris's spellbinding historical saga. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The author uses English well, and if the reader enjoys authentically substantiated, historical fiction, this book is enjoyable. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Tamar
I did have to wonder how good a book would be when you know not only the ending but also quite a bit about the event before you start it. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Vanessa Wells
It was a good read but not on par with his other two about Rome. Am very glad I read the other two first or I would not have bothered after reading this one.Published 12 months ago by Dorothy Dewitte
The book is based over 4 days leading up to the roman town pompeii and other surrounding towns get covered by the volcano, vesuvius. Read morePublished on March 25 2011 by Ben Nicholson
I liked this book. Gave a good description of Pompeii. Likable characters. Gripping plot. Easy enough to read. And a story that kept moving along. Read morePublished on June 7 2010 by NorthVan Dave
A very enjoyable read. This book takes you out of the modern world and plops you smack dab in the center of 79AD. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2006 by Ashley Brunt
This book is really a thriller--a page turner, if you will, in the traditional sense. Don't be put off by the premise of reading about a volcano. Read morePublished on Oct. 20 2004 by Andy Wolfe