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Gates of Fire
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Fist and Faith
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2003 6:30 am    Post subject: Gates of Fire Reply with quote

*bows deeply to Brinn*

I just finished a book that Brinn insisted I read. He gave me an "unconditional guarantee" that I would love it. It's called Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield. (I was surprised when I read the "about the author" part, and found out he wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance.) It's about the battle of Thermopylae. In 480 B.C., the Persians, under King Xerxes, marched into Greece. They were met by the Greeks at a bottleneck called Thermopylae. Herodotus, an historian of that time period, claims the Persian force (made of Persians and conscripts from lands previously conquered by the Persians) was close to 2 million strong. Current scholars say that 300,000 is a better estimate.

There were 6,000 Greeks, led by 300 Spartans, under King Leonidas.

It was a suicide mission, and they all knew it going in. More than anything, they were there to inspire Greece.

A actually laughed out loud when I tried to imagine what to say about the book. I've seldom been moved as strongly. Anyone who is prone to crying doesn't have a chance. Good luck to anybody else.

The story is told by a Spartan servant who (not in reality) was the sole survivor of the battle. Mortally wounded, he was found by the Persians. For reasons that he relates, he tells them about his life, the lives of various Spartans, and the Spartan way of life in general.

A little more than half of the 440 pages is his childhood and his servitude to the Spartans. The training that they go through is far beyond what we would consider abuse. Navy Seals go through things like this. But Spartan soldiers started when they were children!

A huge theme of the book is fear. The Spartans make no claims to be fearless. They are often terrified. A lot of the book deals with what fear is (and what its opposite is), and how to function while in its grip. The greatest, most noble characters in the book claim, for reasons I can't argue with, that women possess the greatest courage.

Leonidas gives some incredible speeches!!! I can't tell you how good!!!

And a bit less than 200 pages is the battle itself. The Greeks are far superior fighters - none more than the Spartans - who have a tactical advantage, and are fighting for their homes and the lives of their wives and children. No Persian force of the same size would have anything resembling the slightest chance against them. But a couple days after the fighting begins:

-after every Greek has been in the thick of it for several rotations, hours each day
-becoming completely exhausted just from killing the enemy
-and let's not forget that the Persians ARE fighting back, wounding and killing many Greeks, even if at enormous cost to themselves

after all that, the Persians still have hundreds of thousands of troops that have not even seen the Greek army yet!!

But that's all big numbers that can Wow our intellects. This book is about the individual characters. You can't believe how they act, how they change, and how you'll feel about them. How one will say one sentence, and you won't be able to read until your eyes clear. Then again some pages later. And again.

Read the book.



Read the book.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2003 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Gates" was one of the most emotional, adrenaline-charged reads I've ever had the pleasure to delve into. This book was an epiphany for me and is one of the best examples of why I love to read...because every now and then you come upon an absolute gem like this or a Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and you just sit there with your eyes wide and mouth agape and can only hope that you're able to match that feeling again.

I'm very pleased that you enjoyed the book Fist. Being able to recommend a book that another truly appreciates is a wonderful feeling. And I'm glad I'm not the only person who reacted so strongly to the novel!

P.S.
Now the really cool part...Michael Mann (of Last of the Mohicans fame) has optioned the book and is in pre-production for the movie. I'll be first in line when this epic is released

*Please, Please, Please let it be half as good as the book!*
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2003 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks good, as a soc/history major I studied Thermopylae to some extent back in the day-it's all coming back, truly an amazing stand--I actually compared Thermopylae to the great battle scene at the end of Mordant's Need, in my head, for some reason... I think I might just...

Read the book.



Read the book. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2003 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please do! You won't be disappointed!
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2003 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We unconditionally guarantee it! Smile

OK, maybe not for everyone, but I think you'll enjoy it, danlo. Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2003 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds really good by your descriptions... I think I might have to look into that at amazon... Thanks for reccomending it!
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Fist and Faith
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2003 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://pub189.ezboard.com/fahirashangarfrm18.showMessage?topicID=35.topic
That's a thread about fear that I just started at the Hangar. Fear is one of the main themes in the book, and so I have a couple of BIG quotes. I guess they're spoilers. But does it matter? The battle that the book is about is an historical fact. Everyone knows the outcome of the battle before reading the book. It's even in the prologue. So who cares if you know this aspect of the book too? Smile And for those who aren't likely to read it anyway, or who need a taste of it before making the decision, here you go. Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Brinn, I remember my 9th grade English teacher, Mr D, mentioning the Spartans. Probably when we were reading the Trojan War. This is 25 years ago.

Well, it just happens I live across the street from my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. L, so I asked him if he could get in touch with Mr. D. Mr. L gave me Mr. D's email address, and I told him about the book. This was on Dec 13. He said he'd check it out.

Well, I just got an email today. "Gates of Fire was a great book. The Spartans must have been an incredible race of people." Another convert, eh? Very Happy Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist quoted from Gates of Fire:
Quote:
“What could be more contrary to female nature, to motherhood, than to stand unmoved and unmoving as her sons march off the death? Must not every sinew of the mother’s flesh call out in agony and affront at such an outrage? Must not her heart seek to cry in its passion, ‘No! Not my son! Spare him!’ That women, from some source unknown to us, summon the will to conquer this their own deepest nature is, I believe, the reason we stand in awe of our mothers and sisters and wives. This, I believe, Dienekes, is the essence of women’s courage and why it, as you suggested, is superior to men’s.”


Remember the Stabat Mater? Under all the pink Counter-Reformation excesses that got piled up on it, it is, at core, a celebration of female courage. A less martial demonstration of it, yes, but the Tan-Haruchail is the same.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great news Fist! Another convert... Keep spreading the gospel! Wink

Durris,
Have you read the book? Don't miss it and cheat yourself of a spectacular experience! Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2004 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lots of spoilers in this post. It started as a pm to Brinn, but got big enough that I figured I'd just put it here.



It's not enough for Pressfield to tell us all there is to know about the fears that warriors feel. Only a small part of which is in the huge quotes I put at the Hangar.

And it's not enough that he shows us that the Spartans were professional warriors - and extraordinary ones, at that! - who knew the business of war:
Quote:
This process of arming for battle, which he citizen-soldiers of other poleis had practiced no more than a dozen times a year in the spring and summer training, the Spartans had rehearsed and rerehearsed, two hundred, four hundred, six hundred times each campaigning season. Men in their fifties had done this ten thousand times. It was as second-nature to them as oiling or dusting their limbs before wrestling or dressing their long hair...
...
"Keep your men busy. If there is no work, make it up, for when soldiers have time to talk, their talk turns to fear. Action, on the other hand, produces the appetite for more action. Exercise campaign discipline at all times. Let no man heed nature's call without spear and shield at his side."
...
Nothing fires the warrior's heart more with courage than to find himself and his comrades at the point of annihilation, at the brink of being routed and overrun, and then to dredge not merely from one's own bowels or guts but from one's own discipline and training the presence of mind not to panic, not to yield to the possession of despair, but instead to complete those homely acts of order which Dienekes had ever declared the supreme accomplishment of the warrior: to perform the commonplace under far-from-commonplace conditions. Not only to achieve this for oneself alone, as Achilles or the solo champions of yore, but to do it as part of a unit, to feel about oneself one's brothers-in-arms, in an instance like this chaos and disorder, comrades whom one doesn't even know, with whom one has never trained; to feel them filling the spaces alongside him, from spear side and shield side, fore and rear, to behold one's comrades likewise rallying, not in a frenzy of mad possession-driven abandon, but with order and self-composure, each man knowing his role and rising to it, drawing strength from him as he draws it from them; the warrior in these moments finds himself lifted as if by the hand of a god. He cannot tell where his being leaves off and that of the comrade beside him begins. In that moment the phalanx forms a unity so dense and all-divining that it performs not merely at the level of a machine or engine of war but, surpassing that, to the state of a single organism, a beast of one blood and heart.
...
War is work, Dienekes had always taught, seeking to strip it of its mystery. The Medes, for all their valor, all their numbers and all the skill they doubtless possessed in the type of open-plain warfare with which they had conquered all Asia, had not served their apprenticeship in this, Hellene-style heavy-infantry combat. Their files had not trained to hold line of thrust and gather themselves to heave in unison; the ranks had not drilled endlessly as the Spartans had in maintaining dress and interval, cover and shadow. Amid the manslaughter the Medes became a mob. They shoved at the Lakedaemonians like sheep fleeing a fire in a shearing pen, without cadence or cohesion, fueled only by courage, which, glorious though it was, could not prevail against the disciplined and cohesive assault which now pressed upon them.


Not enough that there's humor at the oddest moments. Like when they're preparing for the final battle, after Leonidas sent everybody but the Spartans home, and the Thespians refused to leave:
Quote:
The men began calling for Dithyrambos. The Thespian stepped forth with his usual profane glint. He gestured toward the pass beyond the Narrows, where the advance parties of the Persians had arrived and begun staking out the marshaling salients for the army. "Just go out there," he proclaimed, "and have fun!"


No, none of that is enough. He also has to have moments like this, at the VERY end of the battle:
Quote:
The defenders staggered toward the knoll upon which the last stack of weapons had been cached. No more than sixty remained; Derkylides, astonishingly unwounded, rallied the survivors into a circular front. I found a strap and cinched my guts in. I was struck, for just a moment, with the impossible beauty of the day. For once no haze obscured the channel; one could make out individual stones upon the hills across the strait and track the game trails up the slopes, turn by turn.
A fantastic Zen moment. Almost surreal. Man, just incredible writing!
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Come and get them!
, what the Spartan King, at the head of his 300 men said when the couple of million Persians requested he put down his arms...

Ah, Fist, I am so glad you brought this book to my attention. I am several chapters into it now, and am enjoying it greatly. Smile
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great news Duchess! Glad you are enjoying this little gem of novel! Keep reading as you've barely scratched the surface!
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WOO HOO!!!! GO DUCHESS!!!

But credit where it's due. I don't know how Brinn found it, but he's the man!!!
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 1:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I finished the book today. It was wonderful! Cool Cool

Quote:
What is the opposite of fear?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Go duchess!
Go duchess!
Go duchess!

Brinn, we're rockin' now!!! Very Happy Very Happy

Come on, duchess, tell! Did you cry? Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well? Did you?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not until we find out the reason why the 300 were chosen, and then I cried right along with the Alexandros's mama. Embarassed Laughing
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stirring stuff, No?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

duchess of malfi wrote:
Not until we find out the reason why the 300 were chosen, and then I cried right along with the Alexandros's mama. Embarassed Laughing
Oh yeah! That'll kill you! (Unless you already knew what happened at Thermopylae. And even then!!)

But nothing later? Are you telling me I cried more than you did?? Laughing How about this line?
Quote:
"He was the best of us all."


And can Leonidas give a speech, or what!!!! He had a few great speeches!!
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