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Gates of Fire
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Brinn
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This book was so damn good that I'm willing to send a copy to anyone free of charge just to see more people enjoy the singular pleasure that this read provided. Run, don't walk...No check that. Drive, and drive very fast to the nearest bookstore and buy this and then start to read it on the drive home. Every second you waste not reading this book is a second wasted!

Ok...hyperbole aside, this book was truly fantastic and well worth the read. And I will send you a copy if you can't find it.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Brinn! Very Happy Fist has taken up your cause...he sent me a copy. Very Happy And you were both right. It was brilliant. In fact, I'm already planning my reread of it.

--A
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad you enjoyed it. Join the cause, give the book to someone else after you've re-read it! No one should miss this book!
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone know where Malik's review of the book is? I know he made a new topic but the search doesn't work and I can't remember what forum he put it in.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've looked everywhere for it. I don't know why such a thing would happen, but it seems to be gone.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brinn wrote:
Glad you enjoyed it. Join the cause, give the book to someone else after you've re-read it! No one should miss this book!


Uh...Yeah...I don't give books away. Ever. I still have all my childrens books. And I mean all of them. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guys, just do what Brinn says and buy the book. You won't regret it; it's the best book ever written by man.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

^
|
|
|
What he said!
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War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. John Stuart Mill
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



"It's the best book ever written by man!"
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:


300 was rubbish compared to the book. Luckily, I'd already seen it before I read the book, but if the order had been reversed, I'd have never watched the whole movie.


I did exactly that. First the book. Then the movie. Movie got ejected with vehemence. I think I even flipped off the TV and smashed the remote on the table and carved "300 sucks ass" on my own forehead with the pointy shards of plastic, and then yelled, THIS IS NOT SPARTA! with my blood dripping down my face and spraying onto the TV with the force of my breath.

Ok, maybe I didn't go that far. But I didn't finish that damn movie.

I didn't realize people liked my review. It's in the general fantasy forum, where this one should be. Smile

[Edit: I found it. http://kevinswatch.ihugny.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=11247But it's a discussion, not a review. I talk about it as I go. Spoilers.]
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, I just reread the thread. Now I want to reread the book. I was honestly shocked rereading this next bit, how passionate I was about this book. Apparently, it really moved me. If you can stand my particular conservative slant, you might like this:

Quote:
Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:36 pm Post subject: Reply with quote
[Caution: this is going to get political and philosophical. I can't help it. If I'm going to be honest about how the book affected me, I have to go there.]

Alright, Brinn was correct. This book is one of the best I've read in years. Granted, I don't read much fiction these days. But if I could find more books like this, I'd be reading all the time.

The payoff was enormous. The 1st half is definitely worth the wait. The battles are incredible, gruesome, and believable. But they are just the stage for a story to be told--as they should be. It's how the men comport themselves through this struggle that touched with me. The reasons they were doing this, and chose to keep doing this. It's all about freedom. An unwillingness to let fear of death make you a slave.

That's what it's all about: each of us is going to die. This is the one fact of our future that we can predict with certainty. You know nothing else but that. It's the defining truth of your existence. Or, it should be, if we would face life authentically. Most of the time we are all ignoring it, going through our lives as if the endpoint is retirement, not oblivion. We don't want to face it, and not simply because death is scary, but because we don't want to face the responsibility of our living. What are you doing with your time? What kind of person have you made of this bundle of consciousness and emotion you call a self? Is it something others would call "noble?" Are you worthy of the freedom which each conscious human possesses, or do you give it up in myriad ways each day out of innumerable fears you don't want to face?

Personally, I think death is too abstract to fear. I don't really believe we fear nothingness (aside from the pain of getting there). The biggest fear is that our life is our own responsibility. You have put yourself where you are now with your own choices. Whatever you don't like about your life, it was always your responsibility to chose how to react to it. Did you let facts determine you, or did you determine how to react to the facts of your life?

For the Greeks during this time, the Persian king wanted to make them all slaves. And they were promised to be made comfortable slaves. They wouldn't be ruled harshly. They'd be given riches and commerce. They'd be given "honor" as his most worthy subjects. His offer reminds me of the life of an American worker/consumer. We're passified in our daily slavery with electronic gifts and banal entertainment while we're "chained" to our couch by our own indifference and complacency.

But these Greeks valued self-determination so highly that they would give up themselves rather than have another rule them or seduce them with comfort and riches. Indeed, self-sacrifice was the highest form of self-determination, because they disdained their own physical security so thoroughly, they could be greater than their fear of a painful death. Fear is produced by the body, the Spartans teach. It is through the body that others may make you a slave to your own body. That's the key. You're never a slave to someone else, even when they hold you in chains. You're always a slave to the pain the whip causes on your back. You dance to the strings of your own nervous system, regardless of who holds those strings. It is through surrendering to your own pain and fear of physical harm that you choose to allow others to command you. Every slave is a voluntary slave. Always. It is because they didn't want the whip--or death--that they heed their "master's" call.

America prides itself on its freedom, but compared to those Greeks, I don't think we really understand this word we love to use. I think we are no longer the kind of people who love freedom this dearly. I'm not talking about our soldiers. Of course they are fighting and dying (whether or not you think it's for our freedom is another issue). I'm talking about the spoiled citizens who are "anti-war," who care what other countries think of us, who want to ask the U.N.'s approval for our actions, who look to the courts of other countries to inform us on our own laws, who want the government to pay for their housing, food, healthcare, drugs, education, etc. We want everyone else to make our decisions for us, to take care of us, so we can get back to our ipods and TV shows. Compare the Greek mothers who bear the sacrifice of their sons without tears, in order to show the rest of their country that nothing, not even the loss of their husbands and sons will break them, to give their fellow citizens courage--compare this to Cindy Sheehan and those who supported her. Compare this to those who want to "support the troops" by having them admit defeat and retreat. That's not supporting the troops. That's supporting your husbands and sons. That's supporting your own grief, selfishness, and fear of loss. Troops are men who kill people and attain victory. Supporting the troops means bearing their deaths with dignity and strength, not protecting them from death (something you can't protect ANYONE from). Their job is to die for their country, if necessary. That's what a soldier is. Reading this book makes me think we are a nation of cowards. It makes me think of Mogadishu, and the soldiers who were angry when their commander-in-chief forced them to surrender after losing 18 men--thus telling the world that we're scared to sustain loss, scared of 3rd world thugs. We are no longer willing to sacrifice. The richest country in the history of the world is terrified of the cost of living.

This is how the book affected me. It made me look at my own life, and my own time. It made me respect those long-dead men who, up until now, were merely characters in a story told in textbooks. I don't feel worthy of their example. I want to be a better person. I want to help my fellow humans be better people.

That's a powerful experience to have from reading a novel.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I often feel the same way about my country, though I believe the fear of change and clinging to stability is natural to humanity (even if that means cowering before ultimate freedom, which I don't think any society, even the Greeks, ever had). There's a social contract inherent with any civilization--that in order to uphold the greater good some individual sacrifices must be made. If I recall correctly, only 10% of the Greeks had any rights, the rest being slaves.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I don't want to get into a political debate. That's how the book affected me. Others will have other experiences. I don't want to tarnish their experience. Liberals can enjoy this book, too. It's not a conservative book. It's a book that challenges you to look at yourself and your world and where you are going with your life. Naturally, because of who I am, it brings out my extremes. But I think anyone can enjoy it.

Sure, the Spartans didn't apply their freedom universally. But the freest ones were the ones who fought. Not only was this admirable (for the free men to do the grunt work, rather than force the slaves to do it), but perhaps it's also a lesson to all slaves. Maybe the slaves should have followed this example. Maybe they, too, should have refused to be a slave. If a person is going to let themselves be a slave, perhaps they deserve it. You can't wait around for someone to free you if you're going to accept the chains of fear.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I gotta say that I was struck by the difference between what they called freedom, and the fact that only a fraction of the population had any rights at all.

Not only that, but that the rest, (and its not that the rest were all slaves...they just weren't Spartans) were literal second and third class citizens. Actively reviled/discriminated against/looked down on.

Malik wrote:
You can't wait around for someone to free you if you're going to accept the chains of fear.


Ergo all people have a duty (or at least right) to oppose that which they feel enslaves them?

--A
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
Ergo all people have a duty (or at least right) to oppose that which they feel enslaves them?

--A
Like I said, I don't want to turn a discussion of this book into a political debate or imply that it's a conservative book. But I do think might makes right. Perhaps it was a bit harsh for me to say that slaves deserve their slavery. But the opposite side of that coin is certainly true: if they don't fight against this, they're not earning their freedom.

Donaldson makes a similar point in "The Djinn Who Watches Over the Accursed." He allows his djinn character to criticize the main character for letting himself become a slave, and never saying "no" to his condition.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As it happens, I at least partly agree with you. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, back on topic. Gates of Fire owns my soul!!

Sorry for waiting 4+ years to give my insights, Brinn, but I plumb forgot about this thread. My main impression is that these men were fighters in the truest sense of the word: they fought before phalanxes or formations; they just held the line and killed their opponents right before their eyes. There was no divide or long-distant weapons between the sounds of death, and death isn't like in the movies; it's not silent; people choke on blood, scream, yell. These people were first and foremost physical-minded. They lived in an age where there was no media or psychology. Their senses were unclouded, mind not a separate "wonder-organ" but another tool for perfecting technique. They never considered anything but their whole being.

My grandfather is very physical-minded. He did amazing feats without thinking about it, whereas I'm creative and seem only able to ruminate about "why" I don't move as fast as he did or throw a good punch. In the end, it may be that I'm a byproduct of a generation that's been given a "you are special" mentality, whereas past generations knew that it's a race from start to finish, and no one's going to applaud you just because "you're you".

I do agree with you, somewhat, Malik. I believe each succeeding generation is reaching a technological singularity, where the line between human and technology is being blurred. We're ever being couched with our gadgets and computer-reliance, as if we're "losing consciousness". I think what we see in Gates of Fire is men who were the exact opposite--raw, unbound, answering only to human emotions such as loyalty, trust, and honor.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice! Glad you enjoyed it!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, today I kept thinking how terribly bad 300 was and how a proper, realistic Thermopylae movie would blow the world away, so I bought a new copy of the book (my aunt never returned the original). It's so fun to re-read this thing after several years.

Another observation about this book: as good as the final battle was, I think the training portion was my favorite (I loved Starship Troopers for the same reason).
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