Pompeii: discount A new arrival Novel outlet sale

Pompeii: discount A new arrival Novel outlet sale

Pompeii: discount A new arrival Novel outlet sale
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BESTSELLER - "Terrific... gripping... A literally shattering climax." -- The New York Times Book Review 

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’ s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.

Review

Acclaim for Robert Harris’s Pompeii, the #1 international bestseller

“Blazingly exciting... Pompeii palpitates with sultry tension....Harris provides an awe-inspiring tour of one of the monumental engineering triumphs on which the Roman empire was based....What makes this novel all but unputdownable...is the bravura fictional flair that crackles through it. Brilliantly evoking the doomed society pursuing its ambitions and schemes in the shadow of a mountain that nobody knew was a volcano, Harris, as Vesuvius explodes, gives full vent to his genius for thrilling narrative. Fast-paced twists and turns alternate with nightmarish slow-motion scenes (desperate figures struggling to wade thigh-deep through slurries of pumice towards what they hope will be safety). Harris’s unleashing of the furnace ferocities of the eruption’s terminal phase turns his book’s closing sequences into pulse-rate-speeding masterpieces of suffocating suspense and searing action. It is hard to imagine a more thoroughgoingly enjoyable thriller.”
London Sunday Times

“Breakneck pace, constant jeopardy and subtle twists of plot...a blazing blockbuster... The depth of the research in the book is staggering.”
Daily Mail

“[A] stirring and absorbing novel...The final 100 pages are terrific, as good as anything Harris has done; and the last, teasing paragraph, done with the lightest of touches, is masterly.”
The Sunday Telegraph

“The long-drawn-out death agony of [Pompeii and Herculaneum]—a full day of falling ash, pumice stone, and then, the final catastrophe, a cloud of poisonous gas—is brilliantly done. Explosive stuff, indeed.”
The Daily Telegraph

From the Back Cover

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire''s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world''s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.
But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the fi rst time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta''s sixty-mile main line--somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
Attilius--decent, practical, and incorruptible--promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work--both natural and man-made--threatening to destroy him.
With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.

"From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Robert Harris is the author of Enigma, Fatherland, and Archangel. He has been a television correspondent with the BBC and a newspaper columnist for the London Sunday Times. His novels have sold more than six million copies and been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Berkshire, England, with his wife and three children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

MARS

22 August Two days before the eruption

CONTICINIUM [04:21 hours]

A strong correlation has been found between the magnitude of eruptions and the length of the preceding interval of repose. Almost all very large, historic eruptions have come from volcanoes that have been dormant for centuries. —JACQUES-MARIE BARDINTZEFF, ALEXANDER R. McBIRNEY, VOLCANOLOGY (SECOND EDITION)

They left the aqueduct two hours before dawn, climbing by moonlight into the hills overlooking the port—six men in single file, the engineer leading. He had turfed them out of their beds himself—all stiff limbs and sullen, bleary faces—and now he could hear them complaining about him behind his back, their voices carrying louder than they realized in the warm, still air.

“A fool’s errand,” somebody muttered.

“Boys should stick to their books,” said another.

He lengthened his stride.

Let them prattle, he thought.

Already he could feel the heat of the morning beginning to build, the promise of another day without rain. He was younger than most of his work gang, and shorter than any of them: a compact, muscled figure with cropped brown hair. The shafts of the tools he carried slung across his shoulder—a heavy, bronze-headed axe and a wooden shovel—chafed against his sunburned neck. Still, he forced himself to stretch his bare legs as far as they would reach, mounting swiftly from foothold to foothold, and only when he was high above Misenum, at a place where the track forked, did he set down his burdens and wait for the others to catch up.

He wiped the sweat from his eyes on the sleeve of his tunic. Such shimmering, feverish heavens they had here in the south! Even this close to daybreak, a great hemisphere of stars swept down to the horizon. He could see the horns of Taurus, and the belt and sword of the Hunter; there was Saturn, and also the Bear, and the constellation they called the Vintager, which always rose for Caesar on the twenty-second day of August, following the Festival of Vinalia, and signaled that it was time to harvest the wine. Tomorrow night the moon would be full. He raised his hand to the sky, his blunt-tipped fingers black and sharp against the glittering constellations—spread them, clenched them, spread them again—and for a moment it seemed to him that he was the shadow, the nothing; the light was the substance.

From down in the harbor came the splash of oars as the night watch rowed between the moored triremes. The yellow lanterns of a couple of fishing boats winked across the bay. A dog barked and another answered. And then the voices of the laborers slowly climbing the path beneath him: the harsh local accent of Corax, the overseer—“Look, our new aquarius is waving at the stars!”—and the slaves and the free men, equals, for once, in their resentment if nothing else, panting for breath and sniggering.

The engineer dropped his hand. “At least,” he said, “with such a sky, we have no need of torches.” Suddenly he was vigorous again, stooping to collect his tools, hoisting them back onto his shoulder. “We must keep moving.” He frowned into the darkness. One path would take them westward, skirting the edge of the naval base. The other led north, toward the seaside resort of Baiae. “I think this is where we turn.”

“He thinks,” sneered Corax.

The engineer had decided the previous day that the best way to treat the overseer was to ignore him. Without a word he put his back to the sea and the stars, and began ascending the black mass of the hillside. What was leadership, after all, but the blind choice of one route over another and the confident pretense that the decision was based on reason?

The path here was steeper. He had to scramble up it sideways, sometimes using his free hand to pull himself along, his feet skidding, sending showers of loose stones rattling away in the darkness. People stared at these brown hills, scorched by summer brushfires, and thought they were as dry as deserts, but the engineer knew different. Even so, he felt his earlier assurance beginning to weaken, and he tried to remember how the path had appeared in the glare of yesterday afternoon, when he had first reconnoitered it. The twisting track, barely wide enough for a mule. The swaths of scorched grass. And then, at a place where the ground leveled out, flecks of pale green in the blackness—signs of life that turned out to be shoots of ivy reaching toward a boulder.

After going halfway up an incline and then coming down again, he stopped and turned slowly in a full circle. Either his eyes were getting used to it, or dawn was close now, in which case they were almost out of time. The others had halted behind him. He could hear their heavy breathing. Here was another story for them to take back to Misenum—how their new young aquarius had dragged them from their beds and marched them into the hills in the middle of the night, and all on a fool’s errand. There was a taste of ash in his mouth.

“Are we lost, pretty boy?”

Corax’s mocking voice again.

He made the mistake of rising to the bait: “I’m looking for a rock.”

This time they did not even try to hide their laughter.

“He’s running around like a mouse in a pisspot!”

“I know it’s here somewhere. I marked it with chalk.”

More laughter—and at that he wheeled on them: the squat and broad-shouldered Corax; Becco, the long-nose, who was a plasterer; the chubby one, Musa, whose skill was laying bricks; and the two slaves, Polites and Corvinus. Even their indistinct shapes seemed to mock him. “Laugh. Good. But I promise you this: either we find it before dawn or we shall all be back here tomorrow night. Including you, Gavius Corax. Only next time make sure you’re sober.”

Silence. Then Corax spat and took a half step forward and the engineer braced himself for a fight. They had been building up to this for three days now, ever since he had arrived in Misenum. Not an hour had passed without Corax trying to undermine him in front of the men.

And if we fight, thought the engineer, he will win—it’s five against one—and they will throw my body over the cliff and say I slipped in the darkness. But how will that go down in Rome—if a second aquarius of the Aqua Augusta is lost in less than a fortnight?

For a long instant they faced each other, no more than a pace between them, so close that the engineer could smell the stale wine on the older man’s breath. But then one of the others—it was Becco—gave an excited shout and pointed.

Just visible behind Corax’s shoulder was a rock, marked neatly in its center by a thick white cross.

Attilius was the engineer’s name—Marcus Attilius Primus, to lay it out in full, but plain Attilius would have satisfied him. A practical man, he had never had much time for all these fancy handles his fellow countrymen went in for. (“Lupus,” “Panthera,” “Pulcher”—“Wolf,” “Leopard,” “Beauty”—who in hell did they think they were kidding?) Besides, what name was more honorable in the history of his profession than that of the gens Attilia, aqueduct engineers for four generations? His great-grandfather had been recruited by Marcus Agrippa from the ballista section of Legion XII “Fulminata” and set to work building Rome’s Aqua Julia. His grandfather had planned the Anio Novus. His father had completed the Aqua Claudia, bringing her into the Esquiline Hill over seven miles of arches, and laying her, on the day of her dedication, like a silver carpet at the feet of the emperor. Now he, at twenty-seven, had been sent south to Campania and given command of the Aqua Augusta.

A dynasty built on water!

He squinted into the darkness. Oh, but she was a mighty piece of work, the Augusta—one of the greatest feats of engineering ever accomplished. It was going to be an honor to command her. Somewhere far out there, on the opposite side of the bay, high in the pine-forested mountains of the Apenninus, the aqueduct captured the springs of Serinus and bore the water westward—channeled it along sinuous underground passages, carried it over ravines on top of tiered arcades, forced it across valleys through massive siphons—all the way down to the plains of Campania, then around the far side of Mount Vesuvius, then south to the coast at Neapolis, and finally along the spine of the Misenum peninsula to the dusty naval town, a distance of some sixty miles, with a mean drop along her entire length of just two inches every one hundred yards. She was the longest aqueduct in the world, longer even than the great aqueducts of Rome and far more complex, for whereas her sisters in the north fed one city only, the Augusta’s serpentine conduit—the matrix, as they called it: the motherline—suckled no fewer than nine towns around the Bay of Neapolis: Pompeii first, at the end of a long spur, then Nola, Acerrae, Atella, Neapolis, Puteoli, Cumae, Baiae, and finally Misenum.

And this was the problem, in the engineer’s opinion. She had to do too much. Rome, after all, had more than half a dozen aqueducts: if one failed the others could make up the deficit. But there was no reserve supply down here, especially not in this drought, now dragging into its third month. Wells that had provided water for generations had turned into tubes of dust. Streams had dried up. Riverbeds had become tracks for farmers to drive their beasts along to market. Even the Augusta was showing signs of exhaustion, the level of her enormous reservoir dropping hourly, and it was this that had brought him out onto the hillside in the time before dawn when he ought to have been in bed.

From the leather pouch on his belt Attilius withdrew a small block of polished cedar with a chin rest carved into one side of it. The grain of the wood had been rubbed smooth and bright by the skin of his ancestors. His great-grandfather was said to have been given it as a talisman by Vitruvius, architect to the Divine Augustus, and the old man had maintained that the spirit of Neptune, god of water, lived within it. Attilius had no time for gods. Boys with wings on their feet, women riding dolphins, greybeards hurling bolts of lightning off the tops of mountains in fits of temper—these were stories for children, not men. He placed his faith instead in stones and water, and in the daily miracle that came from mixing two parts of slaked lime to five parts of puteolanum—the local red sand— conjuring up a substance that would set underwater with a consistency harder than rock.

But still—it was a fool who denied the existence of luck, and if this family heirloom could bring him that . . . He ran his finger around its edge. He would try anything once.

He had left his rolls of Vitruvius behind in Rome. Not that it mattered. They had been hammered into him since childhood, as other boys learned their Virgil. He could still recite entire passages by heart.

“These are the growing things to be found which are signs of water: slender rushes, wild willow, alder, chaste berry, ivy, and other things of this sort, which cannot occur on their own without moisture . . .”

“Corax over there,” ordered Attilius. “Corvinus there. Becco, take the pole and mark the place I tell you. You two: keep your eyes open.”

Corax gave him a look as he passed.

“Later,” said Attilius. The overseer stank of resentment almost as strongly as he reeked of wine, but there would be time enough to settle their quarrel when they got back to Misenum. For now they would have to hurry.

A gray gauze had filtered out the stars. The moon had dipped. Fifteen miles to the east, at the midpoint of the bay, the forested pyramid of Mount Vesuvius was becoming visible. The sun would rise behind it.

“This is how to test for water: lie face down, before sunrise, in the places where the search is to be made, and with your chin set on the ground and propped, survey these regions. In this way the line of sight will not wander higher than it should, because the chin will be motionless . . .”

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4.4 out of 54.4 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

E. Gasaway
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A well researched novel
Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2015
I read this book while on a trip to southern Italy, and visiting Pompeii was part of the trip. I thought that reading this would help me visualize the city as it was before the eruption. I was about 2/3 through the book at the time of the visit to Pompeii. We had a guided... See more
I read this book while on a trip to southern Italy, and visiting Pompeii was part of the trip. I thought that reading this would help me visualize the city as it was before the eruption. I was about 2/3 through the book at the time of the visit to Pompeii. We had a guided tour for 2 hours, and then had an hour to ourselves to explore. Some of the ruined houses have the names of those who lived in them on signs. As soon as we started exploring, I saw a sign for the house of one of the characters in the book! The book''s descriptions were very accurate, and after reading the letters of Pliny the Younger, I realized that the author had incorporated many of the details in the letters into his book.

Besides being well researched, the book is well written with an appealing hero. I was absorbed by the story, and had trouble putting it down near the end.
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Victor Vögel
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fast-moving, captivating, meticulously-researched historical fiction of imperial Rome
Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2017
Before reading “Pompeii,” I had already read Robert Harris’s Cicero trilogy. The Cicero trilogy is an enthralling work of historical fiction, part mystery, part thriller, which introduces the reader to the wonders of Ancient Rome and the illustrious characters of the Late... See more
Before reading “Pompeii,” I had already read Robert Harris’s Cicero trilogy. The Cicero trilogy is an enthralling work of historical fiction, part mystery, part thriller, which introduces the reader to the wonders of Ancient Rome and the illustrious characters of the Late Republic, like Caesar, Crassus and Pompey the Great. Having thoroughly enjoyed the Cicero trilogy, I was glad that “Pompeii” lived up to my high expectations.

I like my historical fiction to be informative, and I came away from Harris’s book knowing more about Pliny the Elder (who died during the eruption of Vesuvius), volcanoes, aqueducts and Roman architecture. Harris clearly had to do a tremendous amount of historical research to produce this book. I also like my historical fiction to be well-written, and “Pompeii” is fast-moving and captivating. The action of the novel takes place over a period of just four days. It is in part a mystery, beginning with the disappearance of the aquarius, the engineer responsible for the maintenance of the aqueduct. The mystery deepens as sulfur is discovered in the drinking water. Not satisfied to write just a mystery story, Harris also gives us action, political corruption and a love story. For anyone who likes historical fiction or simply enjoys a mesmerizing thriller, I can highly recommend Harris’s “Pompeii.”
33 people found this helpful
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Jeff
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good Historical Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on May 26, 2019
Since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the story of Pompeii, but I was a bit reluctant about reading a historical fiction account of the events of 79 AD, when the town was covered by a volcanic eruption. After all, I knew the ending. Several towns east of... See more
Since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the story of Pompeii, but I was a bit reluctant about reading a historical fiction account of the events of 79 AD, when the town was covered by a volcanic eruption. After all, I knew the ending. Several towns east of Vesuvius was buried by the eruption. However, my men''s book club group decided that we needed a break from the serious history we''d been reading and decided on this book. I''m glad that we did. This is a fascinating story that centers on Attilius, the "aquarius" or engineer overseeing the "Aqua Augusta," an aqueduct providing water to the towns along the Bay of Neapolitan (now Naples). Attilius is a young man, but a fourth generation engineer, who has been assigned to this particular aqueduct following the disappearance of the previous aquarius.

Strange things are happening around the Bay of Neapolitan in the days leading up to the eruption. Almost all of the cities (except for Pompeii) have lost water, or have received water that was so rank with sulfur that it is unfit for drinking and bathing. Attilius'' job is to find out why and to correct the problem. At the city of Misenum a fleet of the Roman navy is anchored. Pliny, the Roman philosopher, has recently been made Admiral of the fleet, which is relaxed as the empire is at peace. Attilius obtains Pliny''s support, which is critical and carries the weight of the emperor. The cities are also in the midst of a religious holiday. No one is interested in helping until they learn of the power behind Attilius'' task. As he puts together a team of men, oxen and supplies for the journey up the mountain to the aqueduct, the reader is provided with a view of Roman world. Those with power and money enjoy the finest things such as 200 year old wine (which has to be mixed with more recent wine as it is not very tasty). There are brothels, of which Pompeii is especially known. And then there are slaves. One of the slaves, responsible for his master''s tanks of eels, is sentenced to die for letting the eels die (which happened because of the sulfur in the water). He is sliced so that blood is flowing and thrown in another tank where he''s eaten by eels. His mother, also a slave, naturally goes berserk. Attilius who is presented as an honest and compassionate man, finds such behavior offensive and tries to care for the mother, but doesn''t get too involved. He stays focused on his task of fixing the aqueduct.

As a reader, we know that Vesuvius is a ticking time bomb. The story starts two days before the eruption and ends the day afterwards. But those living in the pleasant towns along the coastline have no idea of their fate. The mountain has always been dormant. Twenty years earlier there was a great earthquake (which destroyed and created a real estate opportunity in Pompeii, but no one had connected the earthquake to the volcano. Pliny and Attilius are both men interested in observing nature. As the story unfolds, they both began to have their suspicions as to what''s happening. To help the reader understand what is occurring inside the volcano, Harris begins each chapter with a quote from scientific studies of volcanoes.

There is a surprise ending to the book and I won''t spoil it. As I got more into the story, I couldn’t put the book down, but had to keep reading. The author was able to hold my attention with a compelling story while providing information about the Roman world, the geology of the volcano, and the engineering of the water systems (which survived the eruption (they were on the opposite side of the mountain and were in use for another 400 years). And he''s also able to weave a love story into the pages of the book. I highly recommend this book.
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Mary M. Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Prepare to be wowed
Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2017
Whether you are into ancient history or not, this will wow you. Of course if you are, or have ever seen Vesuvius up close, it will wow you even more. I remember my own trip: Vesuvius was sitting there, perfectly quiet, but emitting a constant plume of smoke. As if to... See more
Whether you are into ancient history or not, this will wow you. Of course if you are, or have ever seen Vesuvius up close, it will wow you even more. I remember my own trip: Vesuvius was sitting there, perfectly quiet, but emitting a constant plume of smoke. As if to say: watch out. You never know what I will do next.
The engineer Attilius , who possesses far more honesty and integrity than anyone else in Pompeii, has his work cut out for him. The aqueduct is not flowing and he has to turn the water back on. This is much easier said than done. Especially when dealing with the totally corrupt ex-slave Ampliatus. (This creep is based on Trimalchio, a character in the original Satyricon, and if you have never read Trimalchio''s Feast, do so. It is a perfect description of having a lot more money than taste, and it is uproarious.)
Ampliatus regards investing on Pompeii as the perfect way to get rich quick. (Sure it is.) He even insists that by mid-day tomorrow, the water will be flowing in Pompeii. (That''s not all that will be flowing in Pompeii, Fool.) He will get what''s coming to him. Vesuvius will show him the mercy he showed his own slaves.
At the end, no one seems sure if Attilius and the daughter of Ampliatus, whom he loves, were among the survivors. I hope they were, that they had long and happy lives, and that their descendants are still among us.
33 people found this helpful
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L. Martin
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Gripping account of Vesuvius eruption from view of aqueduct engineer
Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2019
The massive eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 29 AD has captured the imagination of many writers. The entire city of Pompeii, situated at the volcano’s base, was buried in pumice and ash, people captured in action and their forms left hollowed in the magma after it set. Harris’... See more
The massive eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 29 AD has captured the imagination of many writers. The entire city of Pompeii, situated at the volcano’s base, was buried in pumice and ash, people captured in action and their forms left hollowed in the magma after it set. Harris’ story takes a different slant, from the viewpoint of an “aquarius” or aqueduct engineer, Attilius, sent to maintain the longest Roman aqueduct bringing water to the cities around the Bay of Neapolis. Problems develop quickly as fish die in farmed ponds and water smells of suphur. Attilius commands a reluctant crew and encounters a hostile foreman as he explores why the water is contaminated. Soon he hears that water to several bay cities has stopped flowing, and a crisis mounts. The procedures Attilius uses to find and repair damage to the aqueduct are fascinating, providing a gripping account of ancient Roman engineering and scientific sleuthing.

This multifaceted story weaves lives of several historic figures (Pliny, Pomponianus, Cascus, Rectina) with fictional characters in complex subplots revealing politics, corruption, societal mores, and ambitions. Attilius is honorable and strong, develops a mutually respectful relationship with Pliny, and gets involved in helping Corelia, feisty daughter of a powerful upstart running corrupt businesses in Pompeii. Action, dialogue, emotions, and reactions ring with truth and emotional impact. Suspense builds as more signals emanate from the volcano, but are not well understood until it’s too late. The lead-up and actual eruption are masterfully described, the awesome destruction and desperate struggles of people to survive are achingly intense. Attilius’ expertise as an aquarius becomes key to surviving.

Harris’ writing is outstanding and his shaping the story arc admirable. Use of contemporary curse words creates a bit of disconnect; perhaps Roman curses were not known. Solid background is artistically presented through short quotes at chapter beginnings from Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, Pliny’s Natural History, and Volcanology. Highly recommended for fans of authentic historical fiction with well-integrated technical details—especially the astonishing engineering marvels of Roman aqueducts.
4 people found this helpful
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Mr. Joe
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Living in the shadow of an Apocalypse
Reviewed in the United States on January 20, 2020
(Note: This reviewer lives 50 miles southwest of Mt. Rainier, which is considered the most dangerous active volcano in the United States because of its potential for loss of lives if it blows. Like Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., it stands solitary, tall, and dominant on the... See more
(Note: This reviewer lives 50 miles southwest of Mt. Rainier, which is considered the most dangerous active volcano in the United States because of its potential for loss of lives if it blows. Like Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., it stands solitary, tall, and dominant on the horizon.)

The historical novel POMPEII by Robert Harris is better than I thought it would be primarily because of the perspective and time frame by and over which the story is told.

The perspective is primarily that of Marcus Attilius Primus, the Roman engineer (“aquarius”) assigned by the imperial government to oversee the maintenance and operation of the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct providing water to towns and cities – including Pompeii – around the Bay of Naples. A map of the aqueduct is included.

The time frame is 4 days during August 79 A.D., the two leading up to the famous eruption of Vesuvius – days filled with portents and signs of the upcoming apocalypse …

“Immediately before an eruption, there may be a marked increase in the ratios of S/C, SO2/CO2, S/Cl, as well as the total amount of HCl … A marked increase in the proportions of mantle components is often a sign that magma has risen into a dormant volcano and that an eruption may be expected.” – from VOLCANOLOGY, as quoted in POMPEII

“As magma rises from depth, it undergoes a large pressure decrease. At a 10-meter depth, for example, pressures are about 300 megapascals (MPa), or 3,000 times the atmospheric pressure. Such a large pressure change has many consequences for the physical properties and flow of magma. – from ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VOLCANOES, as quoted in POMPEII

… the day of the eruption which rained pumice and ash down on Pompeii and the surrounding area …

“While rocks are extremely strong in compression, they are weak in tension (strengths of about 1.5 x 10e7 bars). Thus, the strength of the rocks capping a cooling and vesiculating magma body is easily exceeded long before the magma is solid. Once this happens, an explosive eruption occurs.” – from VOLCANOES: A PLANETARY PERSPECTIVE, as quoted in POMPEII

“… the thermal energy released during the A.D. 79 eruption would have been roughly 2 x 10e18 joules – or about 100,000 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.” – from DYNAMICS OF VOLCANISM, as quoted in POMPEII

… and the day after the initial blast during which Pompeii and Herculaneum were dealt final death blows (and loss of lives) by pyroclastic flows.

“There comes a point when so much magma is being erupted so quickly that the eruption column density becomes too great for stable convection to persist. When this condition prevails, column collapse takes place, generating pyroclastic flows and surges, which are far more lethal than tephra fall. “– from VOLCANOES: A PLANETARY PERSPECTIVE, as quoted in POMPEII

POMPEII assigns the four days into Parts 1-4. Each part is divided into chapters, each corresponding to an hour on the clock during that day. Each Part is headed by a quote from a work on volcanism which is subsequently woven into the plot in the chapters. The tension builds as the signs and portents during days one and two reveal themselves.

As POMPEII begins, Attilius must ascertain why the water supply (via the Aqua Augusta) to Misenum (at the far western end of the Bay of Naples shoreline) has suddenly reduced to a trickle and smells of sulfur. Based on reports from the other cities supplied by the aqueduct, he suspects a break in the underground watercourse north of Vesuvius and sets out to locate and repair the damage.

There is, not surprisingly, subplots involving a damsel in distress and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the aquarius that Attilius was sent to replace.

Another main character in the story is Pliny the Elder, a naturalist and natural philosopher who, at the time of the eruption, was the admiral commanding the Roman fleet home ported at Misenum. POMPEII is apparently largely reliant upon the only eyewitness account to survive, i.e. a letter to the historian Tacitus by Pliny the Younger – the nephew of Pliny the Elder – in which he describes what he personally witnessed as well as an account of his uncle’s death in the fourth day’s pyroclastic flow when it struck the town of Stabiae south of Pompeii.

Pompeii is a riveting account of what it must have been like to experience the Vesuvius apocalypse. It’s a must read for anyone interested in volcanism, or just anyone wishing to enjoy a well-written thriller.

And Mt. Rainier ever looms large.
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kylewells1315
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great Historical value
Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2015
The book was very informative for a work of historical fiction. The insights into Pompeii every day life and ancient Roman life in general. One of the fascinating aspects of the story of Vesuvius and Pompeii is that ancient life was preserved in a way that is so pristine.... See more
The book was very informative for a work of historical fiction. The insights into Pompeii every day life and ancient Roman life in general. One of the fascinating aspects of the story of Vesuvius and Pompeii is that ancient life was preserved in a way that is so pristine. It offers a unique view of Ancient Rome lifestyle and even political lifestyle. Robert Harris does an effective job translating the actual minutia of Roman life in Pompeii and explaining the background of the eruption. Taking the viewpoint of the keeper of the aqueduct is a unique touch that helps make the story more personal.

The reason I only gave 3 stars out of 5 is that I feel the ending of the story, while perhaps efficiently closing off all the story threads, seemed rushed to me. There was a lot of build up as far as relationships and even Pliny the older and younger''s viewpoint during the story, but it seemed to me Harris took the easy way out to sum up the conclusion of the story in a way that took up as little amount of pages as possible. This was disappointing to me. Otherwise, this was a very well written, well researched book that delivered in openign insight into a fascinating event in history.
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Eve StarrTop Contributor: Crochet
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I liked it, but I''m pretty nerdy for Roman history...
Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2018
I was a Robert Harris fan from Fatherland and Enigma on, but I missed reading Pompeii. It''s the last couple of days before the eruption, which I didn''t like. I would have preferred a much longer book and time to limn the characters more clearly. But, I did enjoy... See more
I was a Robert Harris fan from Fatherland and Enigma on, but I missed reading Pompeii.
It''s the last couple of days before the eruption, which I didn''t like. I would have preferred a much longer book and time to limn the characters more clearly.
But, I did enjoy it. The point of view of the young Aquarius (literally in charge of the aquaducts bringing adequate safe water to the main cities of the Italian peninsula.) and the clues that the tremors that Pompeiians are Neapolitans are so accustomed to just might be a repeat of an eruption that leveled much of Pompeii 17 years earlier. (The episode of Dr. Who is pretty dead-on historically, with superstitious oracles and household gods convincing the populace that they are protected.)

There was a bit of the story that included Pliny the Elder, who did not survive the eruption (his writings were saved by his son and slaves) and one of the first to coin the word "volcano". It was said that Vulcan resided on Vesuvius.

I now appreciate the miracle of aquaducts, the sad fact that human nature veers toward denial in the face of facts, and that we''re not any different as a society, despite education.

So, if you''re a Roman history nerd, a geologist, or just curious about aquaducts, you''ll enjoy the last two days of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
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Book Lover
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
So it’s a thumbs-up from a history geek, and for anyone that likes an investigation story.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 20, 2017
It’s a pretty interesting story of the last few days of Pompeii before Vesuvius blew, while also following a murder mystery; the new aquarius is trying to work out what happened to his predecessor while also dodging the hostility of the local landowners, navigating social...See more
It’s a pretty interesting story of the last few days of Pompeii before Vesuvius blew, while also following a murder mystery; the new aquarius is trying to work out what happened to his predecessor while also dodging the hostility of the local landowners, navigating social situations and trying to work out what on earth is killing fish and draining the fountains. I love the accuracy of the escalation; the local people really did have little idea of what was happening, and Harris has certainly done his research; I find it terrifying that people came back after that first initial blast, thinking it was just another quake, and then got killed by the pyroclastic flow that engulfed and preserved the city. The lives of the characters, although fictional, have enough tiny details to make the book fascinating and the story definitely readable. So it’s a thumbs-up from a history geek, and for anyone that likes an investigation story.
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TallyCat
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Cracking story of Vesuvius
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 13, 2018
A crew of men are trying to find a breech in a water pipe. Doesn''t sound like a 5* read, does it? But this crew is led by Marcus Attilius, the aquarius for the Aqua Augustus which feeds water to the whole of the Bay of Naples, and the tainted water is now running out. They...See more
A crew of men are trying to find a breech in a water pipe. Doesn''t sound like a 5* read, does it? But this crew is led by Marcus Attilius, the aquarius for the Aqua Augustus which feeds water to the whole of the Bay of Naples, and the tainted water is now running out. They trace the breech to just above Pompeii and work hard overnight to get it fixed. But before they can get home, Vesuvius erupts and all hell is let loose. A terrific menacing book with great characters, made all the better because the reader knows what they don''t. Pliny, who is a character in the book, wrote an account of the progress of the earthquake and so you feel you are witnessing it first hand.
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maverickandgoose
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Puts you in Pompeii in AD79
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 31, 2020
Having read the bulk of Robert Harris’s work, I can confirm he is the master of blending fact with fiction in a totally seamless fashion. Having just recently completed the Cicero trilogy and an Officer and a Spy (a cracking read), I wasn’t disappointed with Pompeii. The...See more
Having read the bulk of Robert Harris’s work, I can confirm he is the master of blending fact with fiction in a totally seamless fashion. Having just recently completed the Cicero trilogy and an Officer and a Spy (a cracking read), I wasn’t disappointed with Pompeii. The author successfully places the reader in the edge of the eruption, whilst continuing to develop the plot line. The one thing I have noticed from reading his novels, Robert Harris isn’t one of ‘they all lived happily ever after’ breed of writers, preferring instead for the reader to imagine their own finale.
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Fengirl
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
In spite of the very strong language.......
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 3, 2018
........used among the goups of men, it HAS to be 5 stars This was a book which I really didn''t want to stop reading, the imagery was brilliant - you could almost smell the sulphur in the air and the fear of the people as they faced the unknown. The picture of what life was...See more
........used among the goups of men, it HAS to be 5 stars This was a book which I really didn''t want to stop reading, the imagery was brilliant - you could almost smell the sulphur in the air and the fear of the people as they faced the unknown. The picture of what life was like before the eruption as very vivid and slightly embarrasing with its greed and generosity, indulgence and hardship, courage and cowardice - has anything changed? And finally, the aftermath of the destruction with its confusion, loss and bewilderment - all cleverly portrayed. Just loved it :-)
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Neil Carmichael
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
laborious and contrived
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2019
I really wanted to enjoy this book, as I have with most of Harris''s stories. The Cicero trilogy is superb. This on the other hand by concentrating on an obscure imagined character and spinning plots and romance around him doesn''t convince. The best part of the book is the...See more
I really wanted to enjoy this book, as I have with most of Harris''s stories. The Cicero trilogy is superb. This on the other hand by concentrating on an obscure imagined character and spinning plots and romance around him doesn''t convince. The best part of the book is the description of the eruption itself where Harris uses all his skills to transport the reader to the scene, but the rest of the yarn is too contrived and improbable to carry you with it.
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