I just finished reading Spartacus, by Howard Fast just a few moments ago...wow, what a compelling look into humanity, particularly into Roman civilzation and slavery.
I must first say I never have seen the Kirk Douglas/Lawrence Olivier movie, produced in the 60's. I picked up the book only because I saw it on the shelf labeled staff picks at the Orem Library and thought it would be intresting. It was.
The beginning is a bit slow--the author does need to set the tone and he does so compellingly. I was a bit embarrased in the protrayals of homosexuality, but realized the author is attempting to show a facet of the Roman decadene. He dives into the society, unapologetically, and thankfully his narrative is not in the least bit as dry as a history lesson. In fact the method of delivery, one of retrospect and memory counterposed with live action (and delivered vis-a-vis by several charaters) is refreshing.
We see both sides of the coin of slavery, and I realized from the introduction, that Fast wrote it partially as allegory for our modern day "Romanesque country", America. He was considered to be one who fraternized with Communists, and was even imprisioned by the FBI in the 50's. If anything for me, this lent a more natural feel to the book.
My words are mere comments, the language and spell of the book stand on their own. The internal dialogue of David the Jew, the internal dialogue of Spartacus, and the transformation of Gracchus all were quite fantastic.
If I may sum up a master work in a few terse words I will say the book is compelling. It compells one to consider the vastness of the Roman empire which was built by generations of slaves. It paintes clearly the hundreds of years of conquest, of enforcing Roman law and order, and of the supression required to build up an empire. Rome destroyed millions of people to make itself.
This is truly an amazing work, and not in the least amoral (as I had initially thought--I do believe the author cast some moments quite luridly to peoperly set tone for the type of people we were reading about). Per the author, FDR apparently reused to allow it to be published, as the author was labeled a Communist, and he had some ulterior motive. I will admit the message of the story is a bit idealogical, a sort of "run away and join a commune and sing koombaiyah and share everything" feel to it, but the other message is quite clear. Man is meant to be free. And for that picture, the book is exceptional.