In the brilliantly imagined first-person voice of Alexander the Great, acclaimed novelist Steven Pressfield brings to life his epic battles, his unerring command of his forces, and the passions and ambitions that drove him. A full-blooded, multi-dimensional portrait, The Virtues of War captures Alexander's complex character. No one tells of battles as brilliantly as Pressfield, and here he vividly describes the seminal conflicts of Alexander's career, revealing the tactics behind them and capturing the blood, heat, and terror of the battlefield.
©2004 Steven Pressfield; (P)2004 Books on Tape, Inc.
(I give a good book 3 stars out of 5, so 4 out of 5 means very good!)
This book isn't quite what I expected, but it is still well worth a listen.
What it's not is historical fiction in the more traditional format - the narrative moves around quite a bit, and unless you are already familiar with Alexander's battles and wider story, you'll struggle to keep pace.
But I don't think it's trying to be that type of historical fiction. What it is - and does very well - is re-create the main battles that he fought and won. Each account lasts well over an hour, really drawing the listener in to the action. The rest of the book is more like a first person diary of key moments in Alexander's life, and why he made the decisions he did. There are several speeches included - I'm not sure how closely they resemble what we already know, but they certainly felt atmospheric.
A very minor criticism would be that the narrator - whilst giving good pace to the story and keeping the listener engaged throughout - pronounced one or two names very differently to the recognised format. Perhaps there's no way of knowing how these should sound! But it did throw me a bit....
Overall, it's excellent at re-creating the military aspects of Alexander's conquests, and explaining what drove him ever further forward. Highly recommended if you are already familiar with the Alexander story.
"Pressfield the Prodigy"
For the modern reader, looking to gain insight to ancient military science without a lifetime of study (and on a recreational timeline), I can recommend no better work than "The Virtues of War." The combination of strategy and spectacle, tactics and entertainment found in this novel have few equals in the genre of historical fiction.
Furthermore, never has there been a more romanticized historical character than Alexander of Macedon, recreated in so many works of fiction which range from slanderous to sycophantic, it becomes impossible to single out where the historical accuracy truly lies. This novel creates an Alexander, that for the first time in all the works involving this historical paradigm of a person that I've read, in which I actually believed the character could have achieved what the real man actually did.
Pressfield is a prodigy of historical insight, constantly lusting to relive these ancient moments himself, that he brings the reader along for a ride so palpable each of us feels like a veteran just off campaign once we put the book down. I've been a Pressfield fan for years now, and I thoroughly enjoyed both The Gates of Fire, as well as the less popular Tides of War, but I can say without conviction that "Virtues" is Pressfield's masterpiece. There are vast campaign details which may frustrate the reader interested purely in the fiction. But for others like myself, looking to combine the historical account with insight and tangibility only possible in fiction, I can recommend no better work than "The Virtues of War."
I cannot say enough about this book. Pressfield is excellent. If you like historical fiction, if you like detailed battle descriptions that do not depend on gore, if you like the feel like you are actually in the culture and time of the characters, this is a book to get.
"the virtues of Steven Pressfield"
I don't know Pressfield so easily carries this book off - bringing a ancient character such as Alexander the Great" so long in grave once again to "life" - and extraordinarily so through this exploration in first person no less is not mean feat. And this is an outstanding read by a very fine reader. A must for those of us, especially, who "read" Bernard Cornwell, etc!
"Rare and beautiful book"
Having read both of this author's works available on Audible, I am moved to highly recommend both. I am slowly, ever so carefully listening to Part 2 of Virtues of War because when it is over, there will be a week of searching around for something remotely as compelling as this book. The battle scenes are fascinating as are the character studies in each book. This book reminds me of a classic called "Bitter Lemons" by Lawrence Durrell because the character studies and the action are equally compelling. Cannot praise this book enough.
"Ready for DOOM III"
A factual recounting of the events of Alexander?s brief and brutal life told in the first person to an imagined page. The title is somewhat misleading in that when a book is called a ?novel? we generally expect a little character development, possibly a bit of dialog. What we get is a fictitious diary. The only character that emerges is that of Alexander, a charismatic, skilled and powerfully obsessed young man. If there was any virtue in war here, I failed to discover it ? unless it had something to do with self-realization through rape, pillage and the slaughter of all authority but one?s own. Even so, I recommend this book to anyone curious about what once lay in the cradle of western civilization. The narration is excellent, and despite the fact this is 12+ hours of Alexander justifying his life, the tale is seldom dull.
"Another opus from the master of historical fiction"
Stephen Pressfield is brilliant. I was brought to tears with his descriptions of Spartan life in the Gates of Fire. It was a book that I truely rued finishing. The Virtues of War is equally brilliant. This is history that you can touch. I found myself wandering the web looking for maps of Alexander's conquests. Pressfield helps you to understand what the unprecidented feats of Alexander the Great felt like from within his shoes. I recommend it without hesitation. On finishing it I immediately replayed it from start to finish.
"Another Outstanding account of Greek Leaders"
First, I am a big fan of Pressfield's. His real life narrator style of depicting historical events makes the reader feel alive and an active participant in the story. I got this book when Alexander was in the movies and this book was far better than the movie account of the life of Alexander the Great. If you enjoy history and are interested in learning about leadership from the world's great leaders then try this book. I don't think you'll be disapointed.
All I can say is Wow. Stephen Pressfield's books are always engrossing, but this one is absolutely riveting. Told from the perspective of Alexander the Great - you get amazing insight into the history of his rule and also into the possible persona of a great military leader. The book is intense, detailed, and a little disturbing, but forces you to really think about the psychology necessary to be a leader at Alexander's level.
Thank goodness for Pressfield. "The Virtues Of War" is a wonderful approach to the life of Alexander for those of us who neither wish to trudge through Plutarch nor be satisfied with the trivial and often silly films made about his life and conquests. Pressfield wisely presents this material as a diary of the Macedonian expeditionary campaign - fitting treatment for a man who spent his entire adult life at war. Battle arrays, force dispositions, squabbling generals and the demands of greatness are the nuts and bolts both of Alexander's life and Pressfield's book. The few dramatic liberties taken, all noted at the beginning, do not detract at all from the narrative, and John Lee's reading is a marvel of both energy and pronunciation.
I highly recommend "The Virtues Of War" to anyone seeking a deeper understand of the ancient world and the enigmatic character of Alexander the Great.
"Humanity and Strategy"
I am stunned at Pressfield's portrayal of Alexander the Great. It shows him as a vicious champion hell bent on victory, but also a man with a strict set of values that he would not let himself or any of his men violate. It shows the relation between passion and charisma. And through detailed (but still very engaging) description of field tactics, it shows the genius of the maneuvers that Alexander performed. Do you want to be a god? Read this book and ask Alexander. This is Pressfield doing what he does best.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.