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Editor reviews

Stanley Kubrick might have given Spartacus it’s widespread fame, but the historical novel by Howard Fast from where it originated was perhaps even more moving, when you consider the circumstances that inspired it. Through the tension and censorship of the McCarthy Era, Fast developed this passionate story of freedom and hope in the face of oppression and slavery. Accomplished actor, Julian Elfer, gives a strong and energetic performance, bringing to life all the anguish and action of Spartacus, Crassus, and their loyal legions. Though focusing on a society that has long since disappeared, Fast’s Spartacus highlights the important and timeless lesson of keeping political systems in check.

Summary

Spartacus, a fictionalization of a slave revolt in ancient Rome in 71 BC, is well known today because of the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier. It was originally published in 1951 by Fast himself, after being turned down by every mainstream publisher of the day because of Fast's blacklisting for his Communist Party sympathies. The story of Spartacus, born a slave, trained as a gladiator, who led a slave revolt that was eventually put down by Crassus, was immensely popular and went on to sell millions of copies.

©1951 Howard Fast (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Spartacus

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Not what I expected

I was expecting blood & guts & battles; there was almost none of this. Large parts are about Roman nobles, soldiers and leaders (and to a lesser extent their slaves). It’s more than two hours in before Spartacus even gets a significant mention.
The lives of slaves, including gladiators, forms a large part but there are no big battle scenes.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book but some may prefer an abridged version if one exists.

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Great listen sadly still apt for the time we're in

Really great story. Unfortunately it's still very apt for the times we live in. thought provoking, well worth a listen.

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Good story. well told.

enjoyed it very much. Was disappointed when it finished. Can picture the characters in the film as I read. Not a bad thing.

1 person found this helpful

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Blood and Defiance!

I was handed this novel to read almost forty years ago as a young student aged seventeen, as part of the English Literature syllabus for O Level. It was the first truly adult novel I'd read, and its fascinating time structure, it's incredible characters and its sweeping themes gripped me. My incredible lecturer, Dave Roden, showed me its power, force and beauty and I have never forgotten the significance it had for me. Several years later, I was reading English at university. I've never stopped loving books.
I came across this audiobook because I haven't, in all truth, read the book since my teens - but what a treat it was. It is beautifully read and brought the story to life in a way that text on a page doesn't do. It is exciting, touching and dramatic and transports you to a world of superficial order and justice which, you learn, exists only because of its hideous brutality. Men are tortured and butchered for the amusement of the rich - until a man stands up and fights it,
I would urge anyone and everyone to listen to it. Unmissable.

1 person found this helpful

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Spartacus. We are all Spartacus!

Having seen the iconic movie, most of us will know its story, though it is told in a different sequence and from various character’s perspectives in the book. The slave revolt is already over and we are examining the reflections of the protagonists after the fact. It is compelling, regardless, largely due to the eloquence of its deceptively simple prose and the fascinating insights we get into the minds of the characters involved.

The poignancy of the novel is all the more loaded when one learns that Howard Fast began writing it whilst serving time at the hands of Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch hunters, despite having already broken with the Communist Party, for refusing to name names.

Exploring the condition of slavery as a state of mind as much as one of physical bondage, the achievement of the writer is to put the reader firmly into the mindset of the slave. How do people keep going when all hope is lost? How can the human spirit transcend the most dehumanising hardships, whilst retaining their sense of identity? How does a slave find meaning and purpose in survival, let alone the will to draw their next breath?

It is impossible not to see ourselves in the sandals of Spartacus whilst we are interrogated by these and other questions. We are compelled to empathise by the skill of the writing. And, by examining the definition of slavery, we are forced to address uncomfortable questions about what it is that makes slaves out of those who otherwise think of themselves as free.

It is easy to see why the novel was a best seller despite the best (worst) efforts of the FBI and the direct interventions of the now infamous J Edgar Hoover, regardless of one’s personal politics.

Narrated ably enough, if slightly flatly, some listeners may have to forgive the occasional mispronunciation, which is only irksome upon repetition. But the story, world building, compelling characters and the truly great writing far outweigh any small shortcomings in the narration.

A little of Spartacus is in all of us in some way or another, so the book argues at least. And the condition of slavery is not necessarily simply one of violence and brutality, but one that can creep into our lives under the guise of tradition, politics, history and inherited circumstances. By better understanding the definition of slavery, we are forced into uncomfortable reflections about how easily we can all become slaves ourselves. And that is what I thought was the master stroke of this book. Without ever preaching, or even being as didactic as a George Orwell novel, the author makes his point through sheer rollicking story telling. One for the ages.

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The old story

Brilliant book much better than the original film. If you have watched the film then listen to this book

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Not what I expected

I thought this book would be a blow by blow account of Spartacus. I didn’t expect a review on his life. It is very good however and I highly recommend it.

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Homo erotic yet weirdly homophobic

Some passages are absolutely stunning but much of it reads more as a manifesto than a novel. I enjoyed it over all. A sticking point though is that the author can’t seem to get enough of men’s bodies but sadly equates homosexuality with immorality. Still probably the gayest book I’ve ever read - just wish wish the author could have admitted that to himself rather than condemning it.

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  • Jose
  • 16-10-20

WoW that was the Best Audiobook Ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I loved the movie, but this book was not about battles and very different than the movie. It is about the Human Condition and what we do with the brief time we have on Earth. It does very well with character development. You can see these people in your mind's eye. The narrator, the revealed thoughts, and the dialogue are extremely meaningful. It is a spiritual journey of the human condition without God. I thought the whole thing simply amazing and it is hard to put into words. It also is really about modern times and not the past, and our need for purpose and justification. This was the only flawless audiobook I have read because it had a deep meaning that goes to the heart of life and ideals that give life meaning.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Barbara F. Hendren
  • 10-11-20

No Plot

I listened for 1 1/2 hours and had to stop because I was so bored. The book was slow paced, has no discernible plot, and seems to focus on ancient Roman atrocities and vices. Don’t waste your time.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Nikki
  • 17-11-17

Favorite read of 2017

Gripping. Compelling. Couldn’t recommend more highly. I was thoroughly engrossed in the narrative and meta narrative.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Kdmd
  • 31-07-17

Just great!

Loved every minute! Beautiful, violent story that swept me up in the Roman slave revolt. Great story, narration and performance!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jim
  • 12-02-21

Problems with narration

The reader was potentially a very good reader, but he would go from almost a very soft whisper to very loud. I spent a good deal of time going back to try and hear the whispered parts. Very annoying. The story was OK, but I remember the movie being better. That's rare for me. Usually the book is better. It was very interesting to note the perspective of the author. His views of ancient Rome were from a decidedly communist perspective. I will admit I dont know enough about ancient Rome to challenge the author's view, but I do wonder if the wealth and power of the empire was built solely on the backs of laborer and slave labor. Where the aristocracy did nothing but idle their days away (sounding very much like 19th century British aristocrats). Maybe, but interesting from the view of an admitted communist. To me it was also fascinating that his description of the ideal man, Spartacus, was very much like Jesus as described in the gospel of John. A pure and worthy human being, not about power over people, but about love, and worth, and the value of human life.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-03-19

Thought provoking....

First I read it, then I listened to it. Now, the story of this simple man is part of my life. Thank you, Howard Fast.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Brandon Marcel
  • 27-05-21

turgid and self congratulatory

The author made a point of putting forth his Communist bona fides from the start which making it only three chapters in kept wearing on me. The style is not particularly flowing or enjoyable

1 person found this helpful

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  • Maya
  • 19-12-20

great classic

beautifull and eppic story. a classic book. loved it very much. the narrator is very good.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Booklover127
  • 17-11-21

Incredible Book!

I found this to be a valuable listen, very thought provoking and deep. Masterfully written, and beautifully narrated!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-21

Absolutely gut wrenchingly magnificent.

So good I'm reading it now too. Profound, human, shocking, beautiful. Politically relevant. Spiritually inspiring. A masterpiece.