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Posted June 24, 2009
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Historical Fiction at its best.
When a person writes a book on history they need to stick to the facts. It is that plain and simple. Simply stated, there is TOO MUCH IMAGINATION in this book for me to consider it history. Caesar's Legion is a well written military story about the tenth legion, but a story. I would recommend this book for anyone willing to learn the bare facts, and I mean the bare facts. I could have looked all of this information up online and written a very simliar book of my own. I hold authors of history books to a higher standard because they need to write about what actually happened, not conjecture on their own part. Its obvious after reading this book that the author has done nothing more than copy and paste from the ancient sources. I on the other hand love a good fight and a good story so I'm going to recommend this book to the amatuer military historian [Everyone else should rent or borrow the book if they intend to read it] and move on.
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Posted July 22, 2002
Disappointing--yet with so much potential . . .
This is a one book I really wanted to enjoy. It has all the hallmarks of a classic--a history with Caesar at its center, a unit history from ancient Rome, a fine production job, and pre- and post-production hype. Unfortunately, Dando-Collins' effort, while worthwhile in many respects, falls far short of its stated goals.<p> First, 'Caesar's Legion' offers good information on the X legion and others not found elsewhere (yes, there are some mistakes, but everyone makes a few forgivable errors), and its history after the death of Caesar, if thinly presented, is worthwhile. The book includes above-average theater maps (tactical maps would have been very helpful), and the appendices on the naming and numbering of the legions, reenlistment issues, and so forth were very interesting. The discussion of the primary sources was also enlightening.<p> However, the hype and book title do not mesh with the final written product. The publisher claims this book is both an 'unprecedented regimental history' and an 'extraordinarily detailed history.' It is neither, although it attempts to be both--and therein lies its inherent problem and my sincere disappointment. 'Caesar's Legion' is at best a loosely presented general history (with breathtaking gaps in coverage and analysis, and enough leaps of faith to qualify as good historical fiction) of Caesar's rise to power and campaigns. It masquerades as a regimental history only because the author weaves in a semi-regular sprinkling of information about the X Legion (and many others, for that matter). Hence the problem: there is not enough scholarly information (and understandably so) on a single legion to boldly shout from the rooftops that this book is a unit history. And, the overall coverage (strategic and tactical) of Caesar's campaigns is weak and often shallowly written so that it pales in comparison with many other works on Caesar that have recently hit the shelves (Ramon Jimenez's outstanding pair of studies, 'Caesar Against the Celts,' and 'Caesar Against Rome,' both of which are head and shoulders better than 'Caesar's Legion,' leap immediately to mind).<p> The second eyebrow-raiser centers on the author's inability to apply critical reason and analysis to Caesar's (and other modern historians') accounts of his campaigns--especially in Gaul. Numbers and losses are routinely (though not always) accepted at face value. It is painfully obvious that Dando-Collins has never read (or understood) Hans Delbrück, whose first volume in his four-volume epic is still the definitive work on Caesar's campaigns. Delbruck is not even mentioned in the bibliography (nor is Jimenez and many other scholarly works, for that matter). That should have convinced me to place this title back on the shelf.<p> Lastly, the writing ebbs and flows in quality. In places the storytelling is excellent--well paced, well-written, and very interesting. Then, without warning it sags, slows, and swamps itself with flip-flops between the active and passive voice, poorly constructed sentences, and other similar problems. The most irksome technique employed by the author is his habitual use of the word 'would,' followed by a story line that accepts the author's premise. For example, Caesar 'would have had intelligence that Pompey was keeping large amounts of stores . . .' (p. 96). Why not just write 'Caesar had intelligence that Pompey . . ' I gave up after counting about three dozen similar examples. The manuscript's editor was AWOL on this and similar issues. Similarly, although Dando-Collins explains in the introduction why he decided to use modern ranks, it simply does not work and interrupts the flow of his narrative.<p> I know how difficult it is to write a book (I have written, edited, or ghost-written more than a dozen), and so I rarely comment on another's labors. 'Caesar's Legion,' however, could have been so much better than it is (the author spent three decades researching Roman legions) that I fe
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