November 3rd, 2013

mini-me

Book Review: 1453 by Roger Crowley

1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A very vividly written account of the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Crowley has a knack for vivid writing, and can really make you feel as though you were there.

Crowley is particularly good at explaining military tactics and the technology of warfare. And the technology of warfare was particularly remarkable at the time. For example, the Byzantines protected the entrance to the harbor of the Golden Horn by stringing a giant chain across the mouth of the harbor, preventing ships from entering. So, what did Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottomans, do when he couldn't break the chain? Well, he had his men carry a bunch of war galleys overland and rolled them into the water on the other side of the chain. I also hadn't known that the Ottomans were early adopters of field artillery. Crowley's description of how they forged immense cannon in an attempt to bring down Constantinople's land walls is fascinating. As is his description of how the defenders of the city made a virtue of necessity - when the Ottoman cannon smashed their stone walls, they rebuilt them as wooden palisades with dirt piled between them - which did a much better job of absorbing the impact of the cannon balls.

Overall, the book is a great read, both informative and suspenseful. Though, be warned, it is a book that will make you want to read lots of other books, starting with Crowley's Empires of the Sea, which appears to be something of a sequel to this one.





View all my reviews
eight_sarah

Audio Review: Doctor Who: The Witch from the Well

Doctor Who: The Witch from the Well (Big Finish Audio Drama, #154)Doctor Who: The Witch from the Well by Rick Briggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I had decidedly mixed feelings about this one. Some of the pluses: Mary Shelley continues to be just about the perfect Doctor Who companion, demonstrating an ideal blend of curiosity, resourcefulness, and fearlessness in the face of the unknown. I wish she could be a companion on the TV series. I enjoyed the two time-zone nature of the story. I know that lots of listeners have complained that it deprives us of Doctor/Mary interaction, but on the flip side, it gives Mary a chance to shine. I also quite enjoyed the characters of Beatrice and Agnes, who could both have easily been stock characters straight out of central casting, but who, thanks to some combination of the acting and the writing, really come alive.

Some of the minuses: The plot is only sustained by our heroes being idiots at key moments. It starts with the Doctor's willfully ignoring the signs that anything odd is going on with the twins. Not only is this rather at odds with his usual attitude towards new people, but you'd think that the Doctor would at least pick up on the hint that he's crossed his own timeline. When you write an 8th Doctor audio, you really don't get to pretend that he's unfamiliar with how time travel works. And then there's the long stretch of time during which the Doctor and Mary are separated in two different time zones, during which the listener is wondering when it will finally occur to her to use the fast-return switch which was carefully explained in episode 1.

On the whole, the pluses just outweigh the minuses for me, making this a reasonably entertaining if imperfect story.



View all my reviews