PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)Ravenna is more than sufficient to explain why someone such as Vilgard was, as late as the year 1000, not an aberration but a distinctively Ravennese figure. The city, Herrin argues, was the truest crucible of Europe: an erstwhile imperial capital where many of the influences that would come to shape medieval Christendom met to peculiarly potent effect. Herrin’s claims for Ravenna are both sweeping and convincing ... Notoriously problematic though these issues are, they are ones that Herrin has spent a distinguished career studying, and which Ravenna brilliantly serves to elucidate. Year by year, century by century, she teases out answers by tracking the course of change ... While there is no lack of drama in her narrative, the real excitement lies in the unexpected light it sheds on reaches of history that otherwise might seem confused and lost to darkness.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Toby Wilkinson’s new history of the golden age of Egyptology is also very much a history of western willy-waving ... Over the course of his fluent and entertaining narrative, the explorations and excavations of archaeologists are always placed firmly in the context of great power politics ... Wilkinson, framing Champollion’s character and achievements against the backdrop of French colonial ambitions, does not hesitate to frame them as well against the almost complete lack of interest shown by Egyptians in the antiquities of their country ... The challenge faced by Champollion, of negotiating a tension between a buried past and an uncertain future, did not end with him, however ... Wilkinson has a talent for vignette, and by sketching how different scholars and archaeologists negotiated the demands of their infant discipline he succeeds as well in creating a consistently fascinating gallery of characters.
RaveThe Spectator (UK)Cartledge, matching his unrivaled command of the complex, fragmentary and often contradictory sources to his talents as a storyteller, traces the arc of the Theban story as well as anyone is likely to trace it ... The great value of Cartledge’s book is that it enables us to see Thebes at long last, not as Athens saw her, but as the Thebans themselves did.
RaveFinancial TimesA History of the Bible may be written for a less academic audience than his previous works, but Barton remains the scholar that he ever was ... Between apologists for Christianity and atheists contemptuous of its claims, between those resolved to substantiate the claims of scripture and those no less anxious to tear them down, he steers a middle course ... Barton’s book is an achievement in the finest tradition of Anglicanism: learned, mild-mannered and quietly anxious about the challenges of reconciling skepticism with faith ... While A History of the Bible is certainly a readable book, it is rarely a thrilling one. Moderate in its opinions, it is also moderate in its style.
Michael J. Benton
RaveThe Guardian (UK)I defy anyone who is, like me, a non-scientist to read it and not feel a sense of wonder at what palaeontologists now understand ... Benton\'s excitement...is engagingly articulated ... his achievement is to make [dinosaurs] in his book appear far more real as living organisms than anything that might be achieved by CGI ... Nothing better illustrates the change in our understanding of dinosaurs than the discovery of why they went extinct ... Benton is excellent on...these recent developments, but he is most interesting of all on an unsolved puzzle. We know where the dinosaurs went, but how and when did they originate?
RaveThe Guardian\"Like The Time Machine or Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Wall packs its punch by extrapolating a terrifying future from present trends ... As an attempt to dramatise an existential threat that seems impossible for humanity properly to conceptualise, The Wall is a signal achievement. Lanchester’s talents as a novelist – his judicious blending of realism and metaphor, his remarkable ability to render tedium gripping, and his mastery of narrative tension – have been put to estimable use. The result is a novel that ranks alongside Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and the oeuvre of Kim Stanley Robinson as a fictional meditation on what climate change may mean for the planet ... [the] novel is so unsettling precisely because it goes so effectively with the grain of contemporary fears...\
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...the real triumph of Dictator is how successfully it channels what is perhaps the supreme fascination of ancient Rome: the degree to which it is at once eerily like our own world and yet profoundly alien.