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Pompeii : a novel
2005
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Marcus Attilius Primus (Male), Engineer, Roman, Hydraulic engineer
Genre
Thriller
Fiction
Historical
Topics
Roman Empire
Engineering
Water rights
Corruption
Volcanoes
Disaster
Setting
Pompeii, Italy - Europe
Time Period
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

In the year 79 C.E., the resort town of Pompeii is home to more than 20,000 people. Rumors of isolated tremors and vaporous gases on the mountain circulate, but the last serious earthquake had occurred some 15 years earlier, residents reason. To boot, rebuilding projects from that disaster are nearing completion. Only one man sees cause for concern: Attilus, newly arrived from Rome to take charge of the massive aqueduct that supplies water to all the towns along the Bay of Naples. Told from his point of view, this latest novel by Harris (Archangel) not only depicts the people of the region and their tragic loss of life but also the immensely powerful forces of nature that shaped their lives and deaths. In spite of the inherent drama in the eruption of Vesuvius, there is a detached and analytical feel to the novel, appropriate to the scientific nature of the protagonist. However, rather than detracting from the novel, Attilus's observations and calculations add to the air of impending and unstoppable disaster. Readers who like their historical fiction well grounded in fact won't be able to put this down. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/03.]-Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In this fine historical by British novelist Harris (Archangel; Enigma; Fatherland), an upstanding Roman engineer rushes to repair an aqueduct in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which, in A.D. 79, is getting ready to blow its top. Young Marcus Attilius Primus becomes the aquarius of the great Aqua Augusta when its former chief engineer disappears after 20 years on the job. When water flow to the coastal town of Misenum is interrupted, Attilius convinces the admiral of the Roman fleet-the scholar Pliny the Elder-to give him a fast ship to Pompeii, where he finds the source of the problem in a burst sluiceway. Lively writing, convincing but economical period details and plenty of intrigue keep the pace quick, as Attilius meets Corelia, the defiant daughter of a vile real estate speculator, who supplies him with documents implicating her father and Attilius's predecessor in a water embezzlement scheme. Attilius has bigger worries, though: a climb up Vesuvius reveals that an eruption is imminent. Before he can warn anyone, he's ambushed by the double-crossing foreman of his team, Corvax, and a furious chase ensues. As the volcano spews hot ash, Attilius fights his way back to Pompeii in an attempt to rescue Corelia. Attilius, while possessed of certain modern attitudes and a respect for empirical observation, is no anachronism. He even sends Corelia back to her cruel father at one point, advising her to accept her fate as a woman. Harris's volcanology is well researched, and the plot, while decidedly secondary to the expertly rendered historic spectacle, keeps this impressive novel moving along toward its exciting finale. (Nov. 18) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Summary
BESTSELLER - "Terrific... gripping... A literally shattering climax." -- The New York Times Book Review <br> <br> All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire's richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world's largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.<br> <br> But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta' s sixty-mile main line--somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.<br> <br> Attilius--decent, practical, and incorruptible--promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work--both natural and man-made--threatening to destroy him.<br> <br> With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland , re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
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