In Justinian's Flea, William Rosen tells the story of history's first pandemic - a plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left a path of victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, Rosen offers a sweeping narrative of one of the great hinge moments in history, one that will appeal to readers of John Kelly's The Great Mortality, John Barry's The Great Influenza, and Jared Diamond's Collapse.
©2007 William Rosen; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
Although I expected a boring narrative about the plague, this is a far better than expected execution to a fairly straight forward topic, instead of a narrowed down analysis to the plague of 540 ad, the book gave us the whole contextual narrative, the after effects, the long term impact and microorganic history. I am pleased with the execution; The author has managed to make the book interesting.
Avid history and fiction/non-fiction fan.
This is not a book about the plague, but more, a book about how the plague impacted Roman history until the empire's final end. The author gives incredible detail to the stories behind the actions which brought Y.Pestus to Roman shores. Even if the reader has only a slight knowledge of late Roman history, they will be well supported in their understanding. A good read for the history and plague buff.
This is the worst reader I have come across in the many years I have been purchasing audible books!
Avoid him at all costs.
Read the book in hard copy, it was interesting.
. . . but oh my, the narration. Sounds like some sort of smoking cessation tape you put on before falling asleep. At first I thought I'd never make it through to the end. After a half hour, or so, you can get used to the narrator and start enjoying the book. No doubt a 4 to 5 star book, in written form.
I love history and looked forward listening to this story. The title was intriguing. Then the reality hit me: deadly boring. The writer tries to cramp whole centuries in one story and the narrator just spouts fact, figures, names, and places in a monotonous toon. After the first 40 minutes, I tried skipping forward in the hope to reach the real flea story. Didn't happen. This is the first book, of my 240 books, that I didn't finish. Not worth my money.
The story itself is great and Rosen seems to have written a very complete narrative about the reign of Justinian and the effects of the plague on Rome. Whitener is so absolutely boring and monotone that he makes listening to a good story difficult to say the least.
Linear Historical Briefing
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Outline of History - The Fabric of the Cosmos,because it provides a living, breathing story of Goths, Huns, Romans in a linear story with the precision of a Physicist peeling the mystery of the Universe - from string to that other unseen, a Multiverse.
He knew the story, spoke the language, gave the feel of excitement of a scale of battle we rarely if ever have known, intrigue, and human suffering living in bacterium in the gut of a flea riding the rat from Egypt to every boat, barn and castle across the Roman Empire.
No... maybe respect. Lots of respect and a well done with the weaving of a great unseeable disaster into a story that should teach us what to expect - when we least expect - and to wake up to what we are; as Richard Dawkins wrote, 'self replicating molecules that accumulated survival machines and were emancipated by language... and now we realize we are vulnerable to other self replicating machines... Asimov said it best; We are matter contemplating itself.
Good story, well told, worth the time to listen and learn from that parallel universe we call The Roman Empire; they were us in another time.
There are those books that simply do not lend themselves to being audio books, this is one of them. Page after page after page on the internal workings of a flea and the bacterium that inhabit its stomach are actually fascinating but the information is so heavy that one need be able to flip back and review earlier pages; indeed a few bookmarks would be helpful. With an audio book this is extremely difficult.
The hard copy of the book has several maps which are useful, something which again one loses in the audio format.
Further, the litany of names and places that are necessary in this volume are made easier to remember, in the hard copy, through the presence of an index; without one it is easy to get lost. I found myself need to relistening to several chapters in an effort to ensure the correct placement of personages and places.
Given the above I would not recommend this book. Read it by all means but do not listen to it.
First, I buy anything read by Garrett Whitener. Just listening to him read regardless of the text is a joy. As far as this particular book goes, it's all in the inifinite details. There is a theory about the large sweep of history but you have to see it yourself (although it is revealed at the end in case you didn't see it). If you don't like details this isn't the book for you. I've gone back many times to listen in particular to the chapter on the flea itself and the life cycle of the Black Plague vector. I can certainly understand that reviews of the book are binary - you like it a lot or you don't a lot. I like it a lot - a whole lot.
I suppose Justinian's wife although Whitener does Roman generals beautifully too.
If you don't like this book I recommend you look for others read by Whitener that you may like. He is the all time best reader in my opinion and he does read books of many different genre.
Popular history should combine scholarly detail and diverting anecdote while making it clear which is which. The book accomplishes this very well. My only quibble is that, while the author deals with the plague in historical and biological depth, it is not the major focus of the book - which is really an overview of Justinian's reign and accomplishments.
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