If you liked Overly Sarcastic Productions’ video on Alcibiades (“Still handsome!”), Victor Davis Hanson’s military history book Ripples of Battle has about one-third of the story devoted to the Battle of Delium (424 B.C.) and its fallout, with a significant section all about Alcibiades, his courage in that battle, and the disastrous fallout for Athens for decades later as he rode that reputation into politics and then multiple double-triple-crosses of everything and everyone. Yikes.
The same battle also affected world history in a myriad of ways, from the philosophy of Socrates (who fought in that battle and survived) to the development of military tactics beyond “line up a bunch of guys with spears and try to kill each other”. Interesting stuff.
From a purely aesthetic point of view, the book also has the first photograph I’ve ever seen of William Tecumseh Sherman. The guy looks like he could have starred in a major Hollywood action movie. A very Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood sort of vibe. Add that to the discussion of the Battle of Shiloh, which led to Sherman’s March through Georgia, and why he did it (something that tends to be glossed over in high school history classes, plus another third of the book devoted to the Battle of Okinawa and its fallout, and there is a lot of interesting stuff in this book.
As writers we try to spin a web of “little events set the protagonist on a journey whose Dramatic Outcome is surprising – but It Had To Be That Way, given the situation and people involved”. Hanson’s book takes three historical battles and shows how their effects rippled out decades, even centuries later. Any of which could be woven into thousands of stories – and has been, over the course of history. It’s the kind of deep background you want your fantastic world to have, so readers get a sense of not just what’s being fought over, but why, and how did things end up this way in the first place?
Warning, the stuff on Okinawa is realistic – meaning in places gruesome, and almost unbearably sad. But if you want to build in a clash of horribly different cultures and morals to your world, it’s worth a read.
(Review: 5 out of 5 stars, because thoughtful and awesome with lots of sprinkles of “I didn’t know that!”)