Book Review by Ursus
Lindsay Powell is an historian and writer on the ancient world who regularly contributes to Ancient Warfare magazine, as well as to our own UNRV. Born in Wales, he graduated from the University of Aston in England, and divides his time between the UK and Austin, Texas. Powell is also a veteran reenactor. Powell has been described as an "historical detective," trying to uncover lesser known events and figures in ancient history. Currently he is about to release a work on Drusus the Elder, and he has plans for works on Germanicus and Marcus Agrippa.
All Things Under the Sun (henceforth ATUtS) is an interesting experiment. It is a self published book (courtesy of Lindsay Powell Publications). Changes in industry and technology have allowed authors to bypass the usual literary venues and take their missives directly to a wide audience. Without more traditional forms of control and oversight, these books can vary widely in quality.
A self published book is ultimately only as good as the author. I have seen self published books that were rather pitiful - poor in concept, half-assed in execution. In such cases it is obvious the author self published only because no respectable publishing house would touch him with a ten foot pole. However, ATUtS is, from a production standpoint, a little gem of a book. The paper and cover quality are superb, the photographs are of excellent quality. Everything is well documented, and I spotted no typos. ATUtS is proof that someone who knows what he is doing can craft a fine product without the aid of middlemen and agents.
ATUtS is a collection of the author's blog posts written from February '07 through March '11. Don't let the word "blog" fool you: these aren't the soulless 140 character sound bytes that every fool with a Facebook or Twitter vomits several times a day. The author's intention was to write a carefully nuanced essay on how issues of the modern age find their parallels in Ancient Rome (and Greece). Certain issues like slavery aside, the human condition has not changed much in two millennia, and Powell invites us to reflect on how history has been grappling with the same issues time and time again.
These musings are delivered on a wide variety of topics, ranging from waiting in queue at the local post office, to the swearing in of a new head of state. As Powell divides his time between the UK and the US, people on both sides of the pond will find his topics relevant. Powell's writings are delivered with erudition and gentle wit. At no time does the author become overtly political; fortunate for Powell and this review, as I despise authors who lecture their audiences. But thankfully we don't have to worry about that.
In fact, what comes across is a pleasant and thoughtful personality. Powell definitely fits in with the mold of the regular UNRV member. He is someone who enjoys ancient history for its own sake, and has the background to explore it well. This is the sort of person whom you'd want to meet in a quiet pub and discuss the finer things in life over a pint. But, hey, you don't have to meet him in person: you can read his musings in one slender publication.
I do have one criticism of ATUtS, and it would be amiss of me not to point it out. This is a lighthearted though still erudite read. And every essay is well documented with footnotes. However, many of those footnotes reference Wikipedia. There are going to be those who have a problem using Wikipedia as a citation even for a lighthearted read, for Wikipedia is not exactly known as a paragon of academic veracity. Honestly, while I use Wikipedia for informal research myself, I'd be quite hesitant to use it to document anything in a published work beyond, say, pop culture. It is a bit surprising to see an academically trained writer relying so liberally on that medium for his sources.
Nonetheless, I don't want to detract from the accomplishment of All Things Under the Sun. It is a well crafted, well written product that was an informal yet still educational read. The typical membership of UNRV would most likely appreciate it, as probably would any thoughtful individual who is an intellectual child both of the ancient and modern worlds. In the long run, I think we can expect some great things from Lindsey Powell Publishing.