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The first chapter of the Total War: Rome II novel is a bit dry, a bit bloody

Posted by: Randy at 8/6/2013 2:55 PM
David Gibbins, underwater archaeologist and bestselling historical-fiction novelist, wrote Total War Rome: Destroy Carthage, a tie-in novel for Total War: Rome II. I just read the opening chapter (and so can you!), which is light on squishy personal backstory and heavy on How Many Enemies Can I Impale on My Gladius?

The story's main characters watch clouds race around the feet of Mt. Olympus while soothsayers jump out of their robes at a lunar eclipse. And then there are a bunch of cows sacrificed to Hercules.

In a few short pages, you'll face the usual literary trap of too-many-character-introductions-itis, all made up of unwieldy Roman names like Fabius Petronius Secundus, Scipio Africanus, Scipio Aemilianus, Aemilius Paullus, and a horse named Skylla.

Then it dips into a playbook discussion between two Roman battlefield commanders regarding tactics, one-upping each other on the rock-paper-scissors play of spearmen vs. cavalry vs. elephants, the morale concerns of foreign mercenaries holding the line alongside Roman legionaries, and reading the terrain like a golfer on the green. It's actually practical advice for Total War generals.

For giggles, at least one or two elephants ended up "trampling bodies that exploded with blood," and one die hard Roman--who turned himself into some spearman's shiskebab--kept pushing the spear through himself until he could finally reach and behead the guy that speared him. Yow. Oh oh oh, and there's one Macedonian that takes a sword through the back of the skull so his eyes pop out and an arch of blood rainbows from his mouth. Ah, war.

The opening chapter ends how any good Total War battle ends: with your cavalry charging and cutting down the retreating soldiers screaming for their lives. Then the narrative camera pulls back as the general hands the torch to his successors, and the rest of the Known World waits, ripe for bloody conquest. And so the stage is set for the new generation of Roman conquerors.

Good times. It's not going to win any Pulitzers, but you might learn a trick or two on the battlefield once it's time to pit your own legionaries against Rome's future slaves in Total War: Rome II. The book and the game will simul-launch on September 3.