Gates of Fire

While Steven Spielberg attempted to demythologize warfare with Saving Private Ryan, Steven Pressfield just wants to provide good old-fashioned blood, guts, and glory in his historical-novel Gates of Fire, describing the battle of Thermopylae in 480 b.c., when 300 Spartans fended off, by some accounts, more than 2 million Persians (try that, Matt Damon). When Xeones, the narrator and sole survivor of the battle, recounts the agonies of Spartan army training and details the sounds and textures of combat, Pressfield’s prose thrums along percussively. But in the human-interest sideshows, involving the personal struggles of family and friends, Pressfield diverges unwisely from the Spartan storytelling ethic that serves his combat scenes so well. B-

Gates of Fire
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