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Pompeii
Cover of Pompeii
Pompeii
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BESTSELLER - "Terrific... gripping... A literally shattering climax." — The New York Times Book Review 

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’ s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
BESTSELLER - "Terrific... gripping... A literally shattering climax." — The New York Times Book Review 

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’ s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
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  • From the book

    MARS

    22 August Two days before the eruption

    CONTICINIUM [04:21 hours]

    A strong correlation has been found between the magnitude of eruptions and the length of the preceding interval of repose. Almost all very large, historic eruptions have come from volcanoes that have been dormant for centuries. —JACQUES-MARIE BARDINTZEFF, ALEXANDER R. McBIRNEY, VOLCANOLOGY (SECOND EDITION)

    They left the aqueduct two hours before dawn, climbing by moonlight into the hills overlooking the port—six men in single file, the engineer leading. He had turfed them out of their beds himself—all stiff limbs and sullen, bleary faces—and now he could hear them complaining about him behind his back, their voices carrying louder than they realized in the warm, still air.

    “A fool’s errand,” somebody muttered.

    “Boys should stick to their books,” said another.

    He lengthened his stride.

    Let them prattle, he thought.

    Already he could feel the heat of the morning beginning to build, the promise of another day without rain. He was younger than most of his work gang, and shorter than any of them: a compact, muscled figure with cropped brown hair. The shafts of the tools he carried slung across his shoulder—a heavy, bronze-headed axe and a wooden shovel—chafed against his sunburned neck. Still, he forced himself to stretch his bare legs as far as they would reach, mounting swiftly from foothold to foothold, and only when he was high above Misenum, at a place where the track forked, did he set down his burdens and wait for the others to catch up.

    He wiped the sweat from his eyes on the sleeve of his tunic. Such shimmering, feverish heavens they had here in the south! Even this close to daybreak, a great hemisphere of stars swept down to the horizon. He could see the horns of Taurus, and the belt and sword of the Hunter; there was Saturn, and also the Bear, and the constellation they called the Vintager, which always rose for Caesar on the twenty-second day of August, following the Festival of Vinalia, and signaled that it was time to harvest the wine. Tomorrow night the moon would be full. He raised his hand to the sky, his blunt-tipped fingers black and sharp against the glittering constellations—spread them, clenched them, spread them again—and for a moment it seemed to him that he was the shadow, the nothing; the light was the substance.

    From down in the harbor came the splash of oars as the night watch rowed between the moored triremes. The yellow lanterns of a couple of fishing boats winked across the bay. A dog barked and another answered. And then the voices of the laborers slowly climbing the path beneath him: the harsh local accent of Corax, the overseer—“Look, our new aquarius is waving at the stars!”—and the slaves and the free men, equals, for once, in their resentment if nothing else, panting for breath and sniggering.

    The engineer dropped his hand. “At least,” he said, “with such a sky, we have no need of torches.” Suddenly he was vigorous again, stooping to collect his tools, hoisting them back onto his shoulder. “We must keep moving.” He frowned into the darkness. One path would take them westward, skirting the edge of the naval base. The other led north, toward the seaside resort of Baiae. “I think this is where we turn.”

    “He thinks,” sneered Corax.

    The engineer had decided the previous day that the best way to treat the overseer was to ignore him. Without a word he put his back to the sea and the stars, and began ascending the black mass of...
About the Author-
  • Robert Harris is the author of nine bestselling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, including The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into 37 languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby. www.robert-harris.com

    JOHN LEE's highly innovative work in the fields of emotional intelligence, anger management, and emotional regression has made him an in-demand consultant, teacher, trainer, coach, and speaker. His contributions in the fields of recovery, relationships, men’s issues, spirituality, parenting, and creativity have put him in the national spotlight for over 20 years. Lee has been featured on Oprah, 20/20, Barbara Walters’ The View, CNN, PBS, and NPR. He has been interviewed by Newsweek, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and dozens of other national magazines and radio talk shows.For over 25 years, Lee has conducted private and group sessions on a variety of issues working with men, women, couples, and families. He lectures, gives workshops and trainings in cities all over the world, delivering sensitive, yet sophisticated material to audiences in a humorous and simple way everyone can understand. His lectures have been branded as “hilariously entertaining, deeply compassionate, yet filled with ‘tell it like it is!’”Lee served as a professor at the University of Texas and at the University of Alabama before becoming a writer, bestselling author, life coach, and personal consultant. He currently resides on breathtaking Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama with his three happy dogs.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The springs in the towns around Rome are failing. Marcus Attilius, engineer in charge of the aqueduct bringing water from the hills of Vesuvius to the coast, has to fix the problem. His predecessor has disappeared mysteriously, his workmen are a coarse lot of sewer rats, and he's fallen for the daughter of the villainous Ampilatus. In Robert Harris's reconstruction of the days before the massive eruption of Vesuvius, credible human tensions build along with the volcano's deadly pressure. Harris injects arcane facts of feasting, fashion, and political foolhardiness, and John Lee's intelligent performance makes Pompeii more than a run-of-the-mill disaster story. As Ampilatus, his voice drips with decadence, and as Corelia, his daughter, it shines with strength and innocence. Lee makes even the dank tunnels of an aqueduct fascinating. S.J.H. Winner of AUDIOFILE Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 27, 2003
    In this fine historical by British novelist Harris (Archangel
    ; Enigma
    ; Fatherland
    ), an upstanding Roman engineer rushes to repair an aqueduct in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which, in A.D. 79, is getting ready to blow its top. Young Marcus Attilius Primus becomes the aquarius
    of the great Aqua Augusta when its former chief engineer disappears after 20 years on the job. When water flow to the coastal town of Misenum is interrupted, Attilius convinces the admiral of the Roman fleet—the scholar Pliny the Elder—to give him a fast ship to Pompeii, where he finds the source of the problem in a burst sluiceway. Lively writing, convincing but economical period details and plenty of intrigue keep the pace quick, as Attilius meets Corelia, the defiant daughter of a vile real estate speculator, who supplies him with documents implicating her father and Attilius's predecessor in a water embezzlement scheme. Attilius has bigger worries, though: a climb up Vesuvius reveals that an eruption is imminent. Before he can warn anyone, he's ambushed by the double-crossing foreman of his team, Corvax, and a furious chase ensues. As the volcano spews hot ash, Attilius fights his way back to Pompeii in an attempt to rescue Corelia. Attilius, while possessed of certain modern attitudes and a respect for empirical observation, is no anachronism. He even sends Corelia back to her cruel father at one point, advising her to accept her fate as a woman. Harris's volcanology is well researched, and the plot, while decidedly secondary to the expertly rendered historic spectacle, keeps this impressive novel moving along toward its exciting finale.

  • London Sunday Times "Blazingly exciting...Pompeii palpitates with sultry tension....Harris provides an awe-inspiring tour of one of the monumental engineering triumphs on which the Roman empire was based....What makes this novel all but unputdownable...is the bravura fictional flair that crackles through it. Brilliantly evoking the doomed society pursuing its ambitions and schemes in the shadow of a mountain that nobody knew was a volcano, Harris, as Vesuvius explodes, gives full vent to his genius for thrilling narrative. Fast-paced twists and turns alternate with nightmarish slow-motion scenes (desperate figures struggling to wade thigh-deep through slurries of pumice towards what they hope will be safety). Harris's unleashing of the furnace ferocities of the eruption's terminal phase turns his book's closing sequences into pulse-rate-speeding masterpieces of suffocating suspense and searing action. It is hard to imagine a more thoroughgoingly enjoyable thriller."
  • Daily Mail "Breakneck pace, constant jeopardy and subtle twists of plot...a blazing blockbuster... The depth of the research in the book is staggering."
  • The Sunday Telegraph "[A] stirring and absorbing novel...The final 100 pages are terrific, as good as anything Harris has done; and the last, teasing paragraph, done with the lightest of touches, is masterly."
  • The Daily Telegraph "The long-drawn-out death agony of [Pompeii and Herculaneum]--a full day of falling ash, pumice stone, and then, the final catastrophe, a cloud of poisonous gas--is brilliantly done. Explosive stuff, indeed."
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