Synopses & Reviews
Enter the world of 1000 A.D., when Vikings, Moors, and barbarians battled kings and popes for the fate of Europe.As the millennium approached, Europeans feared the world would end. The old order was crumbling, and terrifying and confusing new ideas were gaining hold in the populace. Random and horrific violence seemed to sprout everywhere without warning, and without apparent remedy. And, in fact, when the millennium arrived the apocalypse did take place; a world did end, and a new world arose from the ruins.In 950, Ireland, England, and France were helpless against the ravages of the seagoing Vikings; the fierce and strange Hungarian Magyars laid waste to Germany and Italy; the legions of the Moors ruled Spain and threatened the remnants of Charlemagnes vast domain. The papacy was corrupt and decadent, overshadowed by glorious Byzantium. Yet a mere fifty years later, the gods of the Vikings were dethroned, the shamans of the Magyars were massacred, the magnificent Moorish caliphate disintegrated: The sign of the cross held sway from Spain in the West to Russia in the East.James Reston, Jr.s enthralling saga of how the Christian kingdoms converted, conquered, and slaughtered their way to dominance brings to life unforgettable historical characters who embodied the struggle for the soul of Europe. From the righteous fury of the Viking queen Sigrid the Strong-Minded, who burned unwanted suitors alive; to the brilliant but too-cunning Moor Al-Mansor the Illustrious Victor; to the aptly named English king Ethelred the Unready; to the abiding genius of the age, Pope Sylvester II warrior-kings and concubine empresses, maniacal warriors and religious zealots, bring this stirring period to life.The Last Apocalypse is a book rich in personal historical detail, flavored with the nearly magical sensibility of an apocalyptic age.James Reston, Jr., is the author of ten previous books, including Galileo: A Life and Sherman's March and Vietnam. He has written for The New Yorker, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Time, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. His television work includes three "Frontline" documentaries, including "Eighty-Eight Seconds in Greensboro." The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars provided him with a Visiting Fellowship during the course of his work on this book. Reston lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
"Reston is a wonderful storyteller, and here he has an epic tale to tell....Reston's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the tenth century, combined with his disarming interpretations of the period's events, makes for fascinating reading. His intermittent reflections on what the turn of the millennium meant to Europeans gives the book an additional level of interest. Fans of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror are the logical audience for this one." Ilene Cooper, Booklist
"In this lively, absorbing 'saga' of Europe (which, the author makes clear, is as much imaginative re-creation as history) at the end of the last millennium, Reston depicts a turbulent Europe as expectant of an imminent apocalypse as are today's doomsayers....Ultimately, Reston shows, the period was in fact a kind of apocalypse: As a result of all this turbulent activity, the old world died and a new one arose in its place. A thoughtful, briskly told narrative that makes the period come alive." Kirkus Reviews
"...Reston tells a darn good tale....His vivid tale is important, but year 2000 partygoers may find it illuminates little about their upcoming revelries." Business Week, Joseph Mandel
"Sifting through court poems, Norse sagas, Hungarian folk tales and the myths of Cluny and Cordoba, Reston constructs a colorful and dramatic story, preserved in the 'enduring, internal disciplines' of verse and oral tradition, rather than 'the worm-eaten swords, the beats and horn combs of the archeologists.'" David Walton, The New York Times Book Review