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Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Master and Man

Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Master and Man

Written by Leo Tolstoy

Narrated by Simon Vance


Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Master and Man

Written by Leo Tolstoy

Narrated by Simon Vance

ratings:
4/5 (54 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Released:
Sep 1, 2005
ISBN:
9781596441699
Format:
Audiobook

Description

In these two famous short novels, Leo Tolstoy takes readers to the brink of despair. At the end of life, worldly ambition offers no consolation for the spiritually empty soul, but Tolstoy is the master of themes and redemption. He turns his morbid topic into hope, leading toward spiritual awakening. Tolstoy offers his readers a lifetime of perspective on death.

Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a small book with singular depth of insight. The book was published in 1886, breaking a nine-year literary silence after the publication of Anna Karenina. It is considered to be one of the great explorations of death and dying in all of Western Literature. No author in so few words summons so many emotions into the reader's soul.

This masterpiece has been paired here with another of Tolstoy's short novels, Master and Man, which too examnes the human response to mortality. Together these two stories will ultimately offer encouragement to the spiritually hungry.

An EChristian, Inc production.

Released:
Sep 1, 2005
ISBN:
9781596441699
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was one of the most influential writers in Russian history. Born a Russian aristocrat, Tolstoy had, by the age of twenty-six, become both a nobleman and a soldier. Disenchanted by both lives, he became a writer, producing two of Russian literature’s greatest works: War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Tolstoy was a giant of modern literature and made a profound impact on great twentieth-century figures such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.


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4.0
54 ratings / 173 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Incredibly entertaining even if very long. The description of war hospitals is absolutely fabulous! Beware of old translations, use this one instead!
  • (4/5)
    An epic that spans multiple intrigues of the lives of its principal characters. A story that is remembered for its immensity and scope and recommended to all of those who enjoy to read literary fiction.
  • (5/5)
    I read Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" when I was in middle school at a time I was too young to really appreciate it as anything but an accomplishment that impressed my teachers at the time. And even though I read a ton of Russian novels in college, something about that early experience put me off Tolstoy... (I was definitely more of a Dostoevsky girl.)At any rate, I spent the last couple of months reading "War and Peace" and it was absolutely marvelous... I enjoyed nearly everything about it-- from the ins and outs of the family drama during peace time, to the descriptions of Napoleone's failed march into Russia to Tolstoy's musings on the nature of man and war. Overall, just an excellent book.
  • (4/5)
    There's always a worry with such great works like this one that they won't live up to the hype.For 2/3 of its length W&P *does* and is an excellent read. Everything is suitably grand, as is Tolstoy's style, and his prose is wonderfully easy to read as well.However the final 1/3 of the novel, starting with Napoleon's invasion of Russia, drags the rest of the epic down. From there on in Tolstoy goes into historian mode, spending many chapters reiterating the same points over and over again, temporarily forgetting all about his characters.Some of that context is nice, but Tolstoy certainly over does it. If most of it were edited out then I might just give this work the full 5 stars. As it is, just 4 will have to do.
  • (5/5)
    I'm not really sure how to review this book. My copy has a brief guide to Russian naming conventions as well as a list of major characters which I referred to constantly, and they were of great assistance in following along, as are Tolstoy's incredibly short chapters. I read a surprising amount of this book just waiting for my morning ride to work.It's an easy read. It's long, but the language isn't lofty or hard to get through. The story follows several families and their lives during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. They people change as time passes and they encounter various hardships and situations. Tolstoy has a curious way of describing even passing characters in a fashion that they wind up memorable for at least a time (though I still remember the scene with the woman with over-large front teeth).The characters make the book. The back of the book highlights Natasha Rostov, Prince Andrew Bolkonsky, and Pierre Bezukhov, but there are many others that bring their own tales, such that two people might read the book in an entirely different fashion depending on which character stands out to them. Both my most loved and most detested literary figures come from this book.
  • (4/5)
    The ending was disappointing. (Tolstoy puts up strawman after strawman to justify his theory of history.) Until then, though, it is a very interesting book, with lots of scope and engaging characters.
  • (5/5)
    'I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.'
  • (4/5)
    In 1805 Pierre Bezukhov returns to Saint Petersburg to the bedside of his dying father, and ends up inheriting Count Bezukhov’s title and all of his assets. Suddenly, he’s the most eligible (and most socially-awkward) bachelor in all of Russia. All the ladies are after him, and he is very confused, so ends up ill-advisedly marrying the seductive and manipulative Helene Kuragin, who is probably sleeping with her equally debauched brother. Whoops! Meanwhile, war is about to break out between Tsar Alexander and Emperor Napoleon, and all the young men want in on it. Pierre’s friend Prince Andrei Bolkonsky wants to go to war to get away from his very amiable, very pregnant wife. 20-year-old Nikolai Rostov of Moscow wants to go to war to prove he is an adult (and he has a huge platonic crush on Tsar Alexander). Nikolai’s best friend Boris wants to go to war because he’s broke, and in love with Nikolai’s 13-year-old sister Natasha. As is everyone else. These men are all very rich and they think war is very glamorous. Turns out, it is not.The inter-personal plot of this epic tale is quite excellent, but boy is it bogged down by both detailed descriptions of troop movements and battles, as well as Tolstoy’s personal axe-grinding against his contemporaries. It’s possible that it was insightful at the time of publication, but now, not so much. These characters though! The main characters (especially Pierre and Natasha) are mostly boring and insufferable and deserve each other. But the villains and minor characters are so delightful. Boris’ eventual wife Julie (who is only in about 10 pages of the book) is SUPER GOTH - Boris woos her by writing poetry about death and drawing her a picture of a grave. Pierre’s wife Helene is an awful person but boy does she know how to work with what she’s given. She sleeps with EVERYONE – her brother (a great villain), Pierre’s houseguest Dolokov (also a great villain), Boris (boring except for his great taste in women), a government official and a Catholic priest (playing them against each other in an elaborate plot to divorce Pierre), and dies in a botched abortion. Truly a legend. Tolstoy is not particularly great at writing women, certainly not by today’s standards, but just due to the fact that there are 600 named characters in this book, by default some of the female characters have to be unique and interesting. Good job! On the flip side from the villains is sweet Denisov, Nikolai’s mentor and Natasha’s first suitor. His only characteristics are that he is nice to everyone and he talks with a lisp and he likes to eat sausages while writing letters.
  • (5/5)
    “All we can know is that we know nothing. And that’s the height of human wisdom.”I’m not sure that I understood this book so much as I observed it. These three quotes pulled from Tolstoy’s masterpiece I believe speak to this; certainly more show than tell. And Tolstoy says a lot. Apparently, over 566,000 words, if the introduction is to be trusted—and why shouldn’t it be? Or bee. We’re all drones of one sort or another. Some just happen to drag a stinger through the honeycomb, with more sense of touch than rigid intention, and paint a portrait of the colony of humanity with more exactitude because of its dragged memory, faint graze through the chambers, the conglomeration of history through personal experience and hindsight. The only extra material I did not read from this edition was the foreword. Once I’d seen that the second part of that was concerned with the parallels between Napoleon’s invasion and Hitler’s of Russia, I stopped giving a shit. I did skim it, to be fair, and was bored to tears. Somehow Tolstoy managed to make nearly 1500 pages riveting, even with the lengthy second epilogue about free will and power. Some artists can dip the quill into honey and pull from that well the inextricably sticky souls of humans who were and are and will forever be (bee) too busy to turn head over thorax and see what they’d inadvertently written.“That is, power is power: in other words, power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand.”And Tolstoy said it better than I ever could:“A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people. A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers. A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey. Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race. A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence. Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee. But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern. The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.”
  • (5/5)
    I was standing at an airport lounge as a teenager many years ago, and suddenly realised I had no books to read for my family holiday. I was a SF geek at the time (still am, but I’m reading other stuff now), but had read everything that W.H. Smiths airport bookshelf could show me. In desperation and dread I turned to the classics... I'd read Frankenstein and other English literary classics by that point, and had found all of them tedious and obsessed with melancholy and/or an absurd idealistic idea of romance. Plots were contrived and you could see them coming a mile away. Of them all, only Dickens could make me smile and identify with his caricatures, but even he stopped short of fulfilling at times. If Victorian England had truly been like all of that that, then no wonder we were so repressed and messed up today. So in desperation and partly in arrogance I picked up this weighty book. None of my peers had read it, and it's size seemed to daunt many. I thought of the smugness I'd feel in saying I'd read it, even if it had been as dry and full of itself like so many others... The next two weeks were the best holiday read of my life thus far. From a stumbling start in the opening chapter and trying to work out who the hell everyone was, I slowly and surely found my way into one of the most beautiful and compelling novels I'd ever read... Tolstoy has a way of showing the inner spirit of everyone. From the bullying cavalry-man, to Napoleon himself and above all our principle characters. How I loved that bumbling, foolish and ungainly Pierre as he grew and flowered, and the impish Natasha who could melt your heart in the first paragraph you met her. Even thinking of it now, I am touched by tender thoughts and memories, interspersed with the grief of conflict and war and the nobleness of the human spirit.But is it a perfect book? No book is perfect. War and Peace is a brilliant book that should be read and enjoyed at whatever age a person is. It truly is a book for every age and every person. Let yourself into a world that will enrapt you. And a little request: can we in 2000 stop using the phrase "is not perfect ..." when describing something. Nothing in life is perfect. No book, no movie, no age, no accomplishment, and so on. Consciously refuse to compare anything to perfection and instead just enjoy something for what it is. Comparing something to the unobtainable 'perfect' merely diminishes that something and our experience. Don't be put off by folk complaining about the philosophical bits. There isn't too much of that anyway.I reread “War and Peace” recently, in no rush and over three weeks and was amazed by its richness and the development of character. Make no mistake, this is a Russian epic and you will find few books in a lifetime of reading which are as memorable.Take Pierre for example who goes from being a young buffoon worshiping Napoleon to become someone with a much more critical view, hoping at one point for the chance of assassinating him. This development does not happen overnight! He learns from his experiences in prison and through his relationship with Platon Karateyev. At the end you are left thinking that the story is not yet over. Pierre and young Nikolai Bolkonsky, patriots both - are thinking critically about society. Exile to Siberia is definitely a possibility if they get involved in anything too radical. Pierre is just one major character in this glorious book. Start when you can but don't rush it. Literature of this quality needs time.Reasonable defenders of “War and Peace” at (one of) its current length(s) might absolutely agree with being anti-literary-flab, and simply argue that this book isn't actually flabby. For example, the "side-track stories" are not "padding" or "excess", but rather constitute the "pacing" intrinsically needed by the "content" itself- so goes a point of view which I think is more care-filled than that of a "fanboy". Take a look at vol. II, pt. 5, ch. VI (it's only a couple of pages). Natasha has accepted Prince Andrei's proposal, and has returned to Moscow to meet the prince's father and get ready to get married. She meets Marya Dmitrievna, a society dowager, who intrusively 're-assures' Natasha about "old Prince Nikolai" and his resistance to his son's getting married. A tiny moment, particularly in that nothing in the plot changes as a result of this vignette, but we are shown: the social realities that Natasha is growing to recognize and understand; and the ego-centrism, diminishing, that's still the dominant tone in her character (she really sees this man whom she loves, but she thinks she can marry and 'have' him without marrying his family and being his socially positioned and positioning wife). You see my point? The story of the story doesn't change because of this little chapter, but our alertness to what Tolstoy is showing us is colored, or deepened, or enriched, or nourished (or whatever old-fashioned metaphor you like!) by this small facet.Not sure what, in "War and Peace", some people mean by "cliff-hangers" and "many-a-time abrupt endings" as I’ve read elsewhere. I don't think "serialization" works as either a fault-generator or a mitigation; the book in your hands either holds together as you read it or it's de-coherently "over-long". Think of cricket. If you savor the pace of the game as it is, a five-day Test, or seven-game series, isn't 'too long'-- it unfolds at just the length it needs to. If you can't stand the sport, each batter's innings or team's at-bat is already an eternity of boring nonsense; forget about a match or game. Either way, it isn't the length itself that's guilty of generating one's antipathy. I can't see which 'thousand lines' of War and Peace one would 'blot'...I have always been vehemently anti-literary-flab. The lack of an author's ability to distinguish what is essential and what isn't and to pare away the flab has always seemed in my eyes a weakness and not a virtue. It does not mean that I do not like long novels in and of themselves, I just find long swathes of them to be gratuitous flab (well written and brilliant though they might be). The Russian masterpieces act as a great case in point. “Anna Karenina”, “War and Peace” and “The Brothers Karamazov” (the three classic doorstops) were all written serially for the magazine The Russian Messenger. They were written in weekly installments by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky with word count and longevity of project strictly in mind (not that Tolstoy needed the money...). Now, the two authors knew that they were padding things out with side-track stories and story-telling devices, but we the modern readers know the books as they are and can't imagine any paragraph being cut (or in fact added to the end to smooth out the many-a-time abrupt endings, which are also legacies of the serialization). We like those novels for what they are and not for what they could theoretically be, but that doesn't mean that the modern author doesn't have the burden to perfect the pacing and content of his or her novel by removing the excess. There seems to exist nowadays a fanboy-like reaction to works even in cultured matters. People zealously defend endless novels, for some reason equating critique of length with critique of the total merit of the book. One can love a book and still critique its faults - we're not football ultras, we're readers.Basically I say that a modern-day author has no excuses for writing over-long. It's a shame that some Modern (and some not so Modern) Fantasy writers can't manage to edit down their magnum opus.Bottom-line: If you haven't read it, please do persevere past the first chapter and the strange names. It will reward you over and over in a way so few books do.
  • (5/5)
    War and Peace focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.I really enjoyed listening to this book on audio. Loved the history and the love stories centered around Natasha Rostov. Tolstoy's writing is very detailed but the information is very interesting. I look forward to reading Anna Karenina. I would highly recommend War and Peace to those who enjoy books about the history, war, love and romance.
  • (4/5)
    Indrukwekkend zonder enige discussie. Vooral door het brede panorama, zowel in de tijd, maar vooral in de geledingen: niet alleen Napoleon, Alexander en hun generaals worden gevolgd, maar vooral de individuen (zij het dan nog die uit de adel).Hoofdfiguren zijn duidelijk Pierre, Andrej en Natasja. Zij evolueren en de veranderingen leveren dikwijls de interessantste beschouwingen op, maar niet altijd is het verloop consistent. Zo maakt Pierre nogal wat "bekeringen" door. Literair munt vooral het tweede boek uit (met enkele van de mooiste bladzijden uit de wereldliteratuur), hoewel het verhaal daar aan spankracht verliest. Het verslag van Austerlitz en Borodino is ongemeen boeiend door de onconventionele invalshoek. Naar het einde toe wordt de schrijftrant langdradig, met soms ellenlange theoretische beschouwingen die dikwijls overlappen. De eerste epiloog moet dat compenseren, hoewel de verhaallijn daar doodbloedt. De tweede epiloog is bijna niet te volgen.Eerste keer gelezen op 18 jaar, erg onder de indruk
  • (4/5)
    Of course a masterpiece. This is a wonderful translation making the language very readable. Great characters especially the ever seeking Pierre.
  • (5/5)
    Wow - that word pretty much sums up my reaction to this book. My first thought upon finishing was that I want to reread this book sometime soon because I want to revisit the characters that I loved through the last part of the book from the beginning. It is such a long book, and did take me such a long time to get through, that I feel like I would get so much reading through it again.

    There is not much more to say about it that hasn't been said hundreds of times by countless others. I enjoyed the characters, love stories, war stories, the plot, and even the diversions into farming and war theory. The last thirty pages were tough because they deal with Tolstoy's views on why history happens. It was tough because I wanted more about the characters and their lives.

    I would recommend this to anyone who has the discipline to read a book of this size. It is well worth your time.
  • (4/5)
    tedious at times
  • (4/5)
    I finally read this in the space of 26 days after it had been sitting on my bookshelf for a decade. For the most part, War and Peace is simply brilliant. The main characters are wonderfully drawn, and I loved getting inside their heads and rooting for them all the way through. I also felt that I got a good sense of what it was like to be in (or on the edges of) the upper echelons of Russian society in the early 19th century through the descriptions of various social scenes and the viewpoints of minor characters. I also enjoyed the war scenes involving the main characters.However, I didn't quite get on with some of the other war parts and the various passages ruminating on history in general, especially towards the end. I was also a little let down by some of the main characters' fates as described in the first epilogue (mainly the way in which the female characters are depicted), but I recognise that this is partly due to the era in which the novel is set/was written.Despite that, I'm really glad I finally read War and Peace, and will be looking up some of Tolstoy's other works in the future.
  • (4/5)
    It took me a long time to finish this. It is a very good book. The 2nd epilogue is Tolstoy's thoughts on history and how it is viewed.
  • (4/5)
    Indrukwekkend zonder enige discussie. Vooral door het brede panorama, zowel in de tijd, maar vooral in de geledingen: niet alleen Napoleon, Alexander en hun generaals worden gevolgd, maar vooral de individuen (zij het dan nog die uit de adel).Hoofdfiguren zijn duidelijk Pierre, Andrej en Natasja. Zij evolueren en de veranderingen leveren dikwijls de interessantste beschouwingen op, maar niet altijd is het verloop consistent. Zo maakt Pierre nogal wat "bekeringen" door. Literair munt vooral het tweede boek uit (met enkele van de mooiste bladzijden uit de wereldliteratuur), hoewel het verhaal daar aan spankracht verliest. Het verslag van Austerlitz en Borodino is ongemeen boeiend door de onconventionele invalshoek. Naar het einde toe wordt de schrijftrant langdradig, met soms ellenlange theoretische beschouwingen die dikwijls overlappen. De eerste epiloog moet dat compenseren, hoewel de verhaallijn daar doodbloedt. De tweede epiloog is bijna niet te volgen.Eerste keer gelezen op 18 jaar, erg onder de indruk
  • (4/5)
    Good, but no Anna Karenina
  • (2/5)
    While mind-numbingly tedious, I did actually finish this book, and I remembered enough of what I read from one sitting to the next that the characters and plot didn't run together too much. So, I guess as epic fiction goes, this was not terrible. Will I read it again? Probably not. All the characters cry seemingly all the time, the thesis about how individuals are carried along by history pops up way too much in the last 3 books, so that the pedantic lecturer gets in the way of the storyteller and the story a lot. And, if the novel was meant to serve as a tool for discussing the philosophy, in much the same way as Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is a vehicle for the long, tedious essay 'speech' near the end, the thesis needed to be woven into the story better.
    The mostly philosophy epilogues were not as good as the rest of the book. The fiction bits in these sections seemed less well edited and had less focus to them. The philosophy was presented as if the story serves to illustrate Tolstoy's points, but he doesn't really make those connections in this section of his text. As straight philosophy these sections do a lousy job of defining the terms Tolstoy is using in his arguments.
  • (5/5)
    It's known that it took Tolstoy six years to write War and Peace. It took me almost two years to read it - not because I didn't enjoy it, but just the way my reading time was used. I liked this book. It's many characters were interesting, diverse, intertwined in many cases, and individual. Tolstoy did a great job of making each one different from the others. There was no way I could keep remembering who every person was or how one connected with another, but I didn't mind that. It was interesting and I'm glad I read it.
  • (5/5)
    Took me a month to read, but definitely a masterpiece. It took a notebook to keep all the characters straight for the first half of the book. There was a bit too much about battle techniques contained, but all in all I can see why Tolstoy is considered a master as he can amuse, horrify, entertain, and make one weep during the very same story line. I especially liked seeing how Tolstoy developed his characters and then transformed then or their circumstances. One of the story's main characters, Pierre Bezukhov has his epiphany while being held captive by the French as he befriends Platen, a peasant, and learns to be happy, no matter the situation. The author certainly raises/discusses issues such as ideas of free will, fate, and providence Tolstoy has certainly nailed Napoleon, if other historians are correct.
  • (2/5)
    I'm never reading this book in 3 1/2 days again. If you want the easy time of it watch the film with Audrey Hepburn then read the last 100-150 pages of the book.
  • (5/5)
    This was, indeed, an epic read, but as there always has been more to Tolstoy, this book is no different. In it you find bits of history you would have never known otherwise, full-on societal differences and perceptions, and a statement, whether or not you consider it a little subtle, on government and society as a whole. If you know anything about the governments of the world, you see that this statement applies today just as it did then, nevermind the excesses of the wealthy. One cannot just "read" War and Peace. One who loves literature lives it, becomes it, and carries it with them the rest of their lives. Those who are afraid of it because it's such a large tome are just not willing to read anything that might impact their lives.
  • (4/5)
    Worldbuilding leaves something to be desired, thank goodness for footnotes,endnotes, and wikipedia. But good book - loved it.
  • (3/5)
    Well, seven months later -- I finished it! Not exactly an easy read. Not even a very enjoyable read -- give me Anna Karenina anytime. But it's just one of those books that any student of literature NEEDS to read, so I did. The juxtaposition of the horrors of war and the earlier scenes of gaiety and mindless flirtations (Natasha) work well, but it's just too long. I could care less about the chesslike moves of Napoleon and his Russian counterparts -- those interludes bogged down the narrative far too much. I wanted to know what would become of the characters -- that is what kept me reading. The characterizations were stunning, and the effect of war on the various personalities was believable and compelling.
  • (4/5)
    I was surprised once I finally read this book. It was much more readable then I expected, and much more of a novel - romantic, even - then I expected. The philosophizing at the end was heavy-handed and detracted from the whole.
  • (5/5)
    This is an epic masterpiece that defies pithy summary. Before I decided that I had to read it, the size and reputation of the book were somewhat daunting - it is a tribute not just to Tolstoy but to Anthony Briggs that this translation is so eminently readable, and apart from some of the philosophical musings about the meaning and limitations of history, it never seemed like hard work to read.

    The story is all-encompassing, covering the epic sweep of the history of the wars between Russia and Napoleon but also a moving family story of the main protagonists and colourful descriptions of Russian life.

    I can't do justice to it, but I would recommend it to all intelligent readers with an interest in Russia and its history.
  • (5/5)
    now I know why this is a classic. War scenes. Peace scenes alternate in this history book. I learned more about history than in school. Easier to read than expected. Not sure if the two epilogs were necessary, but the book itself is just gigantic and awesome.
  • (3/5)
    This book was a watershed, in the sense that I decided if I could read this, the ultimate doorstopper, I could read anything. There was a rush of adrenaline when I got past the first hundred or so pages and realised that actually I could read it. It wasn't totally oblique, and in fact the deathbed scene early on in the book was quite funny.Having reached the end, though, it wasn't a totally positive experience. Mainly I disliked the way that Tolstoy builds up a situation of high tension (eg the character who amasses horrendous gambling debts) only to dispel the tension just a page later (whoops his father's paid the debts off). There were some sections I found fascinating from a historical viewpoint: life in Russia before the revolution where, like Michael Jackson's kids, everyone is a prince or princess. Also the modes of warfare, where telecommunications consisted of a bloke on a horse careering round letting everyone know what was going on. Except that by the time he got there it had changed.All in all, I'm glad I read it, because otherwise I would have only wondered.