Over the Wine-Dark Sea

Written by H.N. Turteltaub
Review by John R. Vallely

With all due respect to Homer, nautical adventure tales have studiously ignored the Ancients in favor of a prolonged love affair with the sloops and frigates of Drake, Nelson, and the bloodthirsty pirates. Our two young heroes from Rhodes, Menedemos and Sostratos, set sail in hopes of redressing this lack of balance. The story takes place in the uncertain world of Mediterranean commerce and sea travel after the death of Alexander the Great. The two cousins set sail on an ambitious trading expedition in an atmosphere of political instability and immense commercial opportunity.

Throughout, the widely differing personalities of Menedemos and Sostratos serve to heighten the tension as each man applies his own views on handling the multiple crises. Turteltaub has certainly done his homework in setting the stage for his story to unfold. A scholar of Byzantine history, the author (a pseudonym for Harry Turtledove) does not do as credible a job in his portrayal of the main characters. Despite this, the interested reader will enjoy the drama of adventure onboard ship in ancient times.