Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom was another airport purchase (the second of the two I took to Vienna). Unlike the last one this one came home, partly because I hadn’t finished it, and partly because it’s a rollicking good read if you’re into “late classical period military romps” … (when the Romans were Romans and the Gauls - with the honourable exception of Asterix and all the other anti-Roman heroes - were cowering behind their druids’ skirts).

Anyway, this novel is set in the “late Roman period” when more than just cracks in Roman invincibility were appearing on the boundaries of the Roman empire(s), and it’s right on the boundary where it all happens. It’s all a bit boys own, the goodies kick butt by various strategies which wouldn’t have shamed Baden Powel, and the plot is simplistic to say the least. However, I didn’t give a damn. I enjoyed the book, the prose is good, the action almost believable. I did have a problem with the comparison between being under a barrage of whistling stones and that of modern shellshot, the language used (artillery) and the extent of the feelings invoked (terror of the noise etc being equivalent to a modern experience) just didn’t feel right - but what do I know?

The goodies are good, the baddies wierd, and the spies caricatures. This book is perfect for the adolescent boy in any reader (whatever their gender). It’s the first novel of the “Warriers of Rome” so there is more to come. Good!