From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.Erratum:
"the tri-factor of ancient Egyptian mysticism and the occult." I think maybe the author meant 'trifecta'? Very strictly-speaking, trifecta isn't the correct term and there are three factors listed before this phrase, but the way the phrase is worded seems to make trifecta a better fit that tri-factor, which is not commonly-used terminiology.
Like many people, no doubt, I've long had an interest in ancient Egypt. I've written a middle-grade humorous novel about a young Cleopatra (Cleoprankster), and there was a section in one of my mature sci-fi novels (Tears in Time) set in ancient Egypt. I also plan on writing at least one more set wholly in ancient Egypt, but trust me when I say I am far from an expert and wouldn't even try to pretend I was. I have read many books on the subject, enjoyed many documentaries, and often enjoy fictional films about it. I was thrilled to be given the chance to view this one and then to review it, and I did not regret it.
I have to say up front that I am always suspicious of authors who put their credentials along with their name on the cover. Often this means they're charlatans, especially if they're talking about new diet regimes! You don't get authors like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins putting 'Dr' in front of their name or 'PhD' after it, but in this case it's fine because the author, originally from Denmark is, to quote his bio page from the University of Manchester, "...a Lecturer in Egyptology teaching both traditional undergraduate units as well as distance learning. He is also the programme director on the MA Egyptology programme." He did his PhD research at the University of Liverpool investigating subsistence strategies and craft production at the Ramesside fortress site of Zawiyet Umm el-Rakham, obtaining his PhD in 2016. This guy knows what he's talking about!
The book is pithy, with a light tone, but a serious intent. It pulls no punches and suffers no fools, and I love that kind of writing! I especially loved the way he took down the "pyramidology" and "ancient alien visitors" garbage. This kind of scientific fraud and appalling ignorance, which nearly always (but not exclusively) seems to come from the right wing curiously enough, is particularly harmful at times like these when we have a serious and deadly virus literally rampaging across the globe and idiot hucksters standing up and recommending unproven 'miracle drug cures' and 'the injecting of household disinfectants to clean out the virus' - and that's just the president of one country.
But I digress. Egyptian obsession, as the author details, goes back way beyond our current era, and it keeps renewing itself every few years as some new discovery triggers a resurgence of interest. The fact is, again as the author makes clear, that the actual reality of ancient Egypt is fantastical and enthralling enough. Making up fake stories about it, like the ridiculous mummy's curse of Tutankhamen, and inane claims like the one that the pyramids of Gizeh were built to store grain by the Biblical Joseph is not only unnecessary, it's an insulting lie that doesn't even gild the lily.
The author covers these topics from the building of the pyramids and the growth of Egyptian culture and power, right up through modern day. The text is wide-ranging, covering not only scholarly works, but also how this work is viewed in the media and by the entertainment industry. There are eight chapters:
- The Classical Experience of Ancient Egypt
- Cabinets of Curiosity
- Death on the Nile
- A Tragic Case of the -isms
- Tutmania and the Media
- The Mummy, The Mummy, and The Mummy Again
- Ancient Aliens
- Who Owns Ancient Egypt?
Not all was plain sailing. This book was only available to a reviewer like me through an ebook, and once again the publisher kow-towed to the monolithic, almost monopolistic power of Amazon, and once again Amazon turned the printed word to Kindling. I flatly refuse to do any sort of business with Amazon. I do not care if it costs me sales. I would rather have peace of mind that I am not supporting the Amazon business model in any way, shape or form.
The text itself wasn't so bad, but unless your work is essentially nothing more than plan vanilla text, Amazon will slice, dice, and julienne it. Amazon hates pretty. It hates organized and neat. It hates drop-caps, for example, and will instead drop your text to the next line. In fact, it will quite randomly put a new line in and drop your text to the next line whether you intended it or not at any point in the book. Some of the text was blood-red for reasons I've never been able to figure out, but I've seen this frequently in Kindle books.
There are photographs included in the back of this book which surprisingly survived the process remarkably well, although I think Amazon ditched at least one of them. I was unaware of the pictures until I finished the book, so I'd already looked-up some of these images online where I could find them. This is mostly tied to the section discussing artistic portrayals of ancient Egypt.
The book had an extensive notes and references section and an index, although none of this was clickable - you can't, for example, go to the note from the text, nor can you return to the text from the note, be warned. Same applies to the index. I'm guessing this book was never intended to be an ebook and was simply dumped into that format for reviewers. It's never a good idea to treat reviewers so cavalierly! It might come back to bite you!
The content list is a mess; it's completely unformatted, with some chapters being clickable (although once you click to a chapter there's no way to click back to the content list, which you may wish to do since the list is so closely printed that you could well tap the wrong chapter and wish to go back and start over. The chapter titles are all on separate lines except for five and six which are jammed together on the same line (Chapter 5 Chapter 6).
Chapter 8 is the only chapter title that is clickable, but it doesn't take you to chapter eight! I never read epilogues and prologues so it wasn't an issue for me that they're not clickable, but the text heading for each chapter wasn't listed with the chapter header ('Chapter 1' and so on)! It was listed separately after all the chapter numbers had been listed - and some of those were clickable! Very confusing. Amazon are idiots. I'm sorry, but they are.
Note that I also checked this out in the Bluefire Reader and Adobe Digital Editions versions, which are far better formatted but much less easy to read on a phone which is where I do most of my reading since I always have it with me. The problem with the PDF version though is that it's an exact copy of how the print version will look and people who know me will also know that I do not approve of the wasted space on these semi-academic print books.
Trees are the only entity on Earth which is actively engaged full time in combating the greenhouse gases causing climate change, so hacking them down to produce books is a thoroughly bad idea, and worse, not respecting the dead trees by leaving acres of white space on every page in a print book is a disgrace in my opinion. Naturally no one wants the entire page to be obliterated with densely-packed text! Readability alone requires some sort of intelligent formatting, but it's still not necessary to have massive margins and extra insert pages identifying part this and part that. Please! Respect the trees before it's too late for all of us.
Those are technical issues though that can be fixed, like, for example, the fact that the book description on Net Galley has the book title wrong! The title on the cover and the title of the page are correct, but the description thinks that the book title is: "Pyramidiots: How We Became Obsessed With Ancient Egypt." I prefer the actual title to that one. As far as the content of the text is concerned though, there's nothing wrong with it. I loved this book and I commend it unreservedly except for the Amazon edition!