Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Review of Bob Brier’s The Murder of Tutankhamen

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The Murder of Tutankhamen was written by the writer/philosopher/Egyptologist Bob Brier, Ph.D. The book was published by Berkley Books, New York in 1 for the paperback edition. Though it was previously published in 18. What most impressed me about the book is the volumes and volumes of very reliable sources. If looking at the back of the book for the bibliography, a person finds oneself totally transfixed by the large amounts of sources. Not only were the many sources about Tut himself, but there were many books/magazines/journals/encyclopedias/etc., of his family, Egyptian history and more. I found the book to be very insightful and organized in its way of telling how Egypt was formed, lived and died.

Brier did a good job informing people of Egypt, but I was not too interested in the book as much as the critics acclaimed it to be so fascinating. The only part of the book that really caught my attention would have the be the first chapter or so. I really liked how he pieced together the puzzle of how Tut’s last days might have been, or at least how he must have been murdered. It felt like I was almost in a murder/mystery story about to unmask the killer behind the curtain. For example, Brier wrote, “In the depths of this night the door slowly, silently opened, just wide enough for a single man to creep through before closing it behind him. Somehow he had slipped past the sentries. Had they been told to look the other way?” (Brier ). Those two little sentences almost sent shivers down my spine as I read it in the night, awaiting to find out what happened when the stranger arrived to kill Tutankhamen.

Sadly, the fascinating story ended, and the history lesson began. I found myself zoning in and out of interest as I read the rest of the book. There were many interesting parts though such as; when Brier talks about how the pyramids that were constructed for the pharaoh for his resting place were in fact not built by slaves, but by paid labor. Also, another interesting fact was how he was talking about Akhenaten (previously known as Amenhotep III). Brier talks about Akhenaten possibly having Marfan syndrome, and how it had an affect of his rule as king. I could not put the book down for a second when I was reading up on that. It was just so attention-grabbing to read something about a king that grew up in a place where individuality was looked down upon, and being a subject of hundreds of Gods was the key to keeping the people happy. Akhenaten went beyond the norm and started his own thing where he was the only king in recorded history at that time that rejected all the other gods and declared worship for only one single God. I believe that he did it to be different, partly because of the reason that he was so different looking. Also another thing that changed, was the style of art during Akhenaten’s rule. People, even less than a hundred years ago, were ostracized about being a little bit different, but to go beyond the tradition of religion and culture, when being a king, that was just amazing. Brier did a wonderful job describing how Akhenaten lived and how he changed history (Brier 1).

The one thing that really irked me when I read the book is how much emphasis Brier put on the family of Tutankhamen rather than Tut himself. I completely understood that a normal reader needed an explanation of ancient Egypt before Brier got to explaining his reasons of why he thought that Tut was murdered and/or how it happened, but it felt like the book could have been summarized into a large pamphlet rather than a book of such a size. I used to be very much so into ancient Egypt, so maybe that has something to do with my boredom when reading some sections, but I would recommend this book to people that know nothing about Egypt but have a thirst for knowledge. Brier did a wonderful job making the book easy as possible so anyone could read it, and also he packed just enough information about Egypt and its people that it wasn’t too much like a textbook. But Brier could have done better keeping on track on some occasions, like in the second paragraph of chapter nine, he starts by talking about how the widow of Tut wrote a letter to the Hittites, and without even finishing off why she wrote it he already started talking about how the Hittites kept awesome records of their lives and how there was this excavation about this king. That made my brain pace from subject to subject and made me lose interest very quickly.

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In conclusion, The Murder of Tutankhamen by Bob Brier, was a very well organized and instructive book to readers who don’t know about Egypt, not so much Tut, and want to find out more. The sources from the book were very dependable and trustworthy, not only because of where they came from, but because Brier is a very prominent and educated Egyptologist, so he knew where to get the right stuff. I sadly, found myself more so bored rather than entertained by this book. I did find some very interesting facts in the book, but those facts were not even about Tutankhamen, they were about someone or something else. All in all, the book was alright, I would only recommend it to people that want to enrich their knowledge of Egypt and find out more about Tutankhamen without feeling like they have to be highly intelligent scholars to read it.

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