The Seven Wonders: A Novel of the Ancient World by Steven Saylor is a collection of short stories starring the youthful, wise cracking Gordianus. Currently there is a popular series of mysteries written by Mr. Saylor and starring an older Gordianus.
As the name of the book might suggests, the reader follows Gordianus along with his companion and teacher, the world famous Antipater. This famous Greek poet faked his own death to travel in privacy with his student to see the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
I enjoyed Saylor’s previous books (although admittedly I didn’t read many) and was thrilled to be offered to read The Seven Wonders. The short stories are a great introduction to Gordianus and actually have a running theme throughout them besides a travelogue.
I am a true believer that travel opens the mind; it lets you see for yourself that there are other ways to live your life besides what you believe is the right way. Actually, traveling shows you that there is no right way; a dirt farmer in middle America might just be as happy and content with his life as a merchant in Venice. Experiencing other cultures also, I believe, defuses racism and forms tolerance and acceptance into one’s mind. In many countries, traveling after high school or college or military service is a rite of passage and I think those people are all the better for it.
Current fans of Gordianus will enjoy this book because the real story is the evolution of a loved character. Part mystery, a travel journal, a sexual awaking tale (as a healthy 18 year old, Gordanius discovers the pleasures of the body at each Wonder, if memory serves me correctly) and part a coming of age story. Gordanius becomes the detective that he is in the later novels, partly by sharpening his powers of deduction while being a stranger in a strange land, grappling with unknown cultures and languages. A nice touch, in my opinion, was Gordanius’ realization that Rome just might not be the center of the world and/or universe. A truth he has heard and believed since birth.