Arthur Loestler's first novel tells the story of the revolt of Spartacus and, as the author emphasises in the Postscript written for this edition, it is the first of three novels dealing with the age-old problem of whether the end justifies the means. The other two, DARKNESS AT NOON, and ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE, are both available in this edition.
A thoughtful, solid re-creation of a period of Roman history, that period which was the forerunner of the insistent rebellion of the rule of the many by the few, the Gladiators War. And the book carries a reflective parallel to the modern revolt of the masses which makes it of timely interest. The novel centers around Spartaous, the Thracian revolutionary leader, who escaped from Capua and amassed an army of slaves and fighters and defeated the Roman consuls sent to capture them. The army of followers grows, eventually threatening all Italy as a plan for a Utopian Sun State is propounded. But Spartaous fails, and his failure symbolizes the tragedy of idealism defeated by a necessary tyranny which he so hated. A politico-philosophical novel, which sacrifices characterization somewhat to backcloth and ideology, but a provocative one. (Kirkus Reviews)