Book Review: “Casca: The Eternal Mercenary” (book 1) by Barry Sadler (1979)

The concept of Casca excited me from the moment I first heard it. As a man who loves history and, though not a military buff, has found his fair share of pleasure in little-known battles of the past, the concept of a cursed immortal soldier who has no other choice but to make his way through the centuries as a soldier who never dies simply fascinated me. Sadly, however, I have had the hardest time finding copies of this amazing series. Having been out of print for some time, and rarely leaving the hands of collectors for the shelves of used bookstores, books from Barry Sadler’s Casca series are an elusive bunch of books to find. I cannot imagine these stories fit into the love-them-hate-them category, so I do not know why their printing has been discontinued, but perhaps I am partial because I loved them. I cannot tell.

Sadler’s treatment of first, second, and third century political and military history fascinated me. Whether or not the specific details are perfectly accurate, I cannot say, but Sadler quite obviously put a massive amount of research into this, his first Casca project, as any self-respecting historical fiction author would do. His battle sequences are intense (though occasionally they finish much faster than I would prefer), and the internal conflict of the main character is palpable. I sense his anguish, specifically when he fears getting stuck in a cave-in, thus potentially being eternally buried in dirt and darkness yet never being able to die. Sadler describes the fear as that which those facing Hell must sense, and certainly, Casca is one who, if not facing the prospect of eternal torment in Hell, at least faces the prospect of eternal torment on earth. While I still hold out some hope that by the end of book 22 or 35 he will have changed his outlook on his predicament and become somewhat less morally decadent, this hope and this not knowing are really just a part of the intrigue that is Casca.

©2011 E.T.

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