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Bill_T
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Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

The prologue broaches a mystery surrounding Marco Polo, but another controversy also swirls around the Venetian explorer: did he actually exist? Certain lapses in his reporting of the Far East (like not mentioning the Great Wall or describe tea-drinking) make modern historians question whether he was a fictional character. What does that mean for the reality of “history”?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of The Judas Strain, through the end of "Exposure" (p. 132). If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

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vivico1
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


Bill_T wrote:
The prologue broaches a mystery surrounding Marco Polo, but another controversy also swirls around the Venetian explorer: did he actually exist? Certain lapses in his reporting of the Far East (like not mentioning the Great Wall or describe tea-drinking) make modern historians question whether he was a fictional character. What does that mean for the reality of “history”?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of The Judas Strain, through the end of "Exposure" (p. 132). If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.


You know, in school when i was a kid, we heard about Marco Polo some but very little and I think I saw a movie about him once a long time ago. But I never knew there was a debate about his existance or not. I had always thought he was a real person and his travels were real, until i read in the prologue about that. So I started checking the internet right then and most of what I found said he was real and that any controversy was fairly modern and just debate, that there was actually too much evidence that he was real.

I didnt know about his journey home and the lost ships, looked that up too and said it was true and that fascinated me. The whole idea of what DID happen to those ships and those men and why wouldnt Marco tell was to me the makings of a great suspense book. Then the stuff about plagues and things that the CDC says today and about the Eastern countries, made me not only think about the bird flu but all the stuff now that is being recalled that was made in China and a whole lot of things ,that the prologue for me was really a WOW, ok this is great (and scary stuff) for a book, so lets go at it.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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JamesRollins
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

Vivian, I had EXACTLY the same reaction. I first encountered the mystery about Marco's return trip while reading a series of articles in National Geographic. I read that and thought "now THAT'S a mystery I'd love to explore." Marco's dying words were "I have not told half of what I saw." My goal was to TELL that other half!

Jim


Learn more about The Judas Strain.
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Stephanie
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

Viv,

When I read the bits about the sicknesses coming from the East I have to admit, it made me pause. The mysteries surrounding Marco Polo intrigued me as well. I wondered this: If he was a fictional character, who made him up, and why? To what end, and what gain would a storyteller have to not tell the story, but to leave it with Marco saying, "I have not told half of what I saw"?
Stephanie
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vivico1
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


Stephanie wrote:
Viv,

When I read the bits about the sicknesses coming from the East I have to admit, it made me pause. The mysteries surrounding Marco Polo intrigued me as well. I wondered this: If he was a fictional character, who made him up, and why? To what end, and what gain would a storyteller have to not tell the story, but to leave it with Marco saying, "I have not told half of what I saw"?


Well for the sake of a fairytale, the best were always left with some mystery to them, as if there were more to come. Many little boys grew up to go exploring from the stories they were told in their youth then. And they think so too because of all fanciful animals he talked about and what he didnt say he saw that he should have(the ones looking back and trying to say this now). I had always understood that he was real, but that some back in his home didnt believe a lot of what he told them because they spoke of things they had never seen. I think maybe even the elephant? Anyway, yeah was always taught he was real and believe it now, not this new stuff that he wasnt.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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JamesRollins
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

As you might guess from the book, I also think Marco was a real historical figure. To pull off a con of such magnitude at that time is a bit much to believe. And the eyebrow-raising going on now is interesting but far from convincing.

Jim


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Stephanie
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

I agree - I find it too far-fetched ... something akin to the talk about Shakespeare. How much evidence do people want/need in order to believe something is so? It seems to me it might be easy to disprove any of us, if it were a case of proof positive. This is the reason I'm sure, we send children to school when they are still open-minded. Can you imagine if we waited to teach them about the wonders of the world when they were teens? Oi! Even George Washington would take a beating. :smileyhappy:
Stephanie
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Vila
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


Bill_T wrote:
The prologue broaches a mystery surrounding Marco Polo, but another controversy also swirls around the Venetian explorer: did he actually exist? Certain lapses in his reporting of the Far East (like not mentioning the Great Wall or describe tea-drinking) make modern historians question whether he was a fictional character. What does that mean for the reality of “history”?



I doubt any speculation that Marco Polo did not exist because there are portraits and church records. Saying he did not exist just because he didn't make any observations about the Great Wall or drinking tea simply is not enough evidence to make such assumptions on.
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hawaiianchique
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

Question: Why do you think people would want to discard certain people (like Marco Polo) from history? What would anyone gain from such losses in history? Any thoughts?
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vivico1
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


hawaiianchique wrote:
Question: Why do you think people would want to discard certain people (like Marco Polo) from history? What would anyone gain from such losses in history? Any thoughts?


This one, I think is just for sensationalism. Get something started that could maybe even make a few bucks in the publication world, who knows for sure. But on a really harsher reality, look at all those trying to say now the holocaust never happened! And our youth falling for that lie?! Now thats really scary, more so then this for just a good mystery, new folklore about Marco or whatever. Many people try to change history for so many reasons. Dont we as individuals do that in some ways at time? But its the bigger ones that scare me. Like in this book, the idea of such a virus existing and nations or organizations going after it for their own reasons. Are they good reasons or bad ones? Do even the good guys in the book, really know if what they find will be used for "good" purposes? If this book was real, I would be worried with whoever might get control of it! And look at the lies told in it. Since its a novel, its great! Trying to figure out who to trust, with what and how far!

Changing history is great for stories, changing it for political agendas is frightening. Remember how history changed almost daily in the book 1984.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Vila
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

In the case of Marco Polo, it may not be the act of trying to discard him. It may be more that people have been questioning what has been blindly accepted by the world and seeking to find more facts about the matter.

There is nothing wrong with questioning a long standing tradition just as long as you are willing to go further and seek more knowledge about what you are questioning. It is through just such questioning that we learn many new things.
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JamesRollins
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

Interesting thread here. Why DO we try to prove heroes of the past have clay feet? There is current section of fiction that has spiked in popularity: alternate histories. What if Hitler won WWII? What if Islam became the predominant European religion versus Christianity? Why are these so popular of late?

Jim


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vivico1
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


JamesRollins wrote:
Interesting thread here. Why DO we try to prove heroes of the past have clay feet? There is current section of fiction that has spiked in popularity: alternate histories. What if Hitler won WWII? What if Islam became the predominant European religion versus Christianity? Why are these so popular of late?

Jim


Sometimes I think it is in response to what is happening in our time all over the world. And especially around times of war and we have been at this one really longer than this current part. I remember studying in one of my college psych classes about peoples' feelings about the times or need to escape the times being reflected in the movies that become popular. For example, one of the biggest ones was in the 50s. We had just come out of WWII, times were tough at home, men needing their jobs back that women had gone into the work force to fill. A lot of things happening and there was a fear of what next because of the bomb. What happened in the movies was a wave of science fiction movies about UFO's and Aliens. The fifties were full of them and some were here to wipe us out like in War of the Worlds (a great sci fi for its time) and others were here to help, or to warn us, the world, if we dont get our act together then "THEY" will do it for us and take control.

Its the same thing in reading or any other media. I wonder if when we are feeling like we cant change the present, be it wars, or poverty, or the what is happening to the earth, whatever it might be, if we then have the desire to create alternative experiences and the past (history) and the future ( science fiction) is a great place to do that.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Vila
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue



JamesRollins wrote:
Interesting thread here. Why DO we try to prove heroes of the past have clay feet? There is current section of fiction that has spiked in popularity: alternate histories. What if Hitler won WWII? What if Islam became the predominant European religion versus Christianity? Why are these so popular of late?

Jim




I think young people try to prove the heroes aren't really "Heroes" simply because it is within their nature to rebel, (and there are those who do it just to get attention).

As long as the search for the proof is based in facts, then I think it helps the rest of us learn more. The proofs usually do not deny the actions or existence of the hero, but it makes us look at the hero again and appreciate him/her even more.

For myself, I enjoy reading a good story about a "What If" in history. I find that makes me review what I think about the historical event and the world as it is now, and stretches my mind.
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vivico1
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


Vila wrote:


JamesRollins wrote:
Interesting thread here. Why DO we try to prove heroes of the past have clay feet? There is current section of fiction that has spiked in popularity: alternate histories. What if Hitler won WWII? What if Islam became the predominant European religion versus Christianity? Why are these so popular of late?

Jim




I think young people try to prove the heroes aren't really "Heroes" simply because it is within their nature to rebel, (and there are those who do it just to get attention).

As long as the search for the proof is based in facts, then I think it helps the rest of us learn more. The proofs usually do not deny the actions or existence of the hero, but it makes us look at the hero again and appreciate him/her even more.

For myself, I enjoy reading a good story about a "What If" in history. I find that makes me review what I think about the historical event and the world as it is now, and stretches my mind.


I like what if's, if they put it out there that this is purely speculation. You are one of those it sounds like who would at least then go do some research, that it would make you want to know more. The problem with "what ifs' and history is that many many people wont do that, or take whatever is being said as proof of itself! Its why there are actually some people, mostly young, who could and do believe that the holocaust didnt happen! Changing history like that is scary stuff. Like I mentioned before, we get into the 1984 syndrome. But with this book, you have some great things from history and some known things now blended into a great "what if" thriller that sure lead me to do some research, and some things you know arent real (or hope lol). But the difference is too, Jim in this book, puts his facts in the back. Now how many will do that? I think thats a very responsible thing to do because as I said, some people will never look past this book or any to see what is or isnt true and just take this as it is. They miss a lot but they misunderstand a lot too.

There is another question that arises too. As you say, as long as they are based in facts....but whose facts??
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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suetu
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

When it comes to alternate histories, I think Vila basically summed it up with, "what if."

I just read Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. In it, Chabon takes a bit of historical trivia (that during WWII, it was briefly proposed--and quickly shot down--that America give the European Jews sanctuary in Alaska) and creates a world significantly altered from the one we know. And not just in big ways. The fun of the "what if" is trying to figure out ALL the ways that changing one little aspect of reality alters SO many others. An alternate history is an intriguing avenue of thought to go down.

As for Mr. Polo, I don't know if he was a real person. I, too, am inclined to believe he is. But whether he is or not, SOMEONE took that journey and reported back about it. As with Shakespeare, whether or not you believe he wrote those plays, you know someone did.
Susan
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hawaiianchique
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

I'm not opposed to alternate histories. However, I have a respect for history and historical figures. Great people accomplished awesome things and i believe we owe them our respect for that. I believe we should continue to learn about the past, but at the same time, respect it.
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smg5775
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue





Bill_T wrote:
The prologue broaches a mystery surrounding Marco Polo, but another controversy also swirls around the Venetian explorer: did he actually exist? Certain lapses in his reporting of the Far East (like not mentioning the Great Wall or describe tea-drinking) make modern historians question whether he was a fictional character. What does that mean for the reality of “history”?

I liked the prologue. It set the context for the book. Polo found or at least spoke of the virus first then the modern characters of the book look for the virus to destroy it. History changes as we get more facts or as we gain access to other points of view. For many years the teaching of American history focused just on white men's point of view or the victor's point of view or the money people's view. Now we get the other side--the Native American tribes, the slaves, the women's, the lower class, the losers, etc. Also focus changes through the year. How do you describe The Great Wall of China without pictures and make it realistic? We now can see it in photos so it's not unbelievable to us but back in Polo's time since people didn't have a frame of reference for it so Polo would have been thought to be nuts.
Sheila
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Vila
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue


smg5775 wrote:


Bill_T wrote:
The prologue broaches a mystery surrounding Marco Polo, but another controversy also swirls around the Venetian explorer: did he actually exist? Certain lapses in his reporting of the Far East (like not mentioning the Great Wall or describe tea-drinking) make modern historians question whether he was a fictional character. What does that mean for the reality of “history”?

I liked the prologue. It set the context for the book. Polo found or at least spoke of the virus first then the modern characters of the book look for the virus to destroy it. History changes as we get more facts or as we gain access to other points of view. For many years the teaching of American history focused just on white men's point of view or the victor's point of view or the money people's view. Now we get the other side--the Native American tribes, the slaves, the women's, the lower class, the losers, etc. Also focus changes through the year. How do you describe The Great Wall of China without pictures and make it realistic? We now can see it in photos so it's not unbelievable to us but back in Polo's time since people didn't have a frame of reference for it so Polo would have been thought to be nuts.


Another thing to remember too, about the Great Wall of China and Marco Polo, was that it was the 13th century and EVERY well fortified city worth it's salt had a wall. Seeing a big protective wall was not a surprise to people living in that time period, and if you were rich enough to put a wall around your country, then Kudos to you.

As far as tea drinking.

---------------------------------------------
In China, tea fell out of favour as a drink during the years of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368), when the Mongol rulers considered the drinking of tea a symbol of decadence. But it returned to popularity under the native Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Maffeo and Niccolò Polo set out on a second journey with the Pope's response to Kublai Khan, in 1271. This time Niccolò took his son Marco, along with two friars who did not finish the voyage due to fear.

The Polos spent the next 17 years in China. Kublai Khan took a liking to Marco, who was an engaging storyteller. They set him on many diplomatic missions throughout his empire. Marco carried out diplomatic assignments but also entertained the khan with interesting stories and observations about the lands he traveled.

Marco reported that apart from entrusting him with diplomatic missions Kublai Khan also made him governor for three years of the large commercial city of Yangzhou[4]

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
My thoughts on this:

Marco Polo was in China during the early years of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, and if drinking tea became a big social No No, then it is likely that Marco Polo simply refrained from reporting on the custom of tea drinking. Or perhaps he simply did not like drinking tea, saw no value in it, and therefore didn't write about it.
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Moldy-Muse
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Re: Early Chapter Discussion: Prologue

Jim asked: "Why DO we try to prove heroes of the past have clay feet?"

When I was younger and dudmber, I used to think if our heroes of the past (and even present) have clay feet, then I can feel better about myself. After all, they weren't/aren't perfect -- so I don't look so bad in my own eyes; AND ... I don't have to try so hard to clean up my life and do better.

Now I'm older, not quite so dumb and I know better -- but young folks have to learn on their own; and some older folks will never learn.
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