The Inner Sea
A Novel of the Year 100
Levellers Press, 2014
A globalizing Rome has taken nations and tribes by force, and the loss of national and tribal identity leaves people adrift in an indifferent empire.Jews find themselves without their centralizing Temple and Christians without their Son of God. Fatalists trust to the stars; Stoics and Epicureans only to themselves. Two young people cross paths, bringing down the worlds of their parents and ultimately testing the wisdom of Rome’s own son of god — the emperor, Trajan.
Zane Kotker’s elegant, fast-paced, and gracefully written historical novel, The Inner Sea, evokes the turbulent atmosphere of 100 AD when Christianity began differentiating itself from Judaism and the activity of both religions was often ruthlessly suppressed. Its large cast of characters, from silver merchants, slaves, Roman officials, and Christian martyrs to a young Jewish Romeo in love with a Juliet under the spell of Christianity, pulsate with life, inspiring the reader to meditate on the corruptions of power and the devastating consequences of military and religious warfare.
—Herbert Leibowitz, Editor, Parnassus: Poetry in Review
“The Inner Sea is a wonderful feat of imagination and scholarship…. This phenomenally rich context [the Roman Empire near apogee] could easily prove overwhelming; fortunately, Kotker, author of four previous noels and a collection of poetry, is a master of both pacing and restraint,… The Inner Sea’s true protagonist, it turns out, is the magnificent chaos of imperial Rome itself; Kotker keeps us mesmerized with a hugely varied cast of secondary characters and with her terrific, vivid descriptions of the physical world they inhabit,… Kotker’s talent for stagecraft is phenomenal; she doesn’t just conjure up scenes but seems rather to channel them, right down to detail after fascinating detail…. Over all this richness presides the emperor Trajan, whom Kotker presents in a series of lovely, interstitial chapters.”
—Fernanda Moore, Commentary
Her characters are human and flawed, and we come to love them in all their complexity and confusion, hoping along with them for a better world. This is a story that will stay with you.
— Susanne Dunlap, author of The Musician’s Daughter
With unobtrusive authority and deft skill, Zane Kotker achieves the astonishing feat of making the richly various Mediterranean peoples of the year 100 AD as familiar to us as our present neighbors. It is as if the year 100 were all yesterday’s news and today’s gossip.
— Roger King, author of Love and Fatigue in America