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When I was a kid, my favorite book was "Knight of the Cross" Olaf, a Viking boy who is seriously injured in his first battle, is healed by a wandering monk on the condition that he join the Crusades. He grows into a strapping man, learns to wield a sling and a battle ax & wins a great victory by freeing the ramp on a siege engine when the Crusaders are besieging an infidel castle. Ever since I have been fascinated by ancient siege engines (this won me beaucoup points from the chairman of the History Department at Colgate, when we had a roughly two hour discussion about Greek Fire & Catapults, my Longbow Theory of Democracy & why everyone misunderstands the story of David and Goliath).
In this book, Jim Paul too is fascinated by catapults and by the concept of throwing stones for great distances. He wangles some grant money, recruits his friend Harry and together they build a working catapult & hurl stones off of a cliff in Marin County. Interspersed with the true story of their project are vignettes from the history of the catapult and siege engines ranging from Biblical Times to Edward "Hammer of the Scots".
I loved it and I don't think a weird obsession with ancient weapons is required.
-REVIEW : of Deus Lo Volt; A Chronicle of the Crusades by Evan S. Connell (Jim Paul, SF Chronicle)
If you liked Catapult, try: