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Download The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleons Greatest Army Audiobook, by Stephan Talty Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (201 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Stephan Talty Narrator: Stephen Hoye Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2009 ISBN: 9780739383506
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In a masterful dual narrative that pits the heights of human ambition and achievement against the supremacy of nature, New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty tells the story of a mighty ruler and a tiny microbe, antagonists whose struggle would shape the modern world.

In the spring of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte was at the height of his powers. Forty-five million called him emperor, and he commanded a nation that was the richest, most cultured, and advanced on earth. No army could stand against his impeccably trained, brilliantly led forces, and his continued sweep across Europe seemed inevitable.

Early that year, bolstered by his successes, Napoleon turned his attentions toward Moscow, helming the largest invasion in human history. Surely, Tsar Alexander’s outnumbered troops would crumble against this mighty force.

But another powerful and ancient enemy awaited Napoleon’s men in the Russian steppes. Virulent and swift, this microscopic foe would bring the emperor to his knees.

Even as the Russians retreated before him in disarray, Napoleon found his army disappearing, his frantic doctors powerless to explain what had struck down a hundred thousand soldiers. The emperor’s vaunted military brilliance suddenly seemed useless, and when the Russians put their own occupied capital to the torch, the campaign became a desperate race through the frozen landscape as troops continued to die by the thousands. Through it all, with tragic heroism, Napoleon’s disease-ravaged, freezing, starving men somehow rallied, again and again, to cries of “Vive l’Empereur!”

Yet Talty’s sweeping tale takes us far beyond the doomed heroics and bloody clashes of the battlefield. The Illustrious Dead delves deep into the origins of the pathogen that finally ended the mighty emperor’s dreams of world conquest and exposes this “war plague’s” hidden role throughout history. A tale of two unstoppable forces meeting on the road to Moscow in an epic clash of killer microbe and peerless army, The Illustrious Dead is a historical whodunit in which a million lives hang in the balance.

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Quotes & Awards

  • An eloquent and vivid portrait that includes a view through the telescopes of rear-echelon
    commanders, the rifle sights of front-line skirmishers, and the clouded spectacles of field surgeons laboring in candlelit abattoirs . . . the finest kind of popular history.
    William Rosen, author of Justinian’s Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire
  • A swashbuckling adventure . . . [the] characters leap to life. The New York Times Book Review
  • Reeking of authentic blood and thunder, and as richly detailed as a work of fiction . . . dramatically evokes the rough and tumble age when pirates owned the seas. A thrilling and fascinating adventure. Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance
  • Stephan Talty’s vigorous history of seventeenth-century pirates of the Caribbean will sate even fickle Jack Sparrow fans. A pleasure to read from bow to stern. Entertainment Weekly
  • Serves up swashbuckling history at its briny, blood-soaked best, with enough violence and passion to keep the pages flying by. Tom Reiss, author of The Orientalist
  • Talty’s delicious new book succeeds where other volumes of history fail. . . .A ripping yarn, worthy of its gaudy subject. Dallas Morning News

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina Dudley | 2/16/2014

    " About Napoleon's ill-fated Russian campaign and a military history, as much as an account of typhus. Interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tuck | 1/31/2014

    " good popular history of bonaparte's army and going to russia (where he got his ass kicked by everything, typhus, no food, cold weather, peasants, and of course lots of cossacks). typhus killed most of his army, not war. human louse, please keep the warm water and soap handy. ehhhssh. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Don | 1/15/2014

    " The author makes a compelling case that rampant Typhus was the cause of Napoleon's defeat in Russia, not the weather. If his army had not been racked by Typhus they would have had enough troops to destroy the Russians at Borodino and force the Tsar to sue for peace. The Russians were the last continental foe. Had Napoleon defeated them, the history of the 19th century would have been much different. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 1/12/2014

    " Fascinating story of how Napoleon truly lost his army and the war and changed world history! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 1/1/2014

    " History, dusease- my cuppa tea. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tracey | 12/28/2013

    " About 100 pages too long. Would have liked more on typhus itself and less on the strategies of battle. I did learn a lot and it was fun to read this with a student for her AP World class and have a "book club" over it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Josh | 12/26/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. Gives the geopolitical environment of 19th century Europe, traces Napoleon's rise, various other key figures roles, and follows Napoleon from France to Russia and back again with the little microbe that torpedoed his Russian adventure. At the same time, 19th century medicine/theory is explained, the history of typhus and its relationship with war, and its effects are all detailed. "Terrifying" indeed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bill Gordon | 12/21/2013

    " I've never read much military history but that may change after this book. It's a well-written account of how typhus devastated Napoleon's army as it marched through Russia in an attempt to capture Moscow. It's a quick read and very entertaining and educational. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 kenpen | 12/13/2013

    " Very informative. I knew the basics of Napoleon's ill fated trek into Russia in 1812, but this book really showed the horror of it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Floyd | 11/2/2013

    " Ok, ok, I get it: typhus bad and probably changed history. This book would actually be pretty good to ready before War & Peace as it provides great historical context. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matthew | 3/4/2013

    " This book is a great combination of military history and epidemic history that is written in an engaging way. Excellent for understanding the role disease plays in history as well as gaining an understanding of Napoleon's later career, this book is well worth the read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nathan | 11/8/2012

    " As military history goes, it is an interesting story and very well told. The author is trying too hard, much too hard, to make it all about typhus at the neglect of the other aspects. It is as if the goal of the book was to fit the facts into the theory. But again, great military history "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris Chipps | 7/23/2012

    " Great historical detail, old bones, and a mystery slowly unraveled. Well done! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wayne | 5/7/2012

    " Excellent, interesting and informative. A little microbe killed more than the Tsar's bullets and bayonets did. Always believed winter and Russia's scorched earth policy stopped Napoleon but this book states otherwise, good stuff. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dave | 12/6/2011

    " Great short survey on Napoleon and one of his huge blunders during his reign. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael McGonagle | 7/24/2011

    " I've always been fascinated with how disease has influenced the course of history, and this analysis of Napoleon's Russian campaign was an interesting example. It also put the Russian army and leadership in a different light, and makes an interesting contrast with their portrayal in War and Peace. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 3/28/2011

    " About Napoleon's ill-fated Russian campaign and a military history, as much as an account of typhus. Interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 2/14/2011

    " I've always been fascinated with how disease has influenced the course of history, and this analysis of Napoleon's Russian campaign was an interesting example. It also put the Russian army and leadership in a different light, and makes an interesting contrast with their portrayal in War and Peace. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nathan | 6/29/2010

    " As military history goes, it is an interesting story and very well told. The author is trying too hard, much too hard, to make it all about typhus at the neglect of the other aspects. It is as if the goal of the book was to fit the facts into the theory. But again, great military history "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bill | 1/14/2010

    " I've never read much military history but that may change after this book. It's a well-written account of how typhus devastated Napoleon's army as it marched through Russia in an attempt to capture Moscow. It's a quick read and very entertaining and educational. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tuck | 12/29/2009

    " good popular history of bonaparte's army and going to russia (where he got his ass kicked by everything, typhus, no food, cold weather, peasants, and of course lots of cossacks). typhus killed most of his army, not war. human louse, please keep the warm water and soap handy. ehhhssh. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wayne | 10/23/2009

    " Excellent, interesting and informative. A little microbe killed more than the Tsar's bullets and bayonets did. Always believed winter and Russia's scorched earth policy stopped Napoleon but this book states otherwise, good stuff. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 9/26/2009

    " Fascinating story of how Napoleon truly lost his army and the war and changed world history! "

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About the Author
Stephan Talty is a widely published journalist who has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water and Mulatto America: At the Crossroads of Black and White Culture.
About the Narrator

Stephen Hoye has worked as a professional actor in London and Los Angeles for more than thirty years. Trained at Boston University and the Guildhall in London, he has acted in television series and six feature films and has appeared in London’s West End.