This book desperately needs the application of an editor's red pen to cross out all those pointless side tangent paragraphs that have nothing to do with anything, and to insert all those missing full stops! The author seems to be competing with Charles Dickens on who can write the longest sentence.
The writing is rather dull interspersed with lots of relevant asides that don't have anything to do with the subject. The Nika riots and Theodora's impassioned speech are written with the same excitement inherent in one of those ancient, dusty encyclopedia entries. If the Nika riots were as "volatile" as the author's writing style suggest, Justinian would have slept through the whole episode!
First two chapters are a summary of the history of the roman empire up to the founding of Constantinople that imitates the leaping and jumping around mobility of the flea in the title. Then the author focuses more tightly on Justinian's reign.
The author also provides lengthy rambling history lessons of some "stuff" (I can't think of another work to describe what the author wrote) that happened during Justinian's reign in both Byzantium, Western Europe, Middle East and China. Hmmm... maybe the author should have written a military history instead. The plague gets short shrift in this book.
Fleas, rats and bacteria finally make an appearance about halfway through. Quite a decent bit of detailed science involved about bacteria and rats in general, but you still have to wade through all the random fluff [eg Krebs cycle, evolution, intelligent design in relation to flagella in the section on climate factors instead of in the bacteria section and whether intelligent design is fact or fiction. If the author had wanted to discuss intelligent design, evolution, creationism etc, he should have written a book about that instead of stuffing it randomly in a book about the plague].
This book does have a lot of interesting information printed on its pages... you just have to plough through a whole lot of random fluff to find it.
Advice: Borrow this book before buying it. If you looking for detailed information about the plague in the 500's A.C., you need to find another book. If you are looking for a general history book on Justinian's reign you might find this book useful, if rather frustrating to read.
Recommendation to the author (if he reads it): Please find an editor. A good one. An editor that can turn your extensive research and vast piles of interesting information into something that is a joy to read, instead of a frustration.
I don't suppose anyone could recommend another book that discusses the plague in Justinian's reign and the climate factors (comet/volcano) that might have influenced its spread and what effect this had on the Byzantium Empire? Or even the plague in general that includes some decent science and social effects?