As the popularly agreed-upon preeminent Latin American storyteller, it is not unexpected that Garcia Marquez would take a turn at telling the epic story of Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator. What is unexpected, somewhat, is that he would novelize the biography so slackly, dully, obligatorily: the book seems like a homework assignment for a Nobelist. We get a Bolivar here at his last: renouncing the presidency of Colombia, leaving Bogota to journey along the Magdalena River, all the while clearly dying and putting his (and a continent's) final business in order. Garcia Marquez flashes back silkily to past loves and treacheries and alliances and personal suavities, but it's all done as though behind a screen: even Bolivar's prodigious erotic life--which threatens to burst through into the sort of high-relief gorgeousness that Marquezian prose can be at its best--remains inert and spalled. Bolivar comes across as a man of dignity and farsightedness, but more tangled inside the history he developed than defined by it. And the book seems to feel it must responsibly, officially register certain historical landmarks every so often, in dull prose: "His officers may never have imagined to what extent this distribution of benefits joined their destinies. For better or worse, all of them would share the rest of their lives. . .fighting at the side of Commander Pedro Carujo in a military adventure intended to achieve the Bolivarist idea of integration." Dutiful but dry as dust.