I picked up The Gladiator at the library while collecting a book I'd put on hold. The cover appealed to me with its soviet style artwork of a hand holding a D20. Being by Harry Turtledove also helped as I've enjoyed some of his previous works before. As with pretty much everything he writes, The Gladiator is a work alternate history story. It's an easy read and I managed to finish it that evening in about 5 or so hours of reading.
It's set in a world where America backed down over the Cuban missile crisis and so communism eventually won the day. Taking place in Italy about a hundred years from now, the main plot focuses on a group who have traveled from our world to this one and are trying to install capitalistic ideals by running game shops where people can play games that require capitalistic thinking. Things go haywire when the security forces crackdown, and the proprietor finds safety with the family of some of his customers. An escape is finally managed via a similar store in San Marino.
The story isn't really that deep, and the ideals the author favours are quite clearly those of our world. All of the main characters are shown to question the ruling ideology of their world, and those who have bought the communist kool-aid are mostly caricatures. The plot is pretty straight forward and there aren't any twists per se.
Overall it's an OK read, but aimed more at the young adult rather than the adult reader that Turtledove usually writes for. I doubt I'd have picked it up except for the gimmick of using games to subvert the communist regime.