- Mass Market Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Mass Market Ed edition (15 April 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812545206
- ISBN-13: 978-0812545203
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 5.1 x 25.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,664,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Between the Rivers Mass Market Paperback – 15 Apr 1999
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"The master of alternative SF."--"Publishers Weekly" "Great fun!"--"San Diego Union Tribune" "A truly entertaining exploration of ways in which men might have won independence from the gods--back when the gods were real."--"Locus"
In a complex fantasy world on the very edge of human history, Engibil, the easy-going god of the city of Gibil, is threatened by the gods of other cities who do not allow their human subjects to be as creative and autonomous.See all Product description
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The whole story is original and well thought it. The type of "speech" the characters use can be confusing sometimes, but it does add to the value and setting of the narrative. Highly recommended.
In this world postulated by Harry Turtledove, seemingly related to the worlds of The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump and Thessalonica, the gods, demons and magic actually do exist. In these earliest days of mankind, the gods rule their cities directly, being able to speak to or through their worshippers as well as control their actions. The one place where men have revolted against the rule of the gods is in Gibil, one reason the Alashkurrut gods refuse to trade with them.
Anyone who has read much of Turtledove's fantasy will recognize Sharur immediately as Gerin the Fox, Krispos or Maniakes of Videssos, or Abivard of Makuran. However, Sharur does have an important difference which makes him interesting and sets him apart from his literary predecessors. He is still a young man and prone to the folly and errors young men make. Although clever, in his folly he vowed to use his profits to marry Ningal. When he has failed to bring back profits, his god, Engibil, refuses to permit him to backslide from his vow. Sharur's quest to re-establish Gibil as a trade power stems as much from that as from his devotion to his city.
Between the Rivers also deals heavily with the question of free will. In all this world, only the Giblut possess free will, for citizens of other cities must listen to and obey their gods who can take over their bodies and powers of speech at any time. Even in Gibil, where the lugals (city rulers) have ruled on their own for nearly three generations, Kimash, lugal of Gibil, still realizes that his power could be taken away if he doesn't continue to distract Engibil with interesting bribes.
When the novel opens, Sharur has no question in his mind that self-rule is better than god-rule. As his quest and travails continue, he never loses this belief, but he slowly becomes aware of some of the problems inherent in self-determinism even as he tries to maintain the status quo of Gibil and help foreignors learn to overthrow the powers of their own gods.
Turtledove has been careful throughout the book to emulate the speech patterns which are used throughout Mesopotamian literature, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. Although this pattern appears strange at times, it is similar enough to modern American patterns that it only occasionally intrudes on the narrative, usually when the characters are at their most formal.
Between the Rivers covers ground familiar to readers of Turtledove's work, however it does so in a manner which is frequently fresh and inventive. If the characters could be a little more original, that is a small enough negative. Between the Rivers does a fantastic job of depicting a Mesopotamian culture and the elements of humanity breaking free from the rule of gods and superstition.
The core concept of the book, alone, deserves high praise for its innovativeness. Such a high-concept plot, by itself, could make a book worth reading. Turtledove takes the story to a higher level by brilliantly capturing the feel of what it would be like to live in the early bronze age. Under his authorship, he turns what could have been a simple story about simple folk into a complex tale of faith and reason. Most importantly, he shows that, in their own way, the people of that time were extremely sophisticated and that they were undergoing the equivilant of high-tech revolution in their culture.
This is certainly one of the better books that I've read this year and I'm certain that I shall long remember it.
The tale works quite well, but reads like it is Part One in yet another Turteldove series. You learn bits about the Gods but nothing is fully settled. Is the god of the city of Gibil really lazy, or is he actually on the human's side, forcing them to be free? We don't get an answer in this book and there definitely should be another one.
I could wish, however, for a different ending in which Engibil is defeated!
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