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Between the Rivers Mass Market Paperback – April 15, 1999

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

When the gods declare war against the city of Gibil, Sharur the merchant's son takes upon himself the task of discovering the reason for their anger. Bolstered by his belief in the ability of mortals to act without the direct intervention of divine powers, Sharur travels beyond the confines of the twin rivers that demarcate his homeland, disseminating his strange ideas of free will and independent thought. The advent of the Bronze Age and its impact on human civilization forms the backdrop of Turtledove's (How Few Remain, LJ 8/97) latest excursion into the realms of alternate history. The author's cadenced prose imparts an epic feel to this tale of humanity's attempt to forge its own destiny. A good selection for most libraries.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Turtledove turns from the grand scale of his alternate-history novels (e.g., How Few Remain ) to a mythological theme. The living gods of each city and land in a world resembling ancient Mesopotamia intervene in human affairs or even rule directly. Except in Gibil, that is, where the lazy god Engibil has allowed the people to make their own decisions, which has led to the invention of writing, metal casting, and skepticism. For his crime, the other gods are about to descend in their wrath on Gibil. The young merchant Sharur, the city's ruler Kimash, and a foreign thief named Habbazu form an unlikely alliance to steal a talisman that holds the power of the most hostile gods and thus to free Gibil in particular and people in general from the whims of the gods. This new version of the old sf concept of the triumph of reason over faith Turtledove renders excellently, thanks to his customary historical scholarship, narrative gifts, balanced judgment, and dry wit. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy (April 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812545206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812545203
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,150,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Harry Turtledove is the award-winning author of the alternate-history works The Man with the Iron Heart; The Guns of the South; How Few Remain (winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Novel); the Worldwar saga: In the Balance, Tilting the Balance, Upsetting the Balance, and Striking the Balance; the Colonization books: Second Contact, Down to Earth, and Aftershocks; the Great War epics: American Front, Walk in Hell, and Breakthroughs; the American Empire novels: Blood & Iron, The Center Cannot Hold, and Victorious Opposition; and the Settling Accounts series: Return Engagement, Drive to the East, The Grapple, and In at the Death. Turtledove is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters: Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. M Stirling on March 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Harry Turtledove's work has certain characteristic strengths -- solid characterization, realistic motivations, good description, and fast-paced action. BETWEEN THE RIVERS adds a witty, intriguing look at the Bronze Age... in a world much like ancient Sumeria, but one where the gods are very real. Turtledove's extrapolations from this idea are solid, down-to-earth and a mixture of the hilarious and the horrific. For as one character says, to be a god you don't have to be very smart -- just very _strong_. His hero's adventures in a world where humans are still -- literally -- as insects beneath the feet of a very solidly realized pantheon are a treat for any reader of SF, fantasy or historical fiction. Highly recommended!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I think that Harry Turtledove is a writer of uneven talent. In my opinion, his novels alternate between the brilliant and the banal. Between the Rivers is one of the former.
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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Dudley on May 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Between the Rivers is the story of Sharur, son of a master trader from a city called Gibil, in a semi-fantastical Mesopotamia at the dawn of civilization. The premise of the book is that each city-state has its own patron god, who interacts directly with the people of the city. The god controls and affects the daily life of every individual person in his city and the outlying area, and as a result, the people of each city-state are dull-witted and dependent, relying on their god to make decisions for them. In recent generations, Engibil, the god of the city of Gibil, has grown lazy, and has allowed his people to think for themselves. The result has been a slow increase in technological advancement. The people of Gibil have discovered how to make bronze, and how to keep records that live longer than a man's memory - the secret of writing.

As the novel begins, Sharur is beginning to lead a trade expedition outside the land between the rivers. He meets with unexpected resistance, and his caravan fails to make a profit. The reason for this initally seems to be that the gods of other lands have decided that the people of Gibil carry dangerous ideas and thoughts, which might cause the foreign gods' own people to leave them behind. However, as we find out later, and which comes off as a hastily rewritten premise by the author, the real reason is that a divine artifact has been unwittingly taken from these foreign gods into Gibil.

At the time of this story, writing had been invented only a couple generations ago. I recall reading in my history textbooks that most of the cuneiform writing that has been discovered has been trading invoices and inventories, and that's exactly how Turtledove has his characters using it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John D Lewallen Jr on May 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I first noticed Harry Turtledove when he kept showing up in anthologies. When the Worldwar Series came out, I jumped at that, and have since been reading his older material, but also keeping up with new work as it comes out. If you only think of Harry Turtledove in terms of alternate history, this book is not what you would expect. It has some echoes of "The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump" in style, but it really doesn't compare that closely with any of his previous work that I have read. It is a fantasy set at the beginning of the Bronze Age, in what would appear to be an analog of Mesapotamia, but with different place names and with actual living, breathing gods. The gods are definitely superhuman, but fall a long way short of being omnipotent. As in most of his work, Turtledove leaves room for more, While I still prefer his alternate history science fiction, this fantasy was very enjoyable, with characters that you will care about. If there is a sequel(s), I would look forward to reading more about this world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Janice on March 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I teach ancient history and regularly recommend this book to my students as a fun accompaniment to our course. Turtledove's usual meticulous scholarship works wonderfully in Between the Rivers where he creates a believable take on Bronze Age Mesopotamian society (with a fantasy twist, of course). Some idiosyncracies can only be appreciated if you know the history: for instance, the characters' habits of restating key phrases reads just like some early Sumerian texts. There are many wonderful historical tidbits about daily life, dining, business and housing that Harry Turtledove has worked into this book.
That said, this is a historical fantasy and, by giving these cities "real" gods, Turtledove deftly works in the fantasy elements to his story. The conflict between humans and the gods, starting with the people of Gibil and spreading to the other cities (through trade and example) is a bit predictable and the hero's character might seem one-dimensional, but Between the Rivers still makes for a rollicking good read!
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