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21 Reviews
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turtledove does it again!
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...
Published on March 7, 1998 by S. M Stirling

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow Going
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...
Published on May 11, 2003 by Christopher Dudley


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turtledove does it again!, March 7, 1998
By 
S. M Stirling "Steve" (Santa Fe, NM United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Between the Rivers (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, July 27, 1999
By A Customer
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical Turtledove, but worthwile., May 14, 1998
This review is from: Between the Rivers (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Original fantasy, believable history, March 11, 2003
By 
Janice (Sudbury, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow Going, May 11, 2003
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. As a son of a master trader, Shurur keeps track of customers' debts and counts trade inventory. Other aspects of early Bronze-age life is depicted in the story. Turtledove writes about marriage customs, slave-keeping practices, and day-to-day activities of the inhabitants of this ancient city. I enjoyed the descriptions of life in the city, as well as the battle between the two nations as the gods came out to fight alongside their people.

The novel was interesting as a scenario of the dawn of civilization. However, the story moved along very slowly. The failed trade expedition took up about a quarter of the book, and was heavily redundant in places. Also if this is supposed to be Mesopotamia, a map of the cities under the names Turtledove gives would have been nice. If it's a non-earth fantasy-world, it would have been nice to have that confirmed with a map. None of the city names bear a resemblance to any places I'd known, so it didn't really matter if the story was set in Mesopotamia, or ancient Indiana. Another thing that took away from the story was that much of the plot hinges on Sharur's ability to trick the gods, and this seems to me to be a little too easy for him.

Though there is much about the premise to recommend the novel, it was a bit too slow for me. It's not that there's no action, because there is. It just seems like a formality to the story. Turtledove had a good concept for the setting, but could have developed a better story to set in it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad Ending For This Book, August 3, 1999
By A Customer
I believe that Turtledove could have done better to work out a better ending. How about ending with Sharur in the Alashkurri Mountains, with all the Alashkurrut thinking for themselves as the Giblut do. I would have liked to have known if the gods of Alashkurri punished Sharur with their remeining power. This book left alot of questions unanswered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It was alright, October 29, 2002
Welcome to the Dawn of the Bronze age!! God's rule the world, demons cause illness and your dead relatives can talk to you. Very fun book, really like it and I wish Harry would have continued to write books in this universe. There is of course what I have dubbed THE TURTLEDOVE FACTOR(Sex for no reason at all). However barring that this is still a very good book. I particularly liked the ghost of the grandfather
Overall-Just fun fanstay, however I didn't like the habit the characters had of saying everything twice, lots of redundant dialogue.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deity vs. Destiny, July 31, 2005
By 
Jesse B Ellyson (Dale City, Virginia United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Between the Rivers (Hardcover)
In a world were the gods control every aspect of life, men struggle for the right to think for themselves. The resulting conflict pits city against city and god against god.

It is the dawn of history and Sharur, master merchant's son, must find his way in the changing world around him. If he can turn a profit while doing it, so much the better. In the course of his journey he will come face to face with foreign gods, none of them friendly to his cause. He will find obstacles at every turn but he will prove that human ingenuity is superior to the time honored dogma of the great city gods.

Harry Turtledove has crafted a unique novel using traditional Fantasy elements. Which is more important; Man's belief in a higher power or Man's belief in himself? And are the two mutually exclusive?

In the past decade or so Harry Turtledove has made for himself a grand reputation as a master of alternative history. But alternative history is only a small part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. Between The Rivers shows that he is not limited to any sub-genre. He is an SF&F master in every respect.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn, October 12, 1999
By 
The first Harry Turtledove I've read (maybe the last) - I kept waiting for something to happen, but the story just peters out. If you cut out the re-iterations of each phrase in praise of the gods by each person and each echo of the other person's greeting, the book would be half its size. Sadly disappointed.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A magical mystery tour...., November 17, 2000
This review is from: Between the Rivers (Hardcover)
This is a fun book to keep you entertained and in another magical world for awhile, where God's exist and men struggle for freedom, while others obey unquestioningly. I likened this book to our own struggle from Big Brother, and the analogies are endless in that respect. The characters are at times funny, at times mystical, yet altogether likeable. A very pleasant journey into a very magical land. Enjoy!
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Between the Rivers
Between the Rivers by Harry Turtledove (Hardcover - Mar. 1998)
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