Book Review: Agent of Byzantium by Harry Turtledove (Three Stars)
“An oath is only the man behind it, and you suit me well enough without one.”
James Bond does ancient Constantinople.One of Turtledove’s better alternate histories. Apparently a series of short stories gathered into one collection, revealed by the repetition of background elements in each chapter. Didn’t disrupt the flow too much.
“Had they not been taken ill, I never would have stumbled across the truth that will save so many more from a like fate. Truly I am but an instrument of His will.” “Oh, hogwash,” the doctor said. “What of all the others who got sick and died in the epidemic? If God killed all of them just so two would draw your attention, He strikes me as bloody wasteful.”
Turtledove at his best: playing “what if” with a key element of history, in this case the impact of the conversion of Muhammad to Christianity rather than founding a new religion. The characters, beliefs, events are all enjoyably believable. The increased rate of invention, and the role of the protagonist in many of those advances, is independent of the background thread.
“After the hippodrome, theology has always been Constantinople’s favorite sport.”
Interesting that a major author could write of religious controversies and history in the late 1980s with the hope of engaging his audience. Few authors today would dare.
Not much room for divine intervention in any of that.” “Wasn’t it you who said we’d have to help the Holy Spirit along? God works through men; that is why He created them, to unfold His scheme for the world. You were also the one who pointed out that God had to become a man to save mankind.” Both men crossed themselves. “Yes, but that was a miracle,” Argyros persisted. “Must all your miracles be showy?”