Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Alternate pasts

Lying in bed this morning, I was trying to analyse the similarities between two of my favourite books, Between the Rivers and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Between the Rivers (by Harry Turtledove) takes place in Mesopotamia (hence the name) in antiquity. The basic idea is that gods are as real as people believe them to be, and the main plot is about a young man’s fight to liberate himself and his people from the gods. It has many similarities with the same author’s Thessalonica which takes place in Greece at the time when Christianity was replacing the Pantheon.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (by Douglas Adams) is mostly set in modern times in England, and it involves time-travel, aliens and Coleridge (both the man and two of his poems). The basic plot is that Coleridge had to be prevented from finishing Kubla Khan to save the world.

What seems common to these books is that they claim that the past was different from what we believe it to be. I’m not sure whether this is an insight of any great importance, though, and I definitely doubt I’d like every book fitting this description.

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