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Book Note: Randall Garrett, Pagan Passions

I read this book about 25-Feb-2011. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1959. This note was last modified Sunday, 06-Mar-2011 10:19:32 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


By Randall Garrett and Laurence Janifer (published as by Garrett and Larry M. Harris). I really do need to do something about better handling of collaborations in these booknotes (in the indexing). This read, of course, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

Very interesting alternate history. The gods came back after 3000 years. That'd be the Greek gods, mostly. Since they came back, science has been pretty much out of favor, and at least a few people are noticing that progress has stopped. On the other hand, religion is front and center, and with the gods being real and physically present and all, it's much easier to take seriously.

Huh; I don't seem to have read any other Garrett since I've been logging. I certainly read quite a lot of him back when, but nothing of his has made my reread list (not as definite or fixed as that sounds).

This probably counts as borderline pornography by 1950s standards. The opening scene is a highschool girl coming on very strongly to her history teacher, asking what she needs to do to get an A in his course. She's a devote of Aphrodite, and her priestess has told her that loving the subject is close to loving the teacher, and that will help her learn the material.

Her teacher (the protagonist) is a acolyte in the temple of Diana. He had hoped to become a priest, but those are chosen earlier, so that's not going to happen, he knows. However, he gets an unexpected message summoning him to the All-Father's tower that afternoon. After minor adventures on the way (which turn out to be part of a series of tests), he shows up, and finds the High Priestess of Aphrodite. He has apparently been selected for a special honor, though she doesn't know what.

They perform the ritual sacrifice to Aphrodite (yes), and he's summoned to the Court of the Gods. He's informed that he's going to be an auxilliarry Dionyssius, to help carry the load, if he can pass the tests. And he eventually realizes that if he doesn't pass, he'll die. He's raised to demi-god status at this point.

His final test, a field test, is to preside at the Festival of Dionyssius in Central Park in New York City (where he lives). That goes okay, though he meets and comes close to causing trouble with a woman he was interested in as a mortal, and her brother who he despises. He gets through the test...and learns he's being promoted to full god-hood. Dionyssius is missing, and they need a replacement. There have been other replacements, including his Diana.

He figures out that what we've got here are a group of aliens masquerading, using a powerful machine to be gods. He finds a way to use the machine to call the galactic police, who come, arrest most of the gods—and appoint him one of the commissioners to oversee Earth. So he ends up back at something like demi-god level after all.

The story isn't there mostly as an excuse for sex; there's a small amount of sex by modern standards. This is short, and is actually pretty good.

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David Dyer-Bennet