First edition.
Publisher, Date:
New York : Del Rey, [2019]
467 pages ; 25 cm
"What would happen if the ancient prophecy of the End of Days came true? It is certainly the last thing Eric Katz--a secular archeologist from Los Angeles--expects to discover during what should be a routine dig in Jerusalem. But perhaps higher forces have something else in mind. For when a sign presaging the rising of the Third Temple is located in America and a dirty bomb is detonated in downtown Tel Aviv, events conspire to place a team of archaeologists in the tunnels deep under the Temple Mount. And there, Eric is witness to a discovery of such monumental proportions that nothing will ever be the same again"-- Provided by publisher.
9780399181498 (hardcover)
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Author Notes
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California on June 14, 1949. He received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA in 1977. From the late 1970's to the early 1980's, he worked as a technical writer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. He left in 1991 to become full-time writer. <p> His first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, were published in 1979 under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson because his editor did not think people would believe that Turtledove was his real name. He used this name until 1985 when he published Herbig-Haro and And So to Bed under his real name. He has received numerous awards including the Homer Award for Short Story for Designated Hitter in 1990, the John Esthen Cook Award for Southern Fiction for Guns of the Southand in 1993, and the Hugo Award for Novella for Down in the Bottomlands in 1994. <p> (Bowker Author Biography)
First Chapter or Excerpt
Eric Katz poked the ground with his trowel. A clod the size of his fist came away. He tapped it with the side of the trowel. It broke into several chunks. He tapped each of them in turn. They were all just . . . dirt. At a dig, you went through lots of dirt. Doing it almost in the Temple Mount's shadow, though, added a kick you couldn't get anywhere else. Almost in the shadow . . . Not many shadows here. He was glad for his broad-brimmed floppy hat. Without it, his bald head would have cooked. There were things worse than a sunburned, peeling scalp, but not many. He swigged from a water bottle. It had been ice-cold when he took it out of the refrigerator this morning. It was still cool--and wet. You had to stay hydrated. "Heavens to Betsy, Eric, how do you go on like that in this heat?" Barb Taylor asked. She really said things like Heavens to Betsy! She was an evangelical Protestant from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and would no more have taken the Lord's name in vain than she would have danced naked halfway up the Mount of Olives. Dancing naked wouldn't have been a good idea for her here. She could burn under a fluorescent lamp, let alone the Holy Land's ferocious sun. She slathered herself with sunscreen, but she really needed something industrial-strength. But she had the money to come to Israel, and she wanted to work at a dig, so here she was. The heat and sun took it out of her, but she was a trouper. She did everything she could. Eric grinned crookedly. "I live in the Valley in L.A. As far as the weather goes, I hardly left home." "And you tan, too," Barb said mournfully. He nodded. "Guilty." He turned very dark after a few weeks in the sun. Barb burned and peeled and burned and peeled. If she wasn't white, she was red. "As far as the weather goes." Orly Binur's accent turned English into music. "I've been to Los Angeles." The grad student's shudder said what she thought of it. "It isn't like this." Eric couldn't deny it. A glance west showed him the glorious gilded Dome of the Rock: a Muslim shrine built to rival the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and placed over the stone from which Muhammad was said to have ascended to heaven--and on which, if archaeological speculation was right, the Ark of the Covenant had rested in the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple. A little bit going on there, Eric thought. The Angelus Temple doesn't measure up. He laughed at himself. Next to this lineup of holy heavy hitters, the Vatican didn't measure up. "I didn't know you were ever in L.A.," he said to Orly. "What for?" "That conference three years ago." She wore a floppy hat, too--with more style than Eric did. When those big brown eyes looked at him from under the brim, his heart turned to Silly Putty. "We might have met then." He grimaced. "Good thing we didn't. You wouldn't've wanted anything to do with me." His divorce was laceratingly new in those days. Archaeologists, he'd discovered the hard way, shouldn't marry marketing consultants. For a long time afterwards, he'd thought one particular archaeologist shouldn't marry anybody. Now he'd started wondering. He wondered harder when Orly sent him another smoky look. "It might have worked out," she said, which proved she'd never dated anybody just coming off a divorce. Barb Taylor sipped from a bottle of water like Eric's and smiled. Eric wasn't sure whether she thought they were cute or that they were fornicating sinners who'd sizzle side by side on a giant George Foreman Grill forevermore. He switched to Hebrew to say, "Not a chance." He'd lost most of what he'd learned for his bar mitzvah, but working in Israel revived it. He was fluent these days. And Barb spoke and understood next to none. He knew she knew he'd changed languages so she couldn't follow, but he didn't care. He didn't like putting himself on display. Later, he had occasion to remember that. Sometimes it made him want to laugh. More often, he felt like screaming. Much good either one did him. "So should I run now, while I still can?" Orly asked. "What do you think?" "Your call, babe." That came out in English. Eric returned to Hebrew: "I can't make you stay." "You can make me want to. Or you can worry about everything till you drive me crazy." "C'mon. If I didn't worry, I never would've got into this racket." Eric dug out another trowelful of earth. He sifted through it. And earth was what it was . . . except for a blackened something half the size of his little fingernail. He pounced. "What is it?" For business, Orly came back to English. "Coin," he answered. He took a hand lens from the breast pocket of his shirt to get a better look. It looked like a magnified blackened something. "Have to clean it up." "A widow's mite?" Barb asked. "That'd be exciting." "It'd be weird," Eric said. This was a Persian level, from centuries before the time of Christ. Hasmonean and Herodian coins didn't belong here. Besides, to him they were dull. You could get them in carload lots. Dealers and shopkeepers sold them at ridiculous markups to people like Barb who wanted a connection to Jesus. Maybe He handled this coin, they'd think. Maybe it belonged to a money changer He chased from the Temple. Maybe, but you'd never prove it. Even if you did, so what? Coins from Persian-ruled Judaea were more interesting--to Eric, anyway. The local issues imitated Athenian money, down to the owl on the reverse. Would the Jews have done that if they knew Pallas Athena was a goddess and the owl her symbol? Not likely. But they didn't. They just knew the originals were good silver, so they made knockoffs. Only the inscription on the reverse--yhd in Aramaic or Hebrew letters--admitted where the coin came from. Sometimes it would be yhdh. The difference helped show when the coin was struck. He put the close-up lens on his iPhone to immortalize it in digits. "Anything good?" Munir al-Nuwayhi asked around one of his endless stream of Marlboros. The Israeli Arab archaeologist's English held only a light accent. He smoked like a steel mill. At that academic conference in Los Angeles, he'd ducked outside after every panel to grab a coffin nail before the next one started. Rules were looser here. Rules about smoking were, anyhow. Munir was a highly capable man, but had only an interim appointment at the Israeli equivalent of a junior college in Nitzana, a small desert town right on the Egyptian border. He was probably lucky to have that. Like blacks in the USA, Arabs in Israel had to be twice as good to get half as far. "Little coin," Eric said. "Persian period." "I still think it's a widow's mite," Barb said. "Plenty of signs of the Last Days lately." Munir puffed on his cigarette. He was Muslim but secular; he'd done his share of drinking and maybe a little more at that conference in California. He didn't tell Barb she was nuts, even if he thought so. Eric held his tongue, too. Whatever he might've said wasn't worth the squabble. You couldn't convince people like Barb. They had their faith, period. Where faith didn't impinge, lots of them--Barb included--were surprisingly nice. Orly snorted. Israelis wasted less time on politeness than Americans--or, Eric often thought, anyone else. And she wasn't used to, or was less resigned to, literal-minded Protestants than Eric. "Like what?" she said, plainly not expecting an answer. But Barb had one: "Like the red heifer. I saw in the Chronicle how they're looking for it." "Oy," Eric muttered. The Jerusalem Chronicle was the city's biggest English-language paper. Its politics lay well to the right. Compared to the the people who sought the red heifer, though, the Chronicle fell somewhere between Nancy Pelosi and Leon Trotsky. "There won't be any Third Temple." Orly pointed at the Dome of the Rock. "That's been there longer than the First and Second Temples put together. It isn't going anywhere, no matter what some zealots say." Eric wished she hadn't used that word. Zealots was what Josephus called the Jews who touched off the rebellion against Rome that led to the destruction of the Second Temple. Maybe Barb didn't know about Josephus. "God will find a way," she said serenely. "What can you do with people like that?" Orly snarled--but in Hebrew. "Not much," Eric answered in the same language. "But every faith has fanatics . . . or nobody would look for a red heifer." She winced. That hit home. She said, "People wouldn't blow themselves up in God's name, either"--which made Eric scowl. Things had been quiet the past few months. But he looked around warily whenever he went into a crowded restaurant or boarded a bus. A murderous maniac sure a vest full of explosives and nails bought him a one-way ticket to eternity full of wine and houris could ruin your whole life, not just your day. Excerpted from Alpha and Omega by Harry Turtledove All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Fiction/Biography Profile
Eric Katz (), Archaeologist, Secular;
Science fiction
Archaeological digs
Ark of the Covenant
Israel - Asia / Middle East
Middle East - Asia
Time Period
2000s -- 21st century
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Trade Reviews

  Publishers Weekly Review

Bestseller Turtledove (Through Darkest Europe) doesn't bring his A-game to this over-the-top religious thriller. A "red heifer, the first in 2,000 years," whose ashes could be used to make people ritually pure, is found in Arkansas and transported to Israel by Yitzhak Avigad, a fundamentalist Jew. A dirty bomb detonated by Muslim terrorists in the Tel Aviv bus station leads the Israeli religious authorities to remove restrictions from a team of archeologists digging under the Temple Mount, whose tunneling reveals the Ark of the Covenant itself, magically floating off the ground. An American journalist drops dead after touching it. The amazing find fits in with Avigad's plan to rebuild the Third Temple, which would house the Ark, after the sacrifice of the red heifer to purify everything. This plan to displace the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque naturally raises tensions with the Arab world. Turtledove doesn't sweat the details, and his prose may elicit some unintended guffaws ("God still packed a punch-and He probably hadn't got fat sitting on the sidelines the past 3,000 years"). Turtledove fans will hope for better next time. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  Kirkus Review

This, the latest from the prolific purveyor of alternate-world science fiction (Armistice, 2017, etc.), offers a startling premise: What if there was unequivocal proof that God exists?Two key events trigger amazing revelations in the Holy Land. In accordance with an ancient prophesy, Israel begins to raise the Third Temple in Jerusalem. And, losing patience after a horrible act of terrorism, authorities permit archaeological explorations beneath the Temple Mount. Subsequent events prove beyond all doubt that God is present and purposefully intervening in temporal affairs. The implications for humankind, and for followers of the Abrahamic religions in particular, clearly are profound. Is there a divine plan? Should Jews expect the Messiah? Christians, the Last Days? Muslims, the Mahdi? The author explores these and other questions through his trademark series of vignettes involving disparate characters and viewpoints, including secular American archaeologist Eric Katz, U.S. televangelist Lester Stark, Israeli scholar and theologian Shlomo Kupferman, Palestinian leader Haji Ibrahim, and Gabriela Sandoval and Brandon Nesbitt, hosts of a wildly popular American television show, who care nothing for religion but know what makes great viewingand are prepared to risk death to get it. How readers will react to all this is far from clear. Turtledove is advancing an unambiguous proposition that brooks no argument. Does it therefore follow that non-Abrahamic religions are false or irrelevant? And it's difficult to reconcile the God that initially manifestsclosely resembling the uncompromisingly biblical force of nature that tormented Jobwith the astounding act of communion that forms the novel's zenith. Maybe the author's just overreached himself in providing answers while denying any possibility for skepticism or doubt. Like similar flaws in another, famous work of theological science fiction, James Blish's A Case of Conscience, some things might have been better left cryptic.Heady on one level and perturbing on quite another. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
New York Times bestselling author Harry Turtledove reveals a new side of his potent imagination in a gripping speculative novel about the End of Days--and a discovery in the Middle East that turns the world upside down. <br> <br> What would happen if the ancient prophecy of the End of Days came true? It is certainly the last thing Eric Katz, a secular archaeologist from Los Angeles, expects during what should be a routine dig in Jerusalem. But perhaps higher forces have something else in mind when a sign presaging the rising of the Third Temple is located in America, a dirty bomb is detonated in downtown Tel Aviv, and events conspire to place a team of archaeologists in the tunnels deep under the Temple Mount. It is there that Eric is witness to a discovery of such monumental proportions that nothing will ever be the same again.<br> <br> Harry Turtledove is the master at portraying ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, and what is more extraordinary than the incontrovertible proof that there truly is a higher force controlling human destiny? But as to what that force desires . . . well, that is the question.
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