Apocrypha, tea and alternate Nazis: books read

LOST SCRIPTURES: Books That Did Not Make It Into the New Testament by Bart Erhman is a compilation of what are now considered apocrypha, though many of them were accepted as Biblical for a century or longer. A mix of Gospels, Pauline letters, Acts of apostles and apocalypses, many of them gnostic and several beautifully written. Interesting to read.

THE TRUE HISTORY OF TEA by Victor H. Mair and Erling Hoh is an impressively detailed tea history, starting by situating tea within the array of stimulants and intoxicants humanity has sucked, chewed, and drunk since ancient times. Then we move into the history of how the leaves Chinese sages chewed to stay awake during night rituals became the brew of choice for most of the world.

What made this interesting is that the other tea history I have focuses heavily on the West and this is much more rounded, covering tea’s success within China, the Middle East, India, Russia, Tibet and then Europe and the US. It also covers some of the many various forms tea drinking has taken such  as milk tea, wax tea, tea bags and (still) chewing the tea. A satisfactory read, at least for a tea lover.

Sarbane’s THE SOUND OF HIS HORN is a 1952 alternate history looking at What If The Nazis Won? but it’s an unusual one. The protagonist is a British former POW who, after a night of strange, uneasy conversation, tells his best friend about how he escaped the prison camp but while trying to reach safety somehow stumbled into an alternate timeline where Germany triumphed (a century ago, from what we learn). Here he finds sanctuary with a doctor who considers him an interesting medical case but when he goes sniffing around the local Nazi leader’s castle he discovers a bizarre nightmare world where the Germans hunt humans for sports. And of course, he’s made himself obvious enough that he’s now the new prey …

The unusual part is that we never learn how the Nazis won or what the turning point was, nor anything about the state of the world overall. We learn there’s an English resistance, and that the Nazis breed or genetically engineer the “slave” races to specific purposes. However the focus is almost entirely on the local environment and the hunt; The World Hitler Never Made says the subtext is the then-popular view of the Nazis as throwbacks to Europe’s barbaric past. The result is a slow-paced mood piece but interesting for all that. And that is one creepy cover.

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