This was an extremely disappointing book. I had just read Kriwaczek's "Babylon", which I thought was truly fantastic, so I had high hopes for this. I knew that this book wouldn't be a strictly history, but I didn't expect it to be a rambling, research-free, travel journal. I suppose if you know absolutely nothing about Zarathustra, you might find this book sort of interesting (although you will be getting some truly bad history), but if you have even a Wikipedia level understanding of the subject, it will probably be a frustrating waste of time. First, the structure of the book: It is laid out starting from the present and working backwards, finding Zoroastrian influences in different parts of the world at different times in history, as if the author is following a thread back in time to Zarathustra himself. Sounds good. But the author seems to find meaning in seemingly meaningless trivia, and some of his sources are untrustworthy to say the least. He notices that the shape of a hat in one carving is similar to the structure of a building somewhere else. He retells information he gets from a cab driver, a tour guide, and some guy who he was standing next to at an archeological site. And all of it is tinged with mystery and wonder. Give me a break. He makes it sound like he's on a mystical journey, but he's just staying in hotels, taking cabs, and looking at tourist sites.
And if you know anything about Zoroastrianism and have wondered about it's influence on our beliefs today, you might have a good idea of the first place to investigate: The Babylonian captivity of the Jews and their restoration to Jeruselem by Cyrus the Great of the Persians. This is the point at which we see the biggest crossover of beliefs between Zoroastrians and the Judeo-Christian world. This is when Yahweh transforms from a standard Mesopotamian one war god among other gods, into THE one and only God. And yet, the book doesn't get there until the second to last chapter, after a lot of meandering and finding Davinci Code type "connections". One of the few parts of the book worth reading was on the prophet Mani and Manicheanism. But even here he fails to make one huge obvious connection: Saint Augustine, who was an enormous influence on the early Christian Church was originally a Manichean, and this greatly influenced his faith. I really struggled to finish this book. A huge disappointment.
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (1 March 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781400031429
- ISBN-13: 978-1400031429
- ASIN: 1400031427
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 20.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 272 g
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