book cover of The Wages of Sin
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The Wages of Sin

A novel by

A terrifying tale about HIV spreading in the early sixteenth century by an author, Publisher Weekly calls “The Master of Alternate History.”

What if HIV started spreading in the early 1500s rather than the late 1900s? Without modern medicine, anybody who catches HIV is going to die.

A patriarchal society reacts to this devastating disease in the only way it knows how: it sequesters women as much as possible, limiting contacts between the sexes except for married couples. While imperfect, such drastic actions do limit the spread of the disease.

The ‘Wasting’ (HIV) has caused devasting destruction throughout the known world and severely limited the development of technology as well, creating a mid-nineteenth century England and London almost unrecognizable to us. This is the world Viola is born into. Extremely intelligent and growing up in a house full of medical books which she reads, she dreams of travelling to far-off places, something she can only do via books since her actions and movements are severely restricted by both law custom.

Meticulously researched and exquisitely detailed in a way only a master like Harry Turtledove can do, this book is a tour-de-force from one of the best historical and alternate history writers ever to write in the genre.

  • While taking place in an extremely detailed recreation of an alternate London in the nineteenth century the book deals with issues very much on the forefront today.

    Societal and institutional response to pandemics and healthcare access.

    Gender inequalities and how these are exploited in the name of finding a solution to a non-gender specific illness.

    Irrational stigma and discrimination, reminiscent of our own reaction to spread of AIDS specifically and to other ailments in general (including Covid-19).


    "One of alternate history's authentic modern masters." —
    Booklist"Turtledove excels in alternate history." —Library Journal

    "The modern master of alternate history." —Publishers Weekly

    "Turtledove has proved he can divert his readers to astonishing places...I know I'd follow his imagination almost anywhere." —San Jose Mercury News

    Genre: Science Fiction

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