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I remember starting a paperback book my sister had when I was a teenager, in the late 80s or early 90s. It featured two aliens left behind on Earth. They become the basis for mankind's idea of the devil and god. I don't remember how old/new the book was.

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  • How many years ago was this? Was the book new or old? Hard-cover or soft?
    – DavidW
    Oct 11, 2018 at 22:08
  • @DavidW Added this info to my question. Oct 11, 2018 at 22:11
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    Unlikely to match but related, "The Madness Season" by C.S. Friedman. There are shifters named Marra who shift through identities, who are shown doing so in a religious context, and it is alluded that certain biblical references were not, in fact, God and the Devil, but Marra and Marra.
    – gowenfawr
    Oct 12, 2018 at 3:16
  • Just to put this out there - in "Job: A Comedy of Justice" by Robert A. Heinlein there are two aliens who are effectively God and the Devil. The twist is that the Devil is a nice guy while God is cruel and keeps flipping the protagonist into alternate realities, trying to make him lose his faith just so he can win a bet,
    – GordonD
    Jul 14, 2022 at 8:25

3 Answers 3

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My first thought is Waiting for the Galactic Bus by Parke Godwin (1988). It fits your distant memory to a "T". It features two brothers of a race that have extraordinarily advanced abilities, but still have a certain "frat-boy" attitude that leaves them stranded on primeval Earth. To while away the time (millennia), they "tinker" with the indigenous primates...

It featured two aliens left behind on Earth.

The tale begins with two college-age brothers, Barion and Coyul, members of an advanced alien world. Their race is endowed with the power to manipulate physical matter with their minds, a power which is exploited incessantly by the young adults. An accident strands the brothers on Earth, which at the time has no human race. The brothers hope for rescue, but eventually grow despondent. In their free time, they cause a series of evolutionary changes in the indigenous primates of Earth, which eventually lead to the blossoming of human civilization.

They become the basis for mankind's idea of the devil and god.

The brothers grow fond of their project, which they ardently monitor, intervening when necessary.

[...]

Subsequently, the two brothers literally put the duo through hell to keep them apart, subjecting them to outrageous scenarios beyond their control.

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  • Can you explain why it matches?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 11, 2018 at 22:39
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    That looks like it might be it. Unfortunately, I can’t find it at my local library. Further searching required. Oct 11, 2018 at 23:54
  • I believe this matches. One of the brothers decides to enhance an ape-like creature so that it becomes sentient. He becomes thought of as God by the humans. The other brother objects to this action since the critter's brain is too small which violates the rules. This brother is later labeled Satan by humans.
    – Verdan
    Oct 12, 2018 at 5:07
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This may be a common trope; it is also the base of Edgar Pangborn's A Mirror for Observers (1954). Some aspects of the Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers universe also fit, notably the devilish Red Orc character, and a mainly-not-present benign creator.

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I wonder if this is "A Jungle of Stars" (1976) by Jack L Chalker.

There are only two members of the Kreb species left, "Bromgrev" and "The Hunter". One of them is God, and the other is the devil - though it's not clear which is which.

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