2012; 507 pages. New Author? : Yes. Book #4 of the “Pantheon” series. Genres : Action-Adventure; Alt-History; Godpunk. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
In an Alternate Universe, the Aztec Empire has conquered the entire world, thanks to their superior "Aztechnology”. But in (almost) present-day London, one person is trying to foment a revolution. He wears a mask, wreaks vengeance, and thumbs his nose at the rulers by wearing a suit of armor, a la a conquistador.
Mal Vaughn is a London police detective; she’s loyal to Aztec Empire; is bright and resourceful; and has been given the task of bringing "The Conquistador" down. She’d better, because the price of failure will be her life as a sacrifice to the gods.
What’s To Like...
Age of Aztec is chock full of action-adventure from beginning to end. Our hero is incredibly audacious, yet he has some flaws – most notably the need to grandstand. Mal, his nemesis, is an equally strong protagonist, and the quips and banter between the two are hilariously witty. Although it’s kind of obvious how this will resolve itself, it’s fun to watch it play out.
There’s a kind of dichotomy to the story. The first half of the book – the “London” part – is non-stop excitement (think “V for Vendetta”), and kept me turning the pages. The second half – the “Mexico” part – is more mythology-oriented. That’s a jolt, but it’s not unexpected, since this whole series is about various God Pantheons. I still kept turning the pages.
The world-building is eminently believable, and it is a kewl change to see the European powers given their comeuppance. Turning the earth into a pole-to-pole jungle (via controlled and near-continuous volcanic eruptions) was a nice touch. There is plenty of blood and gore, some cussing, and some sex, so this is not one for the kiddies. It is a standalone story, despite being part of a series.
Kewlest New Word...
A bit of a barney (phrase, Britishism) : A set-to; a fight; a row. Some other Britishisms that were new to me : a yomp (a long march); boffins (scientists); bodging (making do on a job with whatever tools are available).
It was another sultry, sweltering winter’s day, and the plaza around the City of London ziggurat was packed. Thousands clustered in the palm-fringed square itself, many of them having camped out overnight to be assured of a good view. Thousands more thronged the adjacent streets – Cheapside, Ludgate Hill, Paternoster Row – to watch the action on giant screens, close enough that they would just be able to hear the screams of the dying. (pg. 11 Is that a kewl opening paragraph, or what? )
“Bloody Moroccan food,” Jasper Marquand muttered. “You go there for a short break, some jollies with the local catamites, and what do you end up with? The worst case of the runs imaginable. Sun, sea, sodomy, salmonella. Never again, I tell you. Never again.”
“If you insist, your holiness.” (pg. 52)
“We’re the gods’ pets, then is that what you’re saying?” (pg. 401)
I stumbled across Age of Aztec at my local library in their “for a dollar it’s yours” section. It obviously played to the recent “Mayan end of the World” craze, and I guess the library figured once that came and went, interest in this book would ebb to zero. That would be a shame, since James Lovegrove apparently has penned four of these Pantheon novels, using a different set of gods for each story. This doesn't appear to be a cheap "pander to the latest fad" offering.
There’s a nice twist at the end, but it does leaves the storyline hanging. The Aztec gods seem well-researched, although I wouldn’t know fact from baloney. I think Lovegrove captures the “essence” of ancient gods accurately – they may be feared and respected for their power; but they aren’t to be loved or admired.
Age of Aztec was a pleasant, one-dollar, thrills-&-spills surprise for me. 8½ Stars. Subtract a star if mythology isn’t your thing. Add it back if you think V for Vendetta was a way-kewl movie..