Wednesday, 5 June 2013
‘Age of Aztec’ – James Lovegrove (Solaris)
A quick true story about this read... I made it up to page 60 of ‘Age of Aztec’ before inadvertently donating it to a charity shop with some other books. I was so hooked on the plot that I ended up paying to get the book back so I could carry on reading as quickly as possible. It was a bit of a shame then that things tailed off after that… I don’t regret parting with my £1.50 (went to a good cause and all that) but it all felt a little bit hollow by the time I finished reading.
Go on, have some blurb…
The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning and the Aztec Empire rules the world. The Aztecs' reign is one of cruel and ruthless oppression, encompassing regular human sacrifice. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador. Then the Conquistador is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth about the Aztec and their gods. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice.
I love the concept of the ‘Pantheon’ series (humans and Gods versus other Gods with the age of some heavy firepower) and when Lovegrove nails it the story flows like quicksilver. It can be superb and this is the case for those first opening pages.
It’s funny then that the Gods don’t make an appearance at all in the opening chapters; it’s all about setting up the world and introducing us to the main players. And what a dark world this new Aztec Empire is, a world where human sacrifice is a normal part of daily life and the HR department dishes out lethal punishments to under-performing police officers (seriously, the ‘striping’ made my stomach turn). A world like this needs a Conquistador to strike a blow for freedom and as luck would have it, Lovegrove gives us a dashing hero (with a dark past) who is ready to do what is needed. There are some lovely little twists here which kept the plot flowing very smoothly and were the whole reason why I just had to keep reading.
I loved these moments, all through the book, where Lovegrove basically mixes a whole load of volatile ingredients together and then leaves his readers right in the middle of the resulting explosion. In some ways, it’s clear that Lovegrove has a pretty good handle on his series now as he gives us God on God confrontations with all the bone-crunching force that it entails. I’ve said it before, these moments would look awesome on the big screen. It’s not just the Gods either , with the Conquistador and Mal Vaughn consistently punching above their weight in a setting where their entire world has been turned upside down (they don’t see the twist coming so it’s a little disappointing then that the reader sees it coming a mile off). What also threw me a little bit was the little ‘side revelation’ about the Aztec Gods that (at the risk of spoilers) throws everything into doubt. All I’m going to say is this, is this a story about Gods or not? I think I actually liked the book better right at the start where there were no Gods at all, although some of the resulting discussion (on the infallibility of the Gods) can be quite interesting.
Lovegrove generally paces things very well but the interminably long/dull journey through the jungle really made the plot lurch along when it shouldn’t have done. I’ll admit that some of this was necessary, in terms of getting things ready for the next act, but it still felt like a drag compared to the rest of the book.
Lovegrove does make up for this, right at the end though, with an ending that’s worth the price of entry; particularly so when you look at the decisions made by the human cast in light of what is happening around them.
‘Age of Aztec’ makes for an awesome ‘present day Aztec police thriller’ but its when the Gods themselves actually appear that things lose a little bit of their spark. At least they did for me; I reckon fans will have just as much fun with ‘Age of Aztec’ as they have with the rest of the series.