Review: Age of Aztec
AGE OF AZTEC is the fourth entry in James Lovegrove‘s excellent Pantheon series. Don’t worry if you have yet to read any of the other Pantheon novels because each book is a standalone adventure. Lovegrove has successfully carved out his own unique niche, a fusion of near-future Military Science Fiction and Alternate Historical Fiction based around the pantheons of the ancient world.
It is 2012 and the Aztec Empire rules the entire world. Dissent is eliminated with extreme and uncompromising prejudice. The Aztecan theocracy practices gruesome rituals of human sacrifice and the downtrodden masses line up voluntarily for the honor. In the midst of the cruelest regime in human history a masked vigilante rises to fight the totalitarian system and free the people. He is called a terrorist. He goes by the title, the Conquistador and Chief Inspector Mal Vaughn is hot on his trail.
The Conquistador, Stuart Reston, has much in common with other well known fictional champions of justice. Reading AGE OF AZTEC I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Zorro, V from V for Vendetta, and of course Batman. That said the Conquistador has quite enough to differentiate himself from other infamous masked vigilantes. The Stuart Reston is ever so slightly unstable. He is arrogant and foolhardy, brash and attention seeking. Reston is addicted to empowerment he feels from his alter-ego and the pain it allows him to veil through blood shed. I took a while to warm to Reston but once I had embraced his nemesis relationship with Mal Vaughn I was hooked.
And of course if I am going to pay credit to the Conquistador I also have to tip my hat to Chief Inspector Mal Vaughn. Mal is an implacable copper working for a system she doesn’t quite believe in any longer. Personal doubts aside she is a driven individual whose career–and very life–depend on catching Public Enemy Number One. Mal is every bit as engaging as the Conquistador, if not more so. The real chemistry of the book is when both characters clash verbally, resulting in brutal exchanges of dialogue that are rife with parry and riposte.
The gods are the foundation of the entire Pantheon series and in each entry Lovegrove has managed to deliver variety. The explanation behind the gods in AGE OF AZTEC is utterly different than any of his previous novels. What aspect does remain the same is how intricate and complex the relationships are between the gods themselves. In mythology the gods are often just amplified representations of humanity and Lovegrove uses this to create characters that are simultaneously alien and yet still relatable. The Aztec pantheon is fascinating and refreshing, and it is clear that despite the fictional nature of the story Lovegrove has done his research.
If the gods are foundation upon which the Pantheon series is built than the influence exerted by the presence of the gods is the brick and mortar. AGE OF AZTEC presents a world where the Aztec Empire was not wiped out by the Spanish, but instead gifted with super advanced technology by the gods. The Aztecs then use this technology to subjugate the entirety of human civilization. In a way AGE OF AZTEC is a sort of reverse-steampunk. Lovegrove doesn’t waste time on info-dumps, instead allowing readers to piece the puzzle together with a bare minimum guidance. Life under the Empire’s rule is altered but still recognizable. Everything from beverages to sports and even names, reflect the Aztec dominion.
AGE OF AZTEC channels many genres. The novel starts out with as a swashbuckling, man against the regime sort of affair. With Inspector Vaughn’s PoV comes a police procedural flavor. Finally the novel climaxes in a military assault of cataclysmic proportions. Though comprised of various influences, Lovegrove creates something that is surely his own sub-genre, godpunk as I noticed it being coined in other reviews of the Pantheon series.
The last time I had this much fun reading a book it was Larry Correia’s SPELLBOUND. That alone should tell you something. I read AGE OF AZTEC in three extended sittings, staying up late into the night. Rarely ever does a novel surprise me in terms of plot direction (call me jaded) but this book got me with not one twist, but two. I had no idea how the book would finish until the fantastic ending. Fans of Alternate Historical Fiction, Military SF, and even Fantasy can all find something to love in James Lovegrove’s AGE OF AZTEC.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Frequent and colorful.
Violence: Human sacrifices and pitched combat, there is some bloody stuff to behold.
Sex: Mentioned and alluded to, sometimes explicitly