Review: Age of Voodoo
Happy New Year all! I hope you’re having a good one so far. I humbly present you James Lovegrove’s THE AGE OF VOODOO, the latest installment in the legendary godpunk series. This time around readers get to delve into the lesser known world of voodoo or vodou. And you know what they say, “Where there’s voodoo there are sure to be voodoo zombies!” Somebody says that…right?
Lex Dove was a specialist, an assassin, a ghost. He is living out his hard earned retirement on a beautiful island in the Caribbean. Retirement is short lived. A call comes, a request from his old employer. Just like that he is back in the game, chosen as a local guide for a very special group of special forces soldiers. Lex is a professional but no amount of experience could prepare him for what he will face beneath the surface of Anger Reef.
Do you know why I get so excited about a new Pantheon novel? You can always expect a few things when Lovegrove sets to it. You can expect interesting characters. You can expect thorough research. You can expect big ideas. And you can expect explosive action. You can expect the unexpected. Each Pantheon novel is a contemporary myth of man against god(s). Despite this underlying theme Lovegrove never tells the same story twice. THE AGE OF VOODOO, like previous entries to the series, is a standalone adventure that plays on legend. The diversity of the Pantheon series is its greatest strength.
With THE AGE OF VOODOO Lovegrove exposes some of the fundamentals of voodoo (duh). In a lot of ways that makes this the riskiest novel in the series to date. The previous novels all dealt with better known deities and religions. One of the best things though, about reading one of these, is learning about exotic belief systems. Granted this is fiction, but I always get the sense that Lovegrove has done his research. The subject of THE AGE OF VOODOO is the distant and unknowable creator god Bondye, and the subservient spirits called loa. The most popular loa outside of voodoo is Baron Samedi, the devilish rogue featured on the cover and my next Halloween costume. It’s not all that complicated but I’ll leave the rest for readers to parcel out.
Lex Dove is a British ex-operative. He has a talent for violence but no real desire to act on it any longer. Or so he says. He hangs around his friends bar, playing bouncer. The memories of his victims plague him. The fact that their deaths protected the civilized world are little remedy. Surprisingly enough, the main protagonist isn’t the headlining performance this go around. Instead, that honor goes to the voodoo practitioner, Albertine, and the Navy SEALs of Team Thirteen. Albertine plays guide into the occult world of voodoo, explaining the ins and outs in digestible chunks. I rather appreciate that she doesn’t fit the stereotypical voodoo mambo. She is, in fact, a respectable woman with a decent IT job that happens to have access to hidden knowledge.
Then there is Team Thirteen, the “janitors of the uncanny.” The SEALs put the special in special forces. These are the boys the government calls when things go bump in the night. They deal with the supernatural – with extreme prejudice. Vampires are real. As are werewolves and ghosts and other nasty baddies besides. This is the “Stephen-King-meets-James-Bond world of Team Thirteen.” The Team doesn’t get loads of development, though Lieutenant Buckler is a one tough mo-fo and Tartaglione is good for a chuckle or five. Still, they are definitely interesting and I’d like to see how one member comes to terms with their new…capabilities after the novel.
The plot is noticeably weaker than previous Pantheon novels. Setting the pins takes half the novel and knocking them down seems to breeze by. Once on the island the pace ratchets up considerably, leaving less time for exposition. The deity aspect of THE AGE OF VOODOO also feels lighter. There are some really cool things brought up but it’s not as intricate with the lore. I suppose the best way to describe it is “understated.” There are some really great moments, specifically the hilarious Chapter 9: A Reasoned, Gentlemanly Exchange of Views. I respect that Lovegrove utilizes zombies without dawdling on them. Plus these are voodoo zombies, zuvembies, they retain primitive cognition. They aren’t set on consuming flesh, they are capable of basic survival responses. They are meat robots at the command of their maker. This makes them much better foes than the traditional American zombie.
All in all, THE AGE OF VOODOO isn’t the strongest of Lovegrove’s Pantheon novels. It lacks the characterization of AGE OF AZTEC and the explosive action of AGE OF ZEUS. Nonetheless, it is an entertaining novel dealing with lesser known subject matter. As always, Lovegrove remains the king of godpunk.
Recommended Age: 15+
Violence: You betcha!
Sex: Nothing explicit.