Friday, January 10, 2014

AGE OF AZTEC

I was sick as a dog on Christmas morning when my lovely wife Judy gave me a copy of AGE OF AZTEC by British sf writer James Lovegrove as a Christmas present. She didn't exactly surprise me with it. I had seen the book in the store and thought it looked interesting so I put it on my Christmas wish list and gave a copy of said list to Judy. I knew I'd get some of the items on that list, I just didn't know which ones. Thus, AGE OF AZTEC happily ended up in my hands on Christmas morning. I didn't get well immediately but Judy's gift sure gave me a much needed lift in spirit.

I started reading the book the day after Christmas and finished it this afternoon. Now this is what I'm talking about! AGE OF AZTEC kicks ass and takes names. Part of Lovegrove's "Godpunk" series of books, AZTEC is a standalone novel in which the Aztec Empire, instead of being wiped out by Cortez and the Spanish in 1521, defeated the Spanish and eventually conquered all of North America and then, the world, with Great Britain being the last country to fall under the heel of the Aztecs. The story opens in 2012 with a human sacrificial rite taking place atop a ziggurat in the middle of London. The ghastly ceremony is interrupted by The Conquistador, a swashbuckling vigilante/guerrilla fighter who dresses in ancient Spanish armor but wields modern weapons. Like some comic book/pulp hero, The Conquistador is waging a one-man war against the brutal Aztec Empire. The Conquistador is really Stuart Reston, a wealthy British businessman whose wife and child were both victims of the human sacrificial rites prescribed by the Empire. He's a British Bruce Wayne/Batman style avenger.

He's also wanted by the Aztec State Police, aka the Jaguar Warriors. Detective Mal Vaughn, a woman with her own emotional baggage, is determined to learn the secret identity of The Conquistador and once exposed, bring him to justice for his crimes against the Empire. Reston and Vaughn engage in a cat and mouse battle of wits before Vaughn finally succeeds in capturing him. But her victory is short lived when Reston is freed from captivity by a renegade band of Mayan guerrillas who spirit him out of the country and enlist him in their war against the leader of the Empire, The Great Speaker, who rules the world from his island fortress of Tenochtitlan in the middle of Lake Texcoco in Mexico.

But the Mayans are wiped out by super powered strangers who reveal their true identities to Reston (the only survivor of the battle). Reston finds himself in the presence of what appears to be the true Aztec gods and goddesses. The gods have returned, a war is brewing and Reston and Vaughn are caught in the crossfire.

AGE OF AZTEC moves like a freight train with no brakes. The action is fast and visceral, the characters compelling, the plot twists and revelations surprising. There's some bravura set pieces including the opening attack by The Conquistador, a daring escape from police captivity, an attack by the gods, a monorail train chase/battle and the final showdown between two supreme beings that heralds the literal end of the world.

Lovegrove's prose and storytelling skills are strong. He knows how to keep things moving and keep readers turning pages. Told with a cinematic sweep and vigor, AGE OF AZTEC would make one helluva great sf/action film (are you listening Hollywood?). I can't wait to read Lovegrove's other "Godpunk" novels including: AGE OF ZEUS, AGE OF RA, AGE OF ODIN and AGE OF VOODOO. I'm confident that I'll enjoy them as much as I did AGE OF AZTEC. Two big thumbs up on this one and my highest recommendation.

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