Solaris Books (http://www.solarisbooks.com)
678 pp, Mass Market Paperback
Imagine the Greek Gods are real and have returned to Earth. Imagine they’ve set up shop as the new rulers of the world, but aren’t exactly benevolent. Imagine humanity fighting back after about ten years of being subjugated by those gods. Well, James Lovegrove has imagined such a scenario and told the story in The Age of Zeus, the second novel in his thematically linked Pantheon Trilogy* of books. If I were the type to throw a high-concept tag line onto a book, and I am, I would say this is book is one part John Scalzi novel, one part God of War video game, and all-together fun and entertaining.
I read The Age of Odin earlier this year, which is the third book in the trilogy* and enjoyed it a great deal, so I wanted to see how Mr. Lovegrove tackled the Greek pantheon ruling the modern, or 20 minutes into the future, world. Our point character in this epic novel is Samantha “Sam” Akehurst, a former police officer from London, who is recruited by a mysterious and powerful man to join in the fight against the Godly oppressors.
Lovegrove does something I’ve been coming to like to start his novel, the in media res method. He throws the reader directly into the action with the protagonist at a point in her character development where’s she’s nearly fully realized and fully immersed in the war against the Greek Gods. He then takes a few steps back in time to introduce Sam before she is fully in the trenches of Titanomachy II, which is what her employer Regis Landesman is calling his crusade against the Gods. Landesman is a man of wealth and power, who places a great deal of stock in the power of imagery and symbolism, specifically his role in helping to overthrow the Greek Gods, who in Classical Antiquity, overthrew their forbears, the Titans in the first Titanomachy. Naturally, Landesman calls Sam and the other people he outfits with his god-like inducing Power Armor, like Kayla Spark, Fred Tsang, and the charismatic Rick Ramsay from Chicago, the Titans. To get an idea of what kind of character (i.e. Magnificent Bastard) Landesman is, think Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, Tony Stark, Donald Trump, and Dick Oliver (chairman of BAE systems, the world’s largest defense contractor) all rolled into one smart and charismatic individual.
I bring up the God of War reference again because the Titans, with call-names hearkening to the ancient Titans like Hyperion, Cronus, Tethys, Iapetus and so forth, progress through first the monsters of Greek myth (Hydra, Cyclops, Harpies) to the gods and demi-gods (Hercules, Hermes, etc) in an almost video-game like fashion. On one hand, such a plot structure may seem contrived, but in a real sense, it shows how the Titans test out their power armor, skills as individuals, and skills as a team. In other words, it plays out logically and is a lot of fun.
In such a fun and entertaining novel, Lovegrove still has room for touching on some deeper issues. For example, with Sam as our protagonist, we get to view a man of power, Landesman, from the outside as she deconstructs his motivations and just who he is. With many members of the Titan army, Lovegrove explores the sense of loss and motivation for joining Landesmans Titans, as well as the power of religion and interpersonal relationships.
In the end, Lovegrove has penned a novel that, while exploring some philosophical and human issues, focuses on entertainment and a rip-roaring plot. Age of Zeus straddles a nice line between fantasy and military science fiction, and is just plain fun.
* Lovegrove initially planned a trilogy of books, but they proved popular with readers, and fun with Lovegrove, so a fourth book, Age of Aztec is publishing in 2012. This is very good news.
© 2011 Rob H. Bedford