James Lovegrove’s Pantheon saga is linked by a theme – gods of antiquity are real and they’ve made their presence known in the modern world. Each book focuses on a different pantheon, the fourth is Age of Aztec and places the meso-American pantheon as the gods with it’s proverbial boot on the neck of humanity. The latest nation to fall under this proverbial boot is Great Britain, approximately 100 years prior to the opening of the novel. Throwing a proverbial monkey-wrench into the Great Speaker’s complete stranglehold on Great Britain is the masked vigilante known only as the Conquistador.
Two characters form the center of the novel, Stuart Reston – a rich, powerful man whose wife and child gave themselves over as sacrifices to the Great Speaker, the leader of the world. The other protagonist is Chief Inspector Mal Vaughn, who due to her superiors’ ritualistic deaths because of the inability to capture the Conquistador, becomes head of the investigation to learn the identity of the Conquistador and capture him. She suspects Stuart is her man and after a drug induced spirit-dream confirms his identity.
The first half of the novel, then, is much of a cat and mouse game between Stuart and Mal and all the while, Lovegrove does a good job of providing a believable background for the characters and the world in which they inhabit. The Aztec presence is everywhere, subverting what was once the culture’s societal norms and mores, as well as art and technology. Religion and science have become one under the Aztechnology banner as the gods (Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca, etc) granted the Aztec people much of the technology (flying discs, their weapons) that power their empire.
As Stuart under the guise of the Conquistador, continues to cause more havoc he realizes he is not alone in his contempt for the Great Speaker. Multiple factions are moving in on the leader of the world, some possible allies for Stuart, others who simply don’t want him in the way. One of those factions is a renegade group of terrorists and the other group just might provide some clues as the true nature of the Great Speaker and the Aztec’s hold over the world.
I enjoyed both The Age of Zeus and The Age of Odin a great deal, both are entertaining over the top military SF novels laced with mythology. Age of Aztec is the same, an engaging romp with breakneck pace. In Stuart Reston/the Conquistador, one can draw lines – in a spiritual cousin sense – to Batman, Iron Man and V from Alan Moore’s landmark V for Vendatta. In a great sense, these Pantheon novels are almost like comic books in prose form with their bright, vibrant and much-larger-than-life characters set in a somewhat familiar world.
While the novel worked for me a great deal, it seems as a bit of a complex search and replace was going on from The Age of Zeus to The Age of Aztec. While I understand the books are in a similarly themed series and some similarities are natural, some elements seemed a bit too similar as the novel reached the third act. That said, Lovegrove’s pacing and pure ability to tell an entertaining story made those elements to overlook. In particular, I appreciated the ending a great deal which I feel took some guts to pull off successfully.
These books are still a lot of fun and with the verdant variability of world mythologies available for the plucking, it’s good to know Lovegrove’s got another Pantheon novel publishing in The Age of Voodoo.
© 2012 Rob H. Bedford