1/10/2011. Contributed by Patrick Mahon
pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 585 page paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-907519-40-6.
check out websites:www.solarisbooks.com and www.jameslovegrove.com
‘The Age Of Odin’ is the final book in a trilogy of thematically related novels by British speculative fiction author James Lovegrove. I reviewed the first two, ‘The Age Of Ra’ and ‘The Age Of Zeus’ over the last couple of months. As the name suggests, this volume concerns the gods of Norse legend reappearing in a near-future Britain.
As the story starts, we meet ex-soldier Gideon Coxall and a mate of his who answers to the rather cruel nickname of Abortion. The two of them are driving through a horrendous snowstorm in Northern England, heading for the subtlety-named Asgard Hall. They have been recruited to some kind of mercenary outfit. Both are in it purely for the money. After driving all day, Gid asks Abortion to do a stint at the wheel so that he can have forty winks. Bad idea. Abortion is so stupid that he manages to crash the car whilst rolling a spliff. So now they’re both injured, though not badly, and travelling on foot through driving snow. They think things couldn’t get much worse. They’re wrong. Wolves attack them and only the rapid intervention of three women from Asgard Hall, travelling on snowmobiles and armed with rifles saves Gid from a grisly death. Abortion, however, is not so lucky.
Gid is taken back to Asgard Hall to recover from his injuries. Over the weeks that follow, he is introduced to Odin, Thor, Freya and several other well-built people who strut around as if they were immortal, along with the other recruits to their mercenary army. Once he’s fully fit again, Gid impresses almost everyone with his raw fighting skills though he can’t work out what’s going on. Everyone acts as if Odin is the god of Norse mythology, somehow resurrected. Gid is sure it’s all a load of rubbish and eventually decides to escape from the funny farm. Having stolen a snowmobile, he is captured during his escape by some Frost Giants, who look like polar bears but can talk. It’s at this point that Gid realises that Odin and his friends are for real. When they mount a raid on the Frost Giant lair to rescue him, he finally abandons his doubts and joins the team.
When Gid asks Odin why he has recruited himself for an army of mercenaries, he gets an unexpected answer. It turns out that the President of the United States, a bible-bashing woman by the name of Lois Keener, is not exactly what she seems. She and Odin go back a long way and she has decided that the best way to defeat him is to gain legitimate control of the largest armed forces in the world, then declare war on Asgard.
Odin, however, does not intend to take this lying down. He has a master plan for defeating President Keener and he wants Gid to be right in the middle of it. When Gid is told that a victory for Keener means the end of the world as he knows it, including the probable death of his son Cody, his decision is made. Yet he knows that the odds are stacked very heavily against them. Are they doomed to failure, pitted against the might of the US of A? Or can the Norse pantheon, with Gid’s help, beat the odds and pull off a famous victory?
There is a huge amount to enjoy in ‘The Age Of Odin’. The lead character, Gideon Coxall, is a brilliant creation. He’s certainly a heroic soldier, as he demonstrates time after time throughout the book. He leads from the front, is almost completely fearless and can fight live a dervish. At the same time, though, Lovegrove portrays him as a flawed human being who is all too aware of his own faults, yet seems powerless to deal with them.
The Norse gods are shown as fully-realised three-dimensional characters with very individual personalities. Odin and Freya, in particular, leap off the page and make the world of Asgard a believable one.
Lois Keener, the homespun but tub-thumping Republican President, is a hilarious send-up of the Sarah Palin mould of extreme right-wing American politicians who use their folksy charm as a cover for neo-imperialist ambitions.
The story itself is full of twists and turns and is very well plotted. In addition, the whole book is suffused with a level of ribald humour that kept me guffawing throughout.
All in all, ‘The Age Of Odin’ is a fantastic finale to a thrilling trilogy of military SF novels. It tells a great story with energy, excitement and a wonderful strand of humour. I loved both the previous books but even so, I would say that ‘The Age of Odin’ is the best of the lot. Highly recommended.
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