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Friday, April 9, 2010

"The Age of Zeus" by James Lovegrove (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official James Lovergrove Website
Order "The Age of Zeus" HERE
Read FBC Review of "The Age of Ra"

INTRODUCTION: In my 2010 Anticipated Books Post I initially said:

"Do not know more than the title but it seems to be related to the superb The Age of Ra so another must."

Later I found the blurb:

"The Olympians appeared a decade ago, living incarnations of the Ancient Greek gods on a mission to bring permanent order and stability to the world. Resistance has proved futile, and now humankind is under the jackboot of divine oppression.

Then former London police officer Sam Akehurst receives an invitation too tempting to turn down, the chance to join a small band of guerrilla rebels armed with high-tech weapons and battle suits. Calling themselves the Titans, they square off against the Olympians and their ferocious mythological monsters in a war of attrition which not all of them will survive!"

So the same theme as in "The Age of Ra" but this books is quite different, less deep and campier, but a lot of fun and a fast and engrossing read which is Mil-SF's take on Urban Fantasy.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "The Age of Zeus" stands at almost 700 pages of mostly non-stop action, interspersed with comedy and follows the POV of Samanta Akerhust aka Sam, a former London Police Detective hotshot who emerges as the de facto leader of the Titans - though the cast is multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural and as PC as it gets.

As opposed to "The Age of Ra" which remained mysterious to the end,
"The Age of Zeus" provides explanations and the ending while predictable is very good and fitting. As mentioned above the best classification for the novel is Mil-SF's take on Urban Fantasy.

ANALYSIS: "The Age of Zeus" is a very fast read despite its bulk; with the same thematic as "The Age of Ra" but this time with the Olympians taking over humanity, "The Age of Zeus" is quite different from Ra since it is what I expected Ra to be: a mixture of low-brow comedy - "mythporn" says it all with titles that are ultra-explicit and hilarious in a sick way so to speak, though there is little explicit language beyond them - monsters and urban combat with enhanced technology, while Ra turned out to be one of the most philosophical Mil-SF novels I've ever read.

The short summary from the blurb is accurate - Olympians appear some 10 years before the start of the novel with all the monsters from the myths in tow as well as their corresponding powers and enforce peace and order on humanity at some cost like obliterating cities to make a point, defeating and destroying any army sent against them...

Twelve experienced
and scarred (army and police) veterans are chosen by a rich industrialist and offered the chance to strike back using special armor that give them powers on the Olympians' scale - lower but on the same level so the attempt to overthrow the Gods has a shot; of course all take Titan names and they start by hunting the monsters (Hydra, Lamia, Typhon, Cyclops, Gorgons, Minotaur...) . Of course the rich industrialist in cause has his own secrets too.

The Olympians steal the show with their hijinks and there are a lot of "current issues" jokes, jibes and fun poked at politicians, media personalities and celebrities in general many of whom are sort of recognizable at least as type if not as actual persons.

While David Westwynter of Ra is a more interesting character than Sam, it does not matter here since the strong points of
"The Age of Zeus" are action, technology, humor and of course the superb rendition of the Olympians and their pet monsters.

Hercules (a demi-god that is part of the Pantheon here), Zeus and Aphrodite are
the best developed of the Gods, with Ares and Apollo a bit too strident; Hermes and Hephaestus also have strong secondary parts, while Dionysus forms a great pair with Aphrodite when they "corrupt" the celebrities with sex, alcohol and drugs, though he has less of a principal role than the Goddess.

The technology of the armored suits, weapons and related paraphernalia is extremely well done too and counterpoints very well with the Olympians' powers and their creatures' abilities which all are described in a scientific way despite the seeming supernatural involved in them.

And the action is just unbelievably good, keeping the reader on his/her edge of the seat so to speak; the monster hunts and later the direct fights with the Gods are the highlights of the book, while the humor and the jibes balance the tension well - though the explicit titles of mythporn movies that are used as cover against the all-seeing Argus who is now the "global moderator" of the world are not for the easily offended.

While lacking the deep and mysterious part of Ra, "The Age of Zeus" is a lot of fun in a campy way and better than I expected once I saw how it goes; a strong A from me


Vic | Brochures said...

Looks like we have a good plot here. I love the idea of fusing classical mythology characters in a modern or futuristic setting.

There was also this graphic novel I saw and the plot was about Hitler having the aid of the Norse Gods. I forgot the title though.

Yagiz [Between Two Books] said...

Thanks for the review! I was going to start to read The Age of Zeus tomorrow but I decided to let it slip under "Shine (edited) by Jetse de Vries". I thought The Age of Zeus' theme was similar to the book I'm currently reading so I decided to read from a different genre. But it sounds pretty good, so I'll make sure to read it next.

Liviu said...

I read Shine too actually before the Zeus book and I will have a review hopefully Sunday; I loved the first part of the anthology but the roughly last 8 out of 16 stories did not connect with me and I found the editorial comments a minus; basically it's near-future (even dated in some cases) mundane sf, while the optimistic part is relative to your definition (for me Shine is more Utopian than optimistic since there is a sense that for the editor, history started with the tech bubble and optimism is measured by the expectations of that)

Zeus is a better book while as anthologies go, Shine is on the ok side but far from the great recent sf anthologies like New Space Opera (1 and 2), Fast Forward 1 and 2, Eclipse 2, Solaris SF 1-3, Alternate Earths and more

Liviu said...

And there is The Age of Odin coming out too in early 2011 - I even saw a blurb on Amazon

Elfy said...

I just picked this up the other day without realising that the same author had done another book on a similar theme. It's nice to read that this seems to standalone, because now I can't find The Age of Ra anywhere here in Melbourne!

Unknown said...

Was not a huge fan of Age of Ra but this one sounds more like what I was hoping for.

Liviu said...

Age of Ra was indeed not what I expected but I liked it because I liked the main character and the writing - here on the other hand is indeed what I thought Ra would be, humans against gods in urban combat, though as mentioned there is more with all the comedy and jibes at our present follies

tashamaree said...

The age of Odin was my favourite.
It had more in it for me.

Liviu said...

started it a while ago but have not finished it yet; Age of Aztec comes soon and I may read both when this last is out

liam said...

I've taken a look at this book but just couldn't get past the "humanity overcomes obstacles they shouldn't" trope.
Perhaps if this took place in the far future involving somebody like the Culture, or something, I could buy it...actually, I WOULD buy something like that...but with roughly our level of tech? It just seems a bit too much. Moreover, the Greek deities were truly immortal. They just didn't die. The best you could do would be to cripple them (a la Typhon with Zeus) or imprison them in someplace like Tartarus or by having a frickin mountain thrown on them.
Now, if you were talking about the Norse (as they do in the Age of Odin), then that makes more sense (though, again, you have the problem of the gods should be absurdly powerful...the various things Thor did or Odin's construction of Creation).
Still, thanks for the review. I'm glad to see it doesn't seem like I misjudged the book.

Unknown said...

Love this book! I've read it multiple times. I was actually disappointed in the age of Odin. I didn't know about Aztecs though. looks like ill be making a trip to the bookstore tomorrow


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