Monday, 10 January 2011

The Age of Odin review

James Lovegrove has, in a couple of previous books, used the idea of ancient gods in a modern world setting. He’s already had a go at the Egyptian and Greek pantheons, so now it’s the turn of the Norse gods.
So, what we have here are the Norse gods- in particular Odin and Thor, assembling an army to defeat, well, I’ll let you find out the villain of the story yourself, but I have to say, it’s a nice little twist, and one that doubly annoyed be because I really should have seen it coming!
Lovegrove had constructed some nice characters. While pretty much all but the main cast are thinly drawn, those that are flesh out are fleshed out well. Gideon 'Gid' Coxall, the main character, in particular is an interesting one. (As an aside, I’m impressed by the fact that he has managed to write a book this length in first person and maintain pace and coherency so well) He is an ex-soldier, and not a particularly nice one. I’ve known a few soldiers and ex-soldiers in my time, and the banter and dialogue between them comes across as realistic. It’s nice and sweary, but if anything, not sweary enough (again, from the soldiers I have known!)!
 I love the idea, and it’s so good I’m amazed no one has thought of it before (and if they have, I’m sure you’ll let me know), of equating  what we today would call ‘violent mood swings’ with what the Vikings called a Berserker rage.
While this is a hefty book, there were not many places where the story seemed to slacken. Yes, the ruthless editor in me could see how it could be shortened, but the pace does not suffer from the length.
There are some great action sequences, and the author has incorporated elements of Norse mythology (Sleipnir, Fenrir and the Valkyries for example) in a clever way.
The book is not without its problems though. I found the way Gid accepted his situation –he’s been taken from our world to Asgard, the world of the gods- to be too easy. But I suppose this could be explained as a pragmatic soldier-like approach. I also did not get a real sense of the scale of the battles. The guys here are literally fighting for the future of the world, but I think because all the action takes place in and around Odin’s castle, the effect on the outside world is not really communicated. But as I said, when the action does happen, it is exciting, expertly paced, clearly written and immersive. Lovegrove is a damned good writer, make no mistake.
I almost had another big problem with the ending. It appeared to veer very close to the Biggest No-No Twist there is, but Lovegrove manages to neatly side-step it at the last moment.
So, despite those problems, this is still a stonking read. It’s what I imagine the result would be if Neil Gamian and Tom Clancy wrote a book together- in a good way!

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