Today’s book is another in one of my favorite subgenres of SF, godpunk. I should hope it is what since that’s where the next novel I write will be firmly entrenched. While I started out in godpunk with American Gods (like everybody) and Mortal Coils, I think that James Lovegrove is writing some of the most interesting stuff in the subgenre. His Pantheon series is a series in theme only, the books aren’t actually connected so you can read them at your leisure. Each book is all about one pantheon of gods and how they affect the modern world. I’ve been reading these since they were new and I got wicked excited when I picked up Age of Voodoo.
Lovegrove started out with the Big Three when it comes to godpunk, Egyptians, Greeks and Vikings. After that he went into lesser known (to western audiences) pantheons and that is just inherently more interesting in itself. There are eight novels and novellas out or in the pipeline right now (Including Age of Shiva!) so these books are going into increasingly interesting territory. So how does Voodoo play with the modern world?
Let’s find out. Back of the Book time!
Lex Dove thought he was done with the killing game. A retired British wetwork specialist, he’s living the quiet life in the Caribbean, minding his own business. Then a call comes, with one last mission: to lead an American black ops team into a disused Cold War bunker on a remote island near his adopted home. The money’s good, which means the risks are high.
Dove doesn’t discover just how high until he and his team are a hundred feet below ground, facing the horrific fruits of an experiment blending science and voodoo witchcraft.
As if barely human monsters weren’t bad enough, a clock is ticking. Deep in the bowels of the earth, a god is waiting. And His anger, if roused, will be fearsome indeed.
Removing the fact that as a different pantheon, it will naturally have a different flavor than say the egotistic personalities in Age of Zeus or the ritual sacrifice for screwing up at work in Age of Aztec, this book takes a bit of a departure from the previous novels. I say novels because stylistically, Voodoo has more in common with the novella Age of Anansi than any of the others. There’s a “everyone’s invited to the party” sense that is used in a lot of godpunk. Up through Aztec the most another pantheon of gods got was a mention about being defeated earlier in human history. Voodoo also has a tighter focus. It’s one op in the Caribbean that affects the Caribbean. What’s at stake here isn’t exactly insignificant but it doesn’t really change the world. We’re also dealing with intermediaries rather than the gods themselves, or loa to use the proper vodoun terms. That’s actually true to how vodoun works for real even if it’s not as exciting having Thor or Ares punch things.
So all this about scope is one of those neutral things. Better or worse is all in the eye of the beholder. I happen to be of the school of thought that expectations going into a book have just as much to do with how much you enjoy it as the quality itself. If you’re expecting the same world spanning saves the day adventures, you won’t get it. I personally missed it a little bit but it wasn’t wholly unexpected because of the tone set in Anansi. Lex Dove is an assassin. In, out and you’ll never know he was there unless that’s part of the plan. Keeps everything small.
That’s not to say there isn’t some oomph to this story. What’s the number one thing that people expect reading a story involving voodoo monsters? Zombies! Or at least the equivalent Haitian French term that I can’t find in a flip through the book. These are original, proper zombies, the root of all the horror stories the world has ever seen. They’re a little different than traditional movie zombies but they still make for fun bad guys.
The learning curve is not as steep as Aztec but it’s still much more than Zeus or Odin. Not everyone is familiar with voodoo but Lex is an outsider being the Brit retired out to the Caribbean. Albertine is a vodoun priestess who packs the metaphysical punch for the book and does the explaining for Lex and the American team. I wish there was more metaphysical punching and a little less shooting.
The thematic choices of the book are nagging at me a bit after the fact though. The pacing, plotting and adventure satisfied me every bit while I was reading it. I think mostly what I want is more and I want it because I had it with the other books. I liked Age of Voodoo though. Lex Dove as a skeptic moving to acceptance and belief is a great story arc. When Albertine did get to play with her bag of tricks it was a lot of fun. Another one of the “give me mores” of this book is that I’d like to see the characters next story arc. Leaving me wanting more is always a good thing.
Overall, I actually think I liked Voodoo better than Aztec but Age of Odin is still my favorite of the set. (Seriously expecting the future Age of Shiva to bump that out though, cause fuck yeah Shiva!) I’ll especially recommend this one to people who like the small military op style of saving a chunk of the world.