Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Age of Zeus (Book 2 of The Pantheon series)

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by James Lovegrove

This book is a totally awesome combination of mythology and sci-fi mated with page-turning thriller and relentless actions that blows your mind away. So profound is the story that my first experience with Lovegrove's The Pantheon triptych is enough to compel me to return for the others of the same series.

Although it was originally intended to be a trilogy, it was never explicitly mentioned as so, and so the series which features independent and unrelated stories of gods walking among human in modern era extended into its fourth installation, effectively throwing everyone off the original assumption of a trilogy. Even Lovegrove himself is no exception. Perhaps there is the hand of god in play here.

One-liner intro: Showdown of Clash of the Titans and Crysis in a modern era.

Best part: The depiction of Greek gods and mythological beasts as well as the fight against them; the revelation of how they came to be; the brains and detective deductions of the protagonist; straight cut into the story with little dallying in the beginning; ample use of English idioms coupled with good writing.

Not-so-best part: Systematic and orderly death of the TITANS is too old-schooled; really, the TITANS are the first to successfully thwart the gods?; gods that destroyed armies seemed too easily defeated; an ending that is too ordinary.

Dawn of The Age of Zeus

With the advent of Christianity, Buddhism and Islam among other major religion popping up after the Golden Age of the Greeks, the mythology of the ancient Greek gods became a good theme for some movies and bedtime stories. But the thought of those immortals running around in modern day is too good to pass up, and realized in Lovegrove's The Age of Zeus.

Zeus, as seated on his throne of power (image taken from DeviantArt.com).

The Olympians, as the Greek gods called themselves, roamed the Earth once more and the whole world trembled beneath their iron fist. Since their sudden appearance a decade ago, they had quelled war and disorder, but so were the freedom of humankind. Governments were allowed to exist, though only the docile and groveling ones were allowed in office. Resistance proved futile as the Olympians responded swiftly and harshly, punishing not just individuals or groups but obliterating whole areas just to set an example. Human life was puny and worthless to them.

The protagonist of the story, former London police officer Sam Akehurst, was invited, among others, to join a group to form the dozen that is the TITANS. Unlike the original Titans, who were forebears of the mythological Olympians, this new resistance was armed with cutting-edge weapons as well as tactics against the immortals and their menagerie of mythological beasts.

And so began the guerrilla war against the Olympians. Lovegrove artfully crafted the TITANS' fight first against the mythological beasts, and with the suspense and momentum building to the peak, presented a showdown between them and the gods.

Despite being one of the more powerful gods, Poseidon was not particularly featured in The Age of Zeus (image taken from ComicVine).

Adrenaline pumping action the novel may be, the deities were only discussed in the first half of the book, showing them in sidelines, flashbacks and even a show of power that made the gods, well, god-like. And this made me wonder how could they be so easily defeated by the TITANS even with the high tech suits of the latter. 

Of course, Lovegrove did not earn my stars for this book by leaving this detail out. What was lacking is the fact that almighty as the gods were, they did not really brought all of their power to bear on the TITANS, making them easier kills in the latter half of the story. If scenes of majestic show of power were drawn out and then defeated through brilliance of the TITANS were depicted, then I will give more than my share of stars to the book.

Flipping through the novel was like playing a post-apocalypse game, except that the whole world was still there. Any reader who are also avid gamers will appreciate the pace and style of the story being a little like pacing in a battlesuit in Call of Duty or Crysis. Except there were sex involved here.

Goddess of Love? The Aphrodite in The Age of Zeus is no goddess of love that you wanted to get near to (image taken from FanPop).

Yeap, Lovegrove's story is not for children, as profanities as well as adult scenes and gory scenes (aren't both the same?) were unabashedly flung around in the story. Since I had finished The Age of Odin before I started on this review, the level of profanities here is nothing compared to that third installment.

The Gods in The Age of Zeus

Zeus is, of course, the main antagonist of the story, but he was not alone. In his company are a dozen of gods, all famous and showing powers of real gods. With gods around to rule the world, why wasn't the world a better place?

Lovegrove's gods are as uncaring of life as those in the mythology were, their wanton destruction and disregard for life made them tyrants which attracted only hatred. Interestingly, Herakles was presented in his familiar Roman name Hercules, and I suspect only those familiar with the Greek mythology will spot this difference.

Godly as they were, the gods lacked the individual touch from Lovegrove which made them a little detached from the story, almost like villains just there to meet the full deck of cards. Each of them were only given focus during the fight and in other sidelines featuring them in action. Too many of the gods were involved in this novel, so much so that the godliness of them were diluted.

What the TITANS could do with their battlesuit is too similar to what the protagonist could in the game series Crysis is way too close (image taken from Freeshare.com).

The same goes to the TITANS themselves. Involving members from different parts of the globe attracted my attention, and I expected that each brought with him or her special characteristics that were helpful to or hindering the fight. There were portrayals of their differences but again, the number of characters diluted their uniqueness, making them just bystanders that were better not brought in since the beginning. 

The orderly termination of each member of the TITANS is too old-school and reading the novel became an anticipation of who will die next and how. To Lovegrove's credit though is the fact that the characters are still unique enough to make them at least not confusing.

The brilliance of Sam Akehurst more than make up for these deficiencies though. Bringing the bright deductive skills from her time as a detective, she led the reader through questions which themselves had thought out aloud. Why did the gods arrived only now? How did the mythological beasts come to be? Why did Zeus looked so familiar? As she pondered and put forth her own theories, Lovegrove guided the reader's  train of logic through Sam. And as she exploded through pages of intense fights, the mysteries began to unravel with a surprising revelations and an epic showdown.

The painting taken off the cover to The Age of Zeus (image taken from Gods of Art).

The Writing of The Age of Zeus

Lovegrove's writing style leaned towards the dark and gritty type. The Age of Zeus is not a story filled with hope or joy even though certain sections of it are devoted to that. A sense of fatality, even hopelessness, shrouded the story, showcasing his mastery over the shadier side of a story. To readers who spurn the sunshine type of story with their overabundant optimism bordering on unrealistic, Lovegrove's dark style is for you.

Lovegrove also managed to narrate a story with intense fights without drawing out the actions through lengthy description which just won't work well in a novel. To his credit is his use of word plays and idiomatic expressions along his work, which to me, is a good way to strengthen an English novel.

Twillight of The Age of Zeus

For lovers of Greek mythology, especially if you wondered what will happen if those gods roamed on Earth now, this is the book for you. For those looking for a story with intense actions and a doomed sense, this is the book for you. For those seeking sunshine and optimism, go look at the sun. Or read The Last Lecture (read my review here).


More about The Age of Zeus could be obtained from James Lovegrove's website.




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