Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lovegrove's Aztecs and Smith's Vampires

Mark and I have a review each this week, which as all my millions and millions of readers know by now, is the norm here at the o’ Stuff. Mark takes a look at a novel that’s a bit of a turn for the writer whilst my review concerns itself with the (at the time of this blog post) latest in a popular mythologically-infused Military Science Fiction series.

James Lovegrove’s Pantheon sequence is growing in popularity and the latest in the series (book four) drops the “The” from the title and simply goes with Age of Aztec:

Two characters form the center of the novel, Stuart Reston – a rich, powerful man whose wife and child gave themselves over as sacrifices to the Great Speaker, the leader of the world. The other protagonist is Chief Inspector Mal Vaughn, who due to her superiors’ ritualistic deaths because of the inability to capture the Conquistador, becomes head of the investigation to learn the identity of the Conquistador and capture him. She suspects Stuart is her man and after a drug induced spirit-dream confirms his identity.

The first half of the novel, then, is much of a cat and mouse game between Stuart and Mal and all the while, Lovegrove does a good job of providing a believable background for the characters and the world in which they inhabit. The Aztec presence is everywhere, subverting what was once the culture’s societal norms and mores, as well as art and technology. Religion and science have become one under the Aztechnology banner as the gods (Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca, etc) granted the Aztec people much of the technology (flying discs, their weapons) that power their empire.

Mark takes a look at a vampire/mystery novella from L. Neil Smith and the book is Sweeter Than Wine:

The story set up’s pretty straightforward. J Clifford is the sort of guy you wouldn’t notice much about if you bumped into him in the street. No major debts, (in fact, all bills paid), nice to children and his small-town neighbours.

In reality, he’s a ninety-year old who was turned into a vampire in World War Two after a sexual liaison with a fantastic looking young girl. Now, in the twenty-first century, he’s a twenty-something-looking guy living a seemingly-respectable life as an unlicensed private investigator in New Prospect, Colorado, with a cat named Fiddlestring.

Neil’s vampire keeps some of the traditional vampire tropes and ignores the rest. J prefers to use a syringe, rather than a bite. In the manner of Matheson’s I Am Legend, vampirism is a symbiotic virus. Here it protects the vampire from disease, aging and injury, makes them strong and allows them to grow parts of the body back. In Smith’s version of vampirism, being bitten can actually improve the victim’s life: they become healthier and less prone to disease, and usually remember nothing about being the vampire’s meal.

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