BOOK REVIEW: Age of Shiva by James Lovegrove

REVIEW SUMMARY: Possibly Lovegrove’s best yet.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology is assembled, but are they in fact a harbinger of apocalypse?

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Original take on superheroes, exploration of a vivid and colorful religion, sympathetic protagonist, deft plotting, great action.
CONS: Not enough development of the Avatars.
BOTTOM LINE: A combination of science fiction and mythology, superheroes and deities, further solidifying Lovegrove’s title as Godpunk King.

I’ve been a devoted fan of James Lovegrove since I first read The Age of Zeus, his second Pantheon novel. Each year I anticipate the release of the next Pantheon novel. As far as running series go, this is one of my favorite. Six novels and three novellas (collected in one omnibus) in and Lovegrove continues to thrill. There’s no over-arcing plot and no recurring characters. It’s a series united in theme rather than narrative, a technique that results in a cohesive whole while continually managing to change up the dynamic that makes the Pantheon novels so compelling. With Lovegrove novels you always know what to expect and yet he still manages to subvert these expectations. You’re always going to get solid prose, dry English humor, a gripping mix of science fiction and mythology, and ultimately a clever plot. Age of Shiva is tied for my favorite novel in the series. Here’s why…
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A conceptually intriguing exploration of superheroes in an artificial playground where social outcasts can don capes and have a shot at happiness.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Jacob Curtiss, 15-year-old orphan in a futuristic Melbourne (the last city on Earth), finds his way to the virtual world of Heropa. There he becomes Southern Cross, a Cape ready to live out his fantasies, but instead finds himself in a just-as-harsh world, where he has to track down the people responsible for the string of superhero murders.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Campy fun; over-the-top banter and superhero identities; a highly stylized retro-futuristic world; clever subversion of the heroic narrative; pop culture references galore
CONS: Pacing suffers throughout the book, resulting in initial disorientation; a heavy emphasis on bickering, which steals away the opportunity of deeper characterization and developing of the conceptual aspects in the world.
BOTTOM LINE: A light adventure with a bit of KAPOW and a heavy dose of sardonic sarcasm guaranteed to give you a case of the nostalgia for the good, old innocent days of comic books where things were neat, clean and proper.

With comic book icons jumping across the multiplex cinema screens, it’s hard not to be involved in the superhero hype, which has been successfully crossing over from colourful panels to novels and short fiction. With Adam Christopher’s Empire State, Seven Wonders and The Age Atomic as well as Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories edited by Claude Lalumière & Camille Alexa as most recent examples, it’s no wonder more people would examine the superhero narrative and myth, which leads us to Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, a novel by Australian author Andrez Bergen.
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REVIEW: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

REVIEW SUMMARY: This book is reminiscent of many things: X-Files, James Bond, X-Men, without being any of them, because it’s written from the bureaucrat’s point of view.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Letters found in the jacket pocket of a newly awakened amnesiac woman explain she has a choice: to escape a dangerous life, or to impersonate the woman she was in a secret government organization of people with supernatural abilities.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amazing world-building, fast-paced, tightly plotted, interesting protagonist, subtle underlying humour
CONS: Some situations are hard to believe given the circumstances
BOTTOM LINE: If you like mysteries and intricate world-building, pick this up.

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