Thursday, August 16, 2012

Battle of the Books, Summer 2012, First Round :: Age of Aztec by James Lovegrove vs. The Ultimate Game by Sean Austin

Moving into the bottom half of the bracket, the Summer 2012 Battle of the Books continues with Age of Aztec by James Lovegrove going against The Ultimate Game by Sean Austin. The winner will be whichever book I most want to keep reading after the first 25 pages.

Age of Aztec: Solaris paperback, 507 pages, cover art by Marek Okon. Age of Aztec is part of the Pantheon series, which are standalone military adventure novels featuring the gods of ancient mythologies. James Lovegrove is a British author of SF, horror and dark fantasy. He has written around a dozen novels, plus a similar number of books for children and young adults.

In Age of Aztec, the year is 2012, but the world is not as we know it. The setting is a mashup of modern Britain and the historic Aztecs. For instance, there are pubs and coca-leaf tea, plasma lightning guns and sharpened obsidian weapons. In this world, the Aztecs were never conquered by Cortez. Britain was subsumed into the Aztec Empire, and St. Paul’s Cathedral was demolished to build the City of London ziggurat. The weather in London is strangely tropically hot. The first 25 pages covers about a chapter and a half.

An Aztec blood rite is held at the London ziggurat. Thousands throng the streets for the festivities. A hundred participating volunteers queue for sacrifice. The officiating priest ritually dispatches sacrificial victims then the acolytes remove the victims’ hearts. A TV network aerodisc broadcasting the event dips low, unusually close to the temple. Out of the aerodisc jumps the terrorist called The Conquistador, and chaos ensues. Quote: “people were getting killed who weren’t meant to be getting killed.” The Jaguar Warrior police blast the temple and The Conquistador. Afterwards, in the debris they don’t find the Conquistador’s corpse, only pieces of his empty armor.

Upon reporting for work the next day at Scotland Yard, Inpector Mal Vaughn mets her DS (Detective Sergeant), Aaronson, who jokes about her having a casual sexual encounter, and tells her that Chief Superintendent Kellaway is looking for her. Mal witnesses Kellaway’s displeasure with Chief inspector Nyman for mishandling security at the blood rite. Kellaway kills Nyman with a macuahitl, an Aztec sword. Then Vaughn is promoted to Chief Inspector and given the dreaded Conquistador case.

The Ultimate Game: AAA Reality Games paperback, March 2012, 281 pages. Book One of Echo’s Revenge. This seems to be a tie-in novel for a future game from AAA Reality Games. This is first novel, for author Hart Getzen (aka Sean Austin). The first 25 pages cover an author introduction, a prologue, and little more than two chapters.

The author Sean Austin claims that this book is a report of an ongoing investigation, that some names and locations were changed to protect his sources.

Fourteen year old Reggie King and his eleven year old brother, Jeremy, of Washington state play an online multi-player game called ECHO’s Revenge, featuring a huge predator in body armor called ECHO (E-6) and mechanized ghouls. The game is an escape for the boys from their dysfunctional home life. Their mother, Jennifer Edna, called Jeda, is somewhat clueless and works late. Asa, Jeda’s live-in unemployed boyfriend, who is supposed to look after the boys, drinks and is abusive.

Reggie, aka Waiting for You, is one of top players of ECHO’s Revenge. He’s invited by AAA Reality Games LLC (interestingly the publisher of this book) to join a focus group with other Master level players, travel expenses paid. But Reggie doesn’t see the letter until the night before because his mean step-father, Asa, hides it from him. Of course, Reggie isn’t allowed to go. So early the next morning, Reggie sneaks away from home, leaving his brother Jeremy to cover for him, and catches a bus to AAA Reality Games lab, which is a couple hours away.

The Battle: We have a brutal alternate world SF novel, and a young adult gamers adventure book.

In the first 25 page of Age of Aztec, there’s already a sizable body count with gruesome onstage deaths. As in many recent British books, the profanity f*ck is used, in my opinion, over abundantly in conversations. I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book on my own.

In The Ultimate Game, the boys are likable characters, although some of the things they do seem a bit unbelievable, such as jumping out a second story window in winter to avoid their angry step-father. In my opinion, the writing seems a bit wordy and unpolished. But then again, this is a book targeted at young male tween and teen gamers, which I’m not.

For this battle, I have to go with Age of Aztec, even though it’s brutal, because I got to admit it’s a page turner.

THE WINNER: AGE OF AZTEC by James Lovegrove

Age of Aztec will advance to meet either Destroyer of Worlds by Mark Chadbourn or Silver by Rhiannon Held in the second round.

To see the whole bracket, click here.

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