Tuesday, 18 June 2013

‘Age of Voodoo’ – James Lovegrove (Solaris)

I’m falling in love with my bookshelves all over again :o) After a couple of months of not really being that interested, all of a sudden I’m finding old friends again as well as books that I’m pretty sure weren’t there the last time I looked. Like James Lovegrove’s ‘Age of Voodoo’ for example. I had completely forgotten that this book was in the house until I found it again whilst having an idle browse the other day. I also found my copy of ‘Time’s Arrow’ which I really need to read. That’s a story (and hopefully a review) for another day though.

Readers of the blog will know that I had a few issues with ‘Age of Aztec’ (scroll down a bit, it might still be on this page) but I was still in the mood for more of the same so ‘Age of Voodoo’ came along at just the right time. Or did it? As far as writing this review goes, I’m not so sure.
Have some cut and pasted blurb…

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. One last mission: to lead an American black ops team into a disused Cold War bunker on a remote island. The money's good, which means the risks are high. How high, Dove doesn't discover until he and his team are a hundred feet below ground, facing the fruits of an experiment in science and voodoo witchcraft gone wrong. 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.

As a rule, I usually try and space out books by the same author if I’m going to review them after reading. It keeps my reading feeling fresh and it stops problematic reviews like this one coming along and biting me when I least expect it. It’s too late now though so here goes…

My problem is that ‘Age of Voodoo’ is so similar to ‘Age of Aztec’ that it’s all I can do not to point you at that review and just get you to swap the words ‘Aztec’ and ‘Voodoo’ around. Plot, structure, tone, the works; it’s the same story all over again. I guess this is to be expected after, being several books into a series based around one all defining concept. Leaves me in a bit of a bind though, certainly if I want to write something that isn’t going to leave you guys wondering why I’ve just wasted a post repeating myself. I’m going to give it a go anyway because there was one minor tweak that made ‘Age of Voodoo’ a slightly satisfactory read.

I did enjoy reading ‘Age of Voodoo’; don’t expect anything too deep from it but if you’re after a heady dose of adventure and horror, in the Caribbean, then you won’t go too far wrong here. It’s like ‘Live and Let Die’ was rewritten for the twenty first century and given some extra zombies for good measure. I can’t complain about that really. Lovegrove has a firmer hand on the pacing in this book; there are still some moments where he ‘info-dumps’ (slowing things up) but on the whole, ‘Age of Voodoo’ zips along just like a ‘pulp/action/horror’ book of this kind should. I found it very easy to keep reading, even if there were bits that I found myself impatiently skimming to get to the good stuff. There are some neat little twists that propel things forward nicely and if anyone from Solaris (or even James himself) reads this… Can we have more Team Thirteen please? I liked them a lot (especially Buckler).

What I liked most of all though was that Lovegrove dials back the influence of the gods and basically lets the humans get on with it (good voodoo against bad). The gods are there but almost as observers and happy work events for their own ends. I really appreciated the way that this approach brought the frankly more interesting characters right to the fore and it really benefited the plot as a whole. Just enough ‘god presence’ to keep things interesting but not enough to drown the plot in ‘deus ex machina’.

‘Age of Voodoo’ basically does exactly what ‘Age of Aztec’ does then but a lot better in small but very important ways. If I could have more of this in the future then I would be a very happy reader indeed.

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