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The Age of Ra
James Lovegrove
Solaris, 448 pages

The Age of Ra
James Lovegrove
James Lovegrove, who also writes as J.M.H. Lovegrove, is an Arthur C. Clarke Award short-listed author. He was born on Christmas Eve, 1965. Despite the rumour and the year and a half he spent in Chicago between 1995 and 1996, he remains inarguably, ineluctably, irretrievably, irrevocably British. He lives in Lewes, East Sussex.

James Lovegrove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Worldstorm
SF Site Review: Untied Kingdom
SF Site Review: The Hope
SF Site Review: Imagined Slights
SF Site Review: The Foreigners
SF Site Review: The Foreigners
SF Site Review: The Krilov Continuum
SF Site Review: The Hand That Feeds

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

"The Horusite ba lance lay across his lap. He was trying to summon up his last dregs of strength in order to pick up the weapon and place it against his head."
The ancient Egyptian gods have defeated all other pantheons, and now rule the Earth, which they have divided into warring factions. Lieutenant David Westwynter, of His Pharaonic Majesty's Second Paratroop Regiment is leading a covert operation into northern Africa, when his contingent are ambushed. Soon he finds himself in a very sticky situation, and looks certain to die. Fate, however, has other plans. In due course Westwynter heads for Freegypt, the only place on Earth to have remained independent of the gods influence. Purely because the gods cannot decide who should rule it. In Freegypt, Westwynter encounters a mysterious and charismatic leader. A strangely familiar masked human, known as the Lightbringer. What the Lightbringer is preaching seems impossible; insurrection against the gods themselves.

It's an idea loaded with promise, as I'd expect from James Lovegrove, and I anticipated a plot which rolled and whispered like the shifting sands of the desert. Unfortunately, what I found was something that groaned with disappointment. The self-styled Lightbringer has vowed to break humanity free from the shackles of divine oppression, but as secrets are revealed we learn that all is not as it seems. Which will surprise no one. Worse is to come, when the author attempts to write the Egyptian gods as characters. We're asked to accept that these beings have defeated every other pantheon of gods, and yet there is no explanation as to how they accomplished such a monumental victory. Moreover, these gods behave like a bunch of dysfunctional teenagers ruled by an immortal old fart, and stuck in some kind of mythological Groundhog Day. I ended up with no idea what Lovegrove was trying to do with his god sequences, because so much of it was close to bollocks. Back among the humans, the main characters of Westwynter and the Lightbringer interact far more interestingly, and in ways that eventually make sense. But, as the Lightbringer's rebellion gains pace, there are some serious omissions. Any military novel worth its salt explores technology, especially the weapons systems being used. But all that's on offer here are ba lances, which are Stargate-style staff weapons powered by divine essence, fusion bombs which work by combining the essence of two different gods, and the Scarab Tank, a solar-powered vehicle, which uses a drive sphere for propulsion. A drive sphere, in the desert, where it would generate virtually zero traction. Then there's the big idea for infantry; mass-produced zombie mummies. Honestly, if I hadn't read it, I'd have thought someone was having a laugh.

In summary, The Age of Ra barely hints as to what the author is capable, and is a poor example of his work. As an attempt to cross military action and SF, it ends up being neither and fails on both fronts. In almost four and a half hundred pages, there should have been plenty of room for development and imagination, but what is presented reads more like barrels being scraped. What is most annoying is that the novel hints at a really interesting idea, and reveals a shadow of what could have been fascinating characterization. But the execution is botched, and the lead characters are so clichéd they stifle what might have been a saving grace. I don't know what went wrong here, James Lovegrove is usually so much better.

Copyright © 2010 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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