Apocalypse 2012: A Novel (Aztec)
by Gary Jennings, Robert Gleason, Junius Podrug
Review by Ernest Lilley
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0765322595
Date: 09 June 2009 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Cobbled together from Gary Jennings' notes by his editor Robert Gleason and writer Junius Podrug, Apocalypse 2012 is a pale shadow of Jennings earlier Aztec historical fictions. Set in the last days of Quetzalcoatl's rule in Tula, a rich and powerful city, it follows a young slave who rises to become the King's astronomer, much to the priest class' dislike, and the mission he is fated to undertake; to protect the life's work of the previous astronomer, whose codexes foretell the end of the world in 2012.
Apocalypse 2012 jumps back and forth between the the distant Aztec's past and the imminent future as a team with an odd mix of archeologists and special ops types searches for the End-Time Codex written a thousand years before and predicting the end of the world.
Actually, the bulk of the story follows the trials of the young slave that transcribed the Codices for his teacher, and aging astronomer named, appropriately enough, Stargazer. The slave, Coyotl, was abandoned as an infant in the wilderness, and was taken by an expedition of Jaguar knights who killed off the hunting party the now sixteen year old boy had been brought along on in case they needed a blood offering to the Aztec gods.
It doesn't take a Mayan mathematician to guess that the specially marked boy, with a pattern of stars across his stomach, is destined for great things, or that you don't wind up in a wicker basket in stories like this without being at the heart of some palace intrigue.
As Coyotl grows and learns the astronomer's arts, he goes through a variety of women in Bond-formula fashion. First there's the innocent who will be sacrificed, then there's the beautiful but evil woman who taunts him, and finally there's the woman as friend/lover/guide that leads him on his mission. It's a workable formula, and without the steamy bits the book would founder much worst than it does.
And founder is what it mostly manages to do, skipping back and forth across the centuries on the weak connection that the days described now are very much like the last days of Tula -- drought, war, and maybe an asteroid on the way. We spend a certain amount of time with the US President's science advisory team, which consists of an older female scientist that is supposedly an authority on end of the world scenarios, and a bunch of military and Intel types that are supposed to get bent out of shape when she tells them that there are dark days ahead. None of which are especially believable.
If it wasn't for occasional sex and violence in both the past and future, the novel would be little more than an exposition of Aztec-Mayan culture as revealed through a cast of characters with remarkably modern attitudes.
Nonetheless, it's not quite unreadable as semi-historical adventure fiction, though I'd be happier if we stayed in one era or the other. As it is, we jump back and forth without a lot of connection between the two storylines, which wouldn't have been all that hard to work up.
Jennings' editor Robert Gleason, and hired gun Junius Podrug, managed to put this story together from (I assume) notes of the author's, but the book ends lamely, if indeed it ends at all. Most likely it's the setup for another book or two as Coyotl looks for places to hide the Codices and we plan for the worst case scenario in our time.