Age Of Voodoo by James Lovegrove (book review).

James Lovegrove has carved himself a real niche in the military Science Fiction genre with his ‘Age Of’ series of novels, each of which is based around the pantheon of gods from a different human culture. I have reviewed the previous four novels in this series for SFCrowsnest and enjoyed them all. How does the latest book, ‘Age Of Voodoo’, compare?


The story is a contemporary one set in the Caribbean. Lex Dove is a retired British Special Forces assassin now living on the fictional island of Manzanilla, half-way between Cuba and Haiti. When his former handler rings and offers him one hundred thousand pounds to be the local liaison for an American Special Forces team about to arrive for a mission nearby, Lex initially refuses, happy to have left his military past behind him. However, two things change his mind. His friend, Wilberforce, the owner of his favourite bar, is threatened by local heavies after getting behind with his repayments to the island’s chief loan shark. Then Wilberforce’s cousin, Albertine, arrives out of the blue, announces that she is a voodoo priestess and tells Lex that her gods have told her to help him stop an imminent threat to life and limb. Concerned for Wilberforce and intrigued by his cousin, Lex signs up for the mission.

When the American SEAL team arrives, they tell Lex that this is no ordinary job. The US military had been using a previously decommissioned Cold War listening base, set on a tiny island off the shore of Manzanilla, for top secret experiments aimed at creating super-soldiers. When the project suddenly went silent a team of Marines was sent in to find out what had happened. Equipped with helmet-mounted video cameras, they beamed back to the Pentagon hideous footage of the entire unit being ripped to pieces, seemingly by zombies.

The SEAL team’s mission is to go to the island, find out what is really going on and shut it down. They recruit Wilberforce to fly them there and Albertine for her knowledge of voodoo. Lex isn’t happy about his friends being dragged into a military situation, so insists on going along to keep them safe. However, once they get to the island, Lex’s old skills turn out to be extremely useful. It soon becomes clear that the Marines’ video cameras were not exaggerating. The island has been taken over by a mad scientist and a power-hungry voodoo priest who between them have converted everyone else they took to the island into an army of near-invincible zombie super-soldiers. When it becomes clear that the voodoo priest has plans for the zombies that could lead to Armageddon, Lex and the SEALs are left with very few options. Can they really stop him from bringing the world to an abrupt and premature end?

I am normally a slow reader but I zoomed through ‘Age Of Voodoo’ in a couple of days. This is a testament to Lovegrove’s finely crafted prose, tight plotting and sense of pace, all of which combine to produce a novel that I didn’t want to put down. When I initially read the back cover blurb and found out that the story’s protagonist was a retired assassin, I wondered whether I would warm to him. I needn’t have worried. Lex Dove is a reluctant hero whose primary interest in the mission is protecting his friends from harm. His skills in armed and unarmed combat are exceptional, yet it is his ability to stay calm and think rationally under fire that make him the undoubted hero of the piece. I’d be more than happy to see Lex appear in another story in the future. He is well-supported by Albertine, a clever and funny woman whose voodoo powers are a match for many of the opponents they come up against, even though she is ‘only’ a civilian.

One of the many things I have enjoyed about the ‘Age Of’ series is seeing the different ways in which Lovegrove treats each pantheon of gods. I was particularly looking forward to this novel because I have read a lot of fiction and non-fiction about zombies and voodoo over the last year and so was interested to see how the author integrated his background research into the book. As with the previous volumes, he does it very well. There are enough references to the history and culture of voodoo to satisfy those looking for authenticity without bogging the story down in unnecessary detail. At the same time, Lovegrove creates zombies that are as scary as any I’ve seen on film, with the chapters where they appear being genuinely chilling.

‘Age Of Voodoo’ is another enormously entertaining novel from James Lovegrove. I don’t know how many more pantheons there are to go but I very much hope that he covers them all. To date, he hasn’t put a foot wrong.

Patrick Mahon

December 2013

(pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 319 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-085-6)

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