Monday, July 22, 2013


Norse Code
by Greg van Eekhout
Published by Spectra
3 1/2 Out of 5 Stars

More of a 3 1/2 stars. I have to give Greg van Eekhout props for a very clever and interesting take on how Ragnarok might come about during modern times (I mean, the fire giant Surtr is wielding his sword from on high over a final battlefield that includes a Home Depot and a Costco, which made me smile). I can't say that I've read a lot of Norse mythology because it always seemed so fragmented and difficult to follow when I went through my mythology phase in junior high (the year Edith Hamilton never left my side), so I have no idea how accurate Eekhout's depictions are. Furthermore, I can't say that I care. It was entertaining and original, especially when compared with the current glut of vampire fiction on the market today. 

Also, I'm always worried about books like this (the ones that look like they'll be urban fantasy with a strong female heroine) because they tend to devolve into nothing more than a sexfest of a plot that goes something like this: "It's almost the end of the world--there's only one thing to do! Have dirty, sweaty, S&M sex since all is futile! And then lets do it again every 25 pages or so until we've exhausted the Kama Sutra." I was pleased that Norse Code never becomes a dressed up excuse for supernatural porn. 

A few minor issues that shouldn't stop anyone from reading the book:

1. The back cover makes it seem as though the entire story will be told from the point of view of Mist, a valkyrie whose purpose is to gather warriors who will serve in the Einherjar at the final battle. However, the book doesn't seem to have one main character (which is just as well as Hermod and the Aesir are far more interesting characters than Mist; in fact, her whole "I must save my sister from Hel" mission seems unnecessary). It also seems as though the book will focus on the NORSEcode project being used to track down descendants of Odin (a kick ass idea in every way that isn't really utilized or expanded upon). These aren't really problems, but it ticks me off when a book presents itself as one thing and then goes in a different direction--even if I end up liking it.

2. And the name Mist is a minor irritation because sentences like "Mist hung around Hermod's waist" caused my mind to put forth disconcerting images of a Norse god riding into battle surrounded by a Charles Schulz Pigpen-esque fog.

3. The characters seem to exist only to serve the purpose of executing the plot. We never learn about them in any depth. Normally, this would be quite vexing, but the book makes it clear that they are pawns of prophecy and fate so, in a way, they do exist only to set the chain of events in motion. However, it would have been better if they could have been a little more interesting along the way. 

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