Tracey's Reviews > Aztec

Aztec by Gary Jennings
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's review
Apr 03, 11

bookshelves: favorites, must-reread, historical-fiction
Recommended to Tracey by: local bookseller who knew the author
Recommended for: historical fiction buffs with a stomach of steel
read count: 3

My GOD this man could write. He's from my hometown, and lived not so far away from my house, and I could never arrange a meeting while (and being I'm not a stalker and respected the crap out of this guy, I didn't try too hard). A complete enigma to me; massive genius. I might have been scared to meet him, in fact — loved his writings, but they were so graphic that I believe I feared meeting someone who could imagine such brutality.

I love historical fiction, and Jennings' works tackle times that aren't politically correct to tackle with such honesty; but I'm not a fan of sugar-coating history, either. That being said, this book, albeit with such historical verisimilitude, engaging characters, and subtle dialogue, could have benefited from a tad less gruesome detail; it can be hard to read on a full stomach, and the unsettling images last for years.

Jennings deals us an engaging story that's so descriptive that you can put the book away and half-expect to be IN that world; he draws you in as an observer, and you don't feel safe in that world. Such immersion can be horrifying, especially in dealing with cannibalism and sacrifice, but you come away feeling like you have a better understanding of a completely lost and foreign culture. That's the highest praise I can give to an historical fiction.

And after reading this tome, I never wanted to visit and SEE the historical sites for a fictional work so much, maybe if just to test the truthfulness, and possibly to mourn the loss, of such a society. You come away feeling that there's blood on everybodys' hands: the Aztecs, the conquerors, ...humanity. But in a good way, that doesn't leave room for judgment, but rather for thought. Aztec works as a great equalizer.

My criticism would certainly be that his writing is so compelling, and the violence so disturbing, that if it's not as truthful as it seems, could be an unfair indictment against an entire society. In other words, Jennings is such a good storyteller, and has so much actual history to back him up, that he needed to be very careful that his dramatics doesn't leave an unfair portrayal of that society.

I think if you read this keeping in mind that it's historical FICTION, you can get a good understanding of a society that ritually sacrifices and consumes humans. It will leave an impression on your soul, imo, about what humanity is capable of.

I loved it; will reread it again. Mindblowing.
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