George Mann of Solaris Books rang me up and asked if I’d like to do an alternate-history novel for them. Naturally I said yes, not least because I’d been hearing nothing but good reports about Solaris since the imprint’s inception (and you won’t hear anything but good reports from me either). So I sent in three story proposals. The one George liked the most was the one I also, happily, liked the most: a novel set in a world where the Ancient Egyptian gods have battled and defeated all the other pantheons and then divided the world up between them. I’ve always found the Egyptian pantheon entertaining – their characters and interfamilial interactions are completely, wonderfully bonkers – and they seemed, therefore, ripe for fictional exploitation.
The research, not normally my favourite thing, was fun, reading up on the copious myths related to Ra, Set, Osiris, Isis, Horus et al. Working which of them would rule over which portion of the earth was also enjoyable, matching national traits to each deity’s personality and divine domain.
More of a challenge was working out how this world would function, and also reconciling and streamlining the mythological backstory, because the Egyptian theology arises from a number of different sources and much of it is self-contradictory. Most challenging of all was figuring out a plot that would work on two levels, the human and the godly, each coexisting and interleaving with the other.
I made a conscious effort to write a book that was light and fast-paced and yet dealt with serious, heavy issues. My principal inspiration was Alan Furst, whose World War II spy novels I have expressed my admiration for before (I’ve even reviewed one of them for the Financial Times). Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and American Gods also played a part.
The Age Of Ra is about factional infighting (of course) and family (again of course) and the distancing, corrupting effects of wealth (I really must find some new themes). Over all, my feeling is that as a weird fusion of military thriller with fantasy elements it’s unique and works well. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
- The Age Of Ra [Solaris pbk, August 2009] – ISBN 978-1844167463
- “Ancient Egyptian gods have defeated other gods (including Jehovah, Allah, Odin and Zeus), and now specific dieties control various earthly power blocs in Lovegrove’s thought-provoking futuristic adventure. The gods gain strength from their followers’ worship, so each nation lives according to its god’s demands, up to and including warring with other countries. When British Lt. David Westwynter leads his paratroopers into a desert reconnaissance mission, arming them with god-powered light weapons, medieval flails and ancient maces, they encounter mummies and annihilating duel-cell fusion bombs. In Freegypt, the only country not controlled by religion and a specific deity, David meets the enigmatic masked Lightbringer, who challenges the gods for control of the earth. Lovegrove deftly weaves social commentary on religion, family, love and war into the contest between theocracy and humanism.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
- “What elevates Lovegrove’s eighth novel above much recent military SF – quite apart from the honed precision of his prose and his concern for characterisation – is the unique world he’s created: the Egyptian gods have divided Earth into warring factions, each of which pay homage to a different deity. […] Impeccably researched, intricately plotted, this is the first in a series which will explore the impact of ancient gods on the modern world.” Guardian
- “An intriguing mix of military action adventure and mythic fantasy… manages to be a ripping Boy’s Own adventure that knows the right moment for a massive battle sequence or an attack from marauding mummies. Intelligent and provocative, it’s yet more proof that Lovegrove is one of the UK SF scene’s most interesting, challenging and adventurous authors.” SFX
- “Looking at the author’s style of writing, his plotting, the pace of the novel, twists and turns – you can’t ask for more. The human characters, David, the Lightbringer and David’s (eventual love interest) Zafirah (a fierce female warrior who leads a company of men in the name of the Lightbringer) are well wrought and believable. As are their actions throughout the novel. The world building is excellent and the glimpses into Ra’s quest for peace gives a clear perspective of the First Family and their squabbles.”The ending of the novel is satisfying, tying up the loose ends, but yet, but yet… there are two more books in the offing from the author in this series with each book focussing on another pantheon; Greek and Norse, respectively. The series has started with a bang and if James Lovegrove’s writing is anything to go by in The Age of Ra, we are all in for a very big treat.” sfrevu.com
- “The author just shines with larger than life and memorable characters in all the major Gods above and their doings. While there are some hints about their powers and reach, Mr. Lovegrove – wisely in my opinion – does not try to explain everything and bring the novel within pure rationalism with alien super-beings, so in that sense the book is partly a fantasy too. Not that it matters since however you label it, it is still great stuff.Mr. Lovegrove is one of the best writers out there as style goes and he could easily write literary stuff, though maybe that’s why his genre novels are quirky and not that well known, but I hope The Age of Ra and the planned related novels will remedy that and bring him well deserved acclaim.Highly, highly recommended, The Age of Ra has been a big positive surprise for ’09 with the caveat above not to expect a straight mil-sf with valiant rebels going to fight against dastardly opressors, though it has some of that too, but something subtler and more complex which does not allow an easy one-line description.” fantasybookcritic
- “For anybody who enjoys a mix of Egyptology and Action, I thoroughly recommend this book. Indeed, for anybody who doesn’t like Egyptology and Action, still check it out. In this day and age, huge dollops of originality are hard to come by, but Lovegrove has managed a feat of stunning creativity that will leave you hungering for more. Read The Age of Ra. It’s an experience you won’t regret!!” andy remic on his website
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• Filed under Books • 08/08/2009 •