The Life Eaters
by David Brin, Scott Hampton (WildStorm, 2003)

What an awesome concept!

In David Brin's alternate World War II history, the Nazis didn't operate massive death camps simply as a means of genocide. Rather, they were the focal points of a massive occult summoning that returned the Aesir -- Odin, Thor, Loki and all the rest -- to the world ... on the side of the Nazis. And, with them on their side, the Nazis defeat the Allies at Normandy and begin global conquest.

This book, adapted and expanded from Brin's original short fiction, takes place in the aftermath, beginning with an apparent suicide mission against the stronghold of the gods. This is by far the strongest part of the book, with a symbolic gesture at the end that is brilliant in its execution.

Everything after that, however, falls short of that strong opening.

The bewildering array of events that follow include the earthly manifestation of various gods from the world's polytheistic religions, as various cultures decide to fight fire with fire through their own form of sacrifice and summoning. The potential for epic battles is ignored, however, and the implication that only the faithful followers of monotheism (Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.) are strong enough to resist that temptation is somewhat problematic -- if not outright bigoted.

Attempts to change the Earth's climate and grow a World Tree to outer space are just kind of ridiculous, and neither is explored enough to warrant their inclusion at all.

The Iron Man-style solution at the end is, likewise, pretty dumb.

I'm glad I read this book for the strong first chapter and for appealing art by Scott Hampton. Personally, I wish they'd stuck with a shorter but superior book.

review by
Tom Knapp

16 October 2010

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