Gleason and Podrug's uneven third entry (after Aztec Fire) in the late Gary Jennings's historical series focuses on the ancient Mayan prediction of an apocalypse in the year 2012. In A.D. 1001, Toltec warriors capture a 16-year-old Aztec, Coyotl, in a raid. After the Toltecs notice Coyotl's stomach bears a scar tattoo in the shape of a star constellation, they take the boy to the magnificent Toltec capital of Tula, where he becomes the resident astronomer's assistant. Meanwhile, in the present, U.S. president Edward Raab convenes "the newly created Presidential Scientific Advisory Board" to hear NASA scientist Monica Cardiff present her theory of an upcoming global disaster. The authors lovingly describe the world of their pre-Columbian characters, but skimp on the modern story, whose characters have little motivation or substance. Jennings's fans will find the discrepancies between the two periods easy to overlook in the wealth of sex and violence. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Apocalypse 2012: A Novelby Gary Jennings, Robert Gleason, Junius Podrug
In ancient Mexico, the "End-Time Codex"--prophesizing the world's end in 2012--is entombed. A young Aztec-Mayan slave tells us its story.
Gifted in math and astronomy, Coyotl rises to king's counselor in Tula, a golden city of milk and honey ruled by the brilliant god-king, Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent of lore. Gathering artists, scientists and/p>
In ancient Mexico, the "End-Time Codex"--prophesizing the world's end in 2012--is entombed. A young Aztec-Mayan slave tells us its story.
Gifted in math and astronomy, Coyotl rises to king's counselor in Tula, a golden city of milk and honey ruled by the brilliant god-king, Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent of lore. Gathering artists, scientists and craftsmen, this legendary ruler builds a city that will awe humanity for one thousand years. But he also faces war, catastrophic drought, betrayal and the rise of an evil death-cult religion. Instituting the infamous "Blood Covenant," its priests drag thousands of people a year atop temple-pyramids and rip their hearts beating from their chests. To stop them Quetzalcoatl must defy the flames of bloody civil war.
A thousand years later scientists discover the End-Time Codex. While struggling to decipher it, they realize their own age mirrors Tula's. Can they crack the 2012 code and save their world from Tula's deadly fate?
Read an Excerpt
By Robert Gleason, Junius Podrug
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 Eugene Winick, Executor, Estate of Gary Jennings
All rights reserved.
ONE-WORLD, 1001 A.D.
I sat on a large rock on a hillside and fought my rope restraints. The task was next to hopeless. My captors had wrenched my elbows up behind my back, shoved a pole between them, then lashed my wrists so tight across my stomach, my elbow joints and wrists screamed in agony. Hobbling my feet, they roped me to a tree.
Nonetheless, I struggled to turn sideways, hoping to use the tree trunk to push the pole out from between my elbows. Free of the pole, I would then cut my binds on a jagged rock.
An angry commotion announced Tenoch's return. The leader of our party, he was notoriously ill-tempered. He hurled a deer to the ground perhaps twenty paces from my feet. Little more than bones and parchment, the shriveled deer wouldn't even satisfy our twenty hunters much less the hundreds of our clan, who camped by a waterhole a day's walk to the north. Kicking and thrashing several hunters with his wrist-whip, he thundered obscenities at them for not flushing a fatter deer or stealing the corn, peppers, and beans he'd wanted.
Then he turned his wrath and his whip on his slave, Desert Flower, and for the ten thousandth time in my life, I swore I would kill that devil.
Young and attractive, Flower was a poor woman whom Tenoch had forced into the expedition to attend to his physical needs, despite the elders' prohibitions. Tenoch had spurned their counsel, insisting that he needed her to dress out his kills, cook his meals, carry his gear — and endure his violently depraved debaucheries. Tenoch's abuse of her hurt me worse than his assaults on me. Born, like myself, during the first year of the Great Drought, we were each going on our sixteenth summer, and we were each Tenoch's property. Both of us suffered under his whip, but she had it infinitely worse. Shy and small of frame, she was compassion incarnate with a virtuousness that infuriated our master. Her large, dark eyes and tiny sensitive mouth expressed her caring nature quickly and unmistakably — her pleasure at sudden acts of kindness and her displeasure at deliberate cruelty. Tenoch despised such displays.
When he saw her so moved, he flogged her like a fiend freed from Mictlantecuhtli's hell.
He was still screaming about the scrawny deer and the failure to find produce. Of course, the food shortage was no one's fault. There was little food to be found. The weather had been drier than old bones for more seasons than I could remember. The crops had withered, and the emaciated game was increasingly scarce.
Even worse, our Aztec people now paid for that scarcity in blood. Increasing their annual blood-tithes tenfold, Toltec priests roamed our countryside, abducting anyone they could get their hands on, dragging them back to Tula, where they immolated them en masse after cutting out their hearts. They emptied their victims' blood in scarlet torrents down the temple troughs and hurled their severed heads down the pyramidal steps ... none of which brought back Tlaloc, our bloodthirsty thunder god, or watered our maize fields.
Our people were starving, and hunger had forced us into Toltec land to poach that deer. Fierce bands of Toltec hunters were everywhere, but Tenoch had reasoned he could offer me to those warriors as recompense for the deer and thus escape their wrath. Content with the gift of a sacrificial prisoner, they'd haul me back to Tula and deliver me to their bloodthirsty priests.
Whatever the case, we'd had no choice but to poach on Toltec land. I was also an obvious choice for the sacrificial victim. An orphaned babe, found in a reed basket by a river bank, I was a slave with no rights. So here I was: I would either starve to death trussed to a tree or die on a pyramid under a priest's black blade.
Before I could curse my fate, however, hell exploded. Half of our twenty hunter-warriors collapsed before me, arrows impaling their heads, torsos, and necks. One lay writhing on the ground, clutching at an arrow that skewered his throat, gore gushed from his wound. Another stared sightlessly at a feathered shaft sunk deep between his eyes. Four others were mortally pierced through the chest.
Another near-simultaneous arrow-volley took out six more of our men.
Eight attackers erupted from the tree line, dispatching the survivors with obsidian-bladed axes and black knives. Like ourselves, these loinclothed men were stripped down to their heavily tattooed torsos, and limbs; and, like ourselves, they sported nose, ear, and lip ornaments. The resemblance, however, ended there. Our warriors wore simple, coarse-cloth maxtlatl loincloths made of fibers worked from maguey plants; these soldiers were dressed in bright loincloths, with higher-ranking warriors wearing mantles and headdresses. While this enemy attacked with shocking swiftness, rigorous teamwork, and unerring precision, our few surviving warriors panicked like children, either fleeing or cowering, each man looking out solely for himself.
At their head, three paces in front of his charging men, was their leader. There was no mistaking his high status — even from where I stood I could see that the maxtlatl between his legs was made of costly dyed cotton. The mantle that was tied at his shoulders and draped down his back was covered with images of wild animals, skulls and bones, and demonic gods.
Unlike our skinny soldiers, these were powerfully built killers — men with rocklike biceps, block-like shoulders, massively muscular legs and chests. Nor were their weapons tipped with coarsely chipped flint, as were ours, but ebony-hued, sharply honed obsidian — blades now glistening with the blood of my adopted people.
A severed head lay beside a pair of headless shoulders. Another warrior lay on his side with a javelin protruding from both chest and back. Only one victim still moved, writhing in his death spasms, his limbs convulsing, blood pumping from his neck and stomach. Another, who had tried to scale a tree, was now affixed to that sought-after sanctuary, a lance pinning his chest to the trunk, his feet dangling a handsbreadth above the ground.
Of our entire band, only two others survived: Tenoch, who lay on the ground unconscious — thanks to a towering, muscular warrior who had clubbed him into bloody oblivion — and Desert Flower.
Emerging from the forest, a ninth man walked through the camp — an elderly dignitary who had not participated in the fray.
His clothing confirmed his importance among his people. His loincloth was richly embroidered in vivid shades of red and green and yellow, with sparkling gems delicately weaved into the cloth. Hanging from knots were tiny bells of gold.
His mantle was long, falling from his shoulders almost to the ground. As colorful as his loincloth and as costly, it was lavishly decorated and fringed with gold.
He was at an age in life when most men no longer marched with an army unless their role was planning as opposed to leading warriors into battle.
As he stood over me and stared down, I knew what he was looking at: the star patterns tattooed on my lower belly and painted with black dye on my white loincloth.
"Who put these drawings on you?" he asked.
He spoke Nahuatl, the same language as the Aztecs, though his diction and accent were different from ours.
"I painted the ones on my loincloth."
The question stumped me. I had never thought of why I had drawn them. I gave him the answer that came to my mind. "It's what I see in the sky at night."
Kneeling next to me, he examined the scars on my abdomen, fingering the pattern of scars.
"Where did you get these designs?" he asked.
The words were spoken almost in a whisper.
"I don't know," I told him, truthfully. "They were on me when they found me."
"Who found you?"
"The Clansmen —"
"Dog People found you? Where? When?"
"I was found when I was a babe. In a basket, next to a river."
The nobleman stood up. "Do not hurt this one," he announced to the warriors.
Suddenly I felt a chill, and a shadow fell over me. A startlingly tall, shockingly muscled warrior had come up beside me silent as the grave. Possessing a hawk's nose, wide flaring cheekbones and blood-streaked shoulder-length hair, black as a raven's underwing, he was an imposing specimen.
He wore the close-fitting loincloth and white padded-cotton shirt of a warrior, but his shield and helmet told me he was far more important than a mere commander of what appeared to be a small force — only eight soldiers plus the elderly nobleman. The warrior's shield bore the image of a jaguar, and his headdress included the actual head of a jaguar as well as the brilliant green and red plumes of rare birds.
I had never seen an actual knight, but I knew from cooking-fire talk that the Toltec had three orders of knighthood: Jaguar, Eagle, and Coyote. The Coyote Knights were in charge of the Toltec forces that guarded its northern border, the one it shared with us Dog People. The Jaguar Knights guarded the king.
What was a Jaguar Knight doing so far from his king?
Who was this man?
Glancing up at him, I was surprised to find his eyes were ... kind.
He was the man who had subdued my tormenter, Tenoch.
"What is happening, Citali?" he asked.
Citali. Stargazer. So the elderly nobleman was a shaman, like my adopted father. A very important person in any Clan — often the most important.
"He bears a sign of the stars," Stargazer said. "I have placed him under my protection."
The Jaguar Knight glared down at me. "He's of the Dog People. Probably the son of a village shaman." The knight kicked me. "What's your name, Aztec?"
"Coyotl," I said.
I hoped it would be offensive to the gods for a Jaguar Knight to kill one who bore the name of a brethren order.
Stargazer chuckled. "The writing, the scars, the name — Chi-malpopoca, this young man is not fated to die this day ... or end up sacrificed. Not yet ..." he said to me.
Chimalpopoca — Smoking Shield.
Smoking Shield appeared as puzzled about the significance of the scars as I had been ... but was just as frightened of the unknown as I was to question what the gods had written.
Even if neither of us understood what it meant.
He stared at my bare, tattooed abdomen.
"Relax, young friend," he finally said, raising his eyes. "I was only admiring your body art along with Stargazer." Turning to the old man, he said: "We don't murder the young, do we, old man?" He slashed my bonds, freeing me from the tree. "Come to dinner with us tonight. Enjoy your venison. We will simmer it in a pot of ripe maize, plump red beans, succulent onions, and scorchingly hot chilis even as we wash it down with octli. Afterward, you will get a good night's sleep. We leave at dawn."
"I'm going with you?"
"Where do we travel?"
"Who knows? All of life is an adventure. Tonight, we will eat, and drink to the gods. Tomorrow we face the far horizons."CHAPTER 2
Smoking Shield was true to his word. He equally divided the rations — the corn, beans, wild onions, rabbit, and venison, all of it stewed, spiced with chili, and rolled up into thin flat corn cakes. He and his killers were surprisingly pleasant and unfailingly polite.
A generosity of spirit that Tenoch failed to pick up on.
As soon as dinner was served, he shoved Desert Flower and myself aside, and began gorging himself on our rations.
At that point our host's face darkened. Again, he hammered Tenoch into unconsciousness. Yanking Tenoch's elbows up tight behind his back, he then shoved a thick tree limb between them, lashing Tenoch's wrists across his stomach and tying the rawhide thongs painfully tight. Afterward he divided Tenoch's stew evenly between Desert Flower and me.
When he sat back down between Desert Flower and myself, the young woman trembled so furiously she could not even hold her wooden bowl of stew. Smoking Shield's anger instantly subsided. Putting an arm around her, he said quietly:
"Do not fear. With us, no one will harm you. Here. Eat up. You are safe."
He took a large chunk of venison loin from his bowl and held it to her mouth. He then offered her a taste of corn beer from his drink-sack.
"The venison is peppery. Take some corn beer to wash it down."
Staring at him shyly, she accepted the meat and, after drinking the corn beer, began to slowly chew.
"Why don't you harm us?" she asked.
The question popped out of her so quickly I was astonished at it — Flower was too, I believe. I, of course, understood her mystification totally. She and I had suffered so much abuse during our short lives, we weren't used to the kindness of strangers — particularly professional soldiers. I didn't understand their indulgence of us either.
I think we both assumed they would laugh at her question. We were wrong. Smoking Shield answered her in precise detail:
"As I said before, we don't hurt the young and innocent — particularly when they're civilians. And there is the matter of this young man's belly designs. That old man over there is the Royal Astronomer and much respected by King Quetzalcoatl. He finds that young man's star tattoo somehow significant and has placed him under his protection. Since you are with the boy, we're extending you the same privilege. So eat, drink, relax."
He then offered me the potent brew. I accepted but drank carefully, never having tasted spirits. To my surprise, I did not choke or even wince. In fact, I found it pleasant.
"Tell me, young warrior," our host asked, "what's your name?"
"Two Ollin Fire Coyotl."
"You were named for your birth date?"
"On the second day of our Aztec calendar — the second day of Ollin — an old shaman found me in a basket on a riverbank when I was an infant. No one knows when I was born."
Ollin was motion, a powerful sign because everything that moved had ollin. The wind that blew, rivers that flowed, rain that fell, the leap of a jaguar and the flight of an arrow, all had Ollin.
"Fire Eyes, the old shaman, also called me Coyotl," I said. "He told me that I was gaunt and quick of foot like the desert dog." Our host smiled. "Others in our village believed that a she-coyotl with litter had suckled me in the wild."
At that line our host laughed.
"And what of your third name, young Coyotl?"
"Fire. Because no one looked more to the stars that fire the night sky than I did — not even the old shaman who had taken me in, and he had studied the star-gods all his life. 'The stars don't just light the night sky,' he used to tell me, 'they reveal their secrets to those who can see. Despite your young age, you see more than others, and you carry a map of the stars in your head. Any starwatcher knows where to look in the night sky to find this god or that one, but none I have ever met or heard of had your ability to know exactly where stars would be — day or night, summer or winter — without even looking up.' Cutting his finger, he anointed me with blood as a sacrifice to Ollin. 'From now on, you are Two Ollin Fire Coyotl,' he'd said."
* * *
... My eyes had always been drawn to the night sky. My fascination was more than fired by the marks on my body that reflected a celestial shrine. I never told Fire Eyes but when I looked to the stars I experienced a great sense of comfort and warmth ... as if I had made a connection between the canopy of stars overhead and the time I had spent in my mother's womb.
My mother was a shadowy ghost in my mind — I had no remembrance of the physical person, nor shared remembrances from others who had known her and could have told me about her.
While Fire Eyes boasted of my extraordinary eyesight and memory of the routes the gods and other sky spirits took on their daily journeys, I learned much from him about the relationship between mere mortals and the eternal gods.
Fire Eyes pointed out to me patterns of stars that formed celestial creatures in the sky that names had been given to — a scorpion, serpent, turtle, jaguar, bat, skeleton, thirteen signs in all.
The Sun God, Moon God, and principal star-gods moved along a path in the sky that went through the thirteen signs. Without conceiving the form of animals in the boundless sky, it would have been impossible for most people to image the routes of the gods.
Excerpted from Apocalypse 2012 by Robert Gleason, Junius Podrug. Copyright © 2009 Eugene Winick, Executor, Estate of Gary Jennings. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
GARY JENNINGS was known for the rigorous and intensive research behind his novels, which often included hazardous travel. He passed away in 1999, leaving behind a rich legacy of historical fiction and ideas for new novels.
ROBERT GLEASON was Gary Jennings' editor for a number of years. He lives in New York City.
JUNIUS PODRUG is an accomplished writer of both fiction and nonfiction. He lives on Cape Cod.
Gary Jennings was known for the rigorous and intensive research behind his books, which often included hazardous travel-exploring every corner of Mexico for his Aztec novels, retracing the numerous wanderings of Marco Polo for The Journeyers, joining nine different circuses for Spangle, and roaming the Balkans for Raptor. Born in Buena Vista, Virginia in 1928, Jennings passed away in 1999 in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, leaving behind a rich legacy of historical fiction and outlines for new novels.
Robert Gleason, author of End of Days, has worked for 40 years in the New York book industry, where he has published many scientists, politicians and military experts. He starred in and hosted a two-hour History Channel special, largely devoted to nuclear terrorism and has discussed the subject on many national TV/radio talk shows, including Sean Hannity’s and Lou Dobbs’s TV shows and George Noory’s Coast to Coast AM. He has also spoken on nuclear terrorism at major universities, including Harvard.
Junius Podrug is the author of Frost of Heaven, Presumed Guilty, and The Disaster Survival Bible. He has experienced two major earthquakes, a flash flood, a blizzard of historical significance, a shipboard emergency, and a crazy with a gun. He considers his paranoia to be heightened awareness and habitually checks where the life vests are stored when boarding a ship and where the fire escapes are located before unpacking in a hotel room. He lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
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It's like someone did a bunch of research, then tried to make a story where there isn't one. Reads like an especially boring text book. Gary jennings did not write this; he has been dead for many years and must be turning over in his grave with the crap his publisher keeps putting his name on. I give it one star only because I can't give it negative five stars. Save your money this book is a RIP OFF :(
It would've happened an hour ago!
Kept me reading; loved the historical background.A little scary to think about esp. when they were talking about water shortage around the planet
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