Norse Code [NOOK Book]

Overview

Is this Ragnarok, or just California?

The NorseCODE genome project was designed to identify descendants of Odin. What it found was Kathy Castillo, a murdered MBA student brought back from the dead to serve as a valkyrie in the Norse god’s army. Given a sword and a new name, Mist’s job is to recruit ...
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Norse Code

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Overview

Is this Ragnarok, or just California?

The NorseCODE genome project was designed to identify descendants of Odin. What it found was Kathy Castillo, a murdered MBA student brought back from the dead to serve as a valkyrie in the Norse god’s army. Given a sword and a new name, Mist’s job is to recruit soldiers for the war between the gods at the end of the world—and to kill those who refuse to fight.

But as the twilight of the gods descends, Mist makes other plans.

Journeying across a chaotic American landscape already degenerating into violence and madness, Mist hopes to find her way to Helheim, the land of the dead, to rescue her murdered sister from death’s clutches. To do so, she’ll need the help of Hermod, a Norse god bumming around Los Angeles with troubles of his own. Together they find themselves drafted into a higher cause, trying to do what fate long ago deemed could not be done: save the world of man. For even if myths aren’t made to be broken, it can’t hurt to go down fighting…can it?


From the Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Short story author van Eekhout makes a successful leap to long fiction with this thrilling urban fantasy. As human civilizations crumble, Valkyries prepare for Ragnarok by using DNA testing to select perfect warriors for their army of the dead. Resurrected NorseCODE operative Mist loses faith in the project after a tragic accident, and she goes AWOL. After Mist encounters the near-forgotten god Hermod as he investigates portents of doom along the California coastline, the two journey into the afterlife of Helheim, where they make some unexpected allies. With deities scheming and ancient prophecies coming true, can a reluctant Valkyrie and a world-weary god prevent the apocalypse? While a few aspects of the conclusion don't quite hang together, the compelling prose and epic blend of mythological and modern elements make it clear that van Eekhout is an author to watch. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
Norse Code is a clever, witty reimagining of one of our enduring myths in a world of Southern California baristas and shopping malls: Ragnarok at Malibu, with wandering gods, thoughtful monsters, high tech Valkyries and world-spanning catastrophes. Van Eekhout demonstrates his well-deserved reputation as a masterful short fiction stylist on a much larger canvas—one that stretches from the frozen basements of hell to the depths of black infinity, without ever losing his focus on the human and the humane. A satisfying read that taps the vein of our oldest legends in the most modern way possible.”—Jay Lake, author of Escapement

“Greg van Eekhout combines the thrills of gods and monsters with the chills of endless winter in this inventive and mythic modern fantasy. Neil Gaiman fans take note!”—Tim Pratt, author of The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl

“Van Eekhout plays with Norse mythology like he invented it. This is a really fun read, with plenty of cool bits to chew over after putting it down. I like this book a lot.” — Steven Brust, author of Jhegaala

"Norse Code has bone crunching battles, ironic ravens, a resistance movement of dead Iowans, a great loner hero redeemed by the love of a spunky valkyrie in California during the apocalypse, and lots of wit. If that doesn't sound like fun to you, all I can say is, well, I'm sorry. Cause it is."—Maureen McHugh, author of China Mountain Zhang

"A renegade valkyrie and a runaway god team up to stop the apocalypse in a book filled with battles and betrayals, love and hope.  If the world ends tomorrow, you can't do anything better than read Greg van Eekhout's Norse Code.  But don't blame me if you end up joining the resistance.  I love this book."–C. C. Finlay, author of The Patriot Witch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553906516
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/19/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 96,749
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Greg van Eekhout is a science fiction and fantasy writer with around two-dozen short story publications. His first novel, Norse Code, is due from Bantam Dell in summer 2009. Greg currently lives in San Diego, where he obsesses about martial arts classes, coffee, Moleskine notebooks, and giant squid.


From the Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Norse Code


By Greg Van Eekhout

Spectra

Copyright © 2009 Greg Van Eekhout
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780553592139

ONLY TWO HOURS into Mist's first job, things were already going badly. For one, the duct tape had come loose over the recruit's mouth, and he was screaming so loudly that Mist was sure he'd be heard through the walls of the van, even above the roar of Route 21 traffic.

She turned to her companion in the passenger seat. "I thought he was supposed to stay out for at least another hour."

"Do I look like an anesthesiologist? Chloroform's not an exact science."

Mist shook her head at Grimnir. He did not look like any kind of ologist. Decked out in black jeans, quadruple-XL leather coat, and black homburg crammed over his head, he looked like what he was: a thug. Her thug, she reminded herself, still amazed at the idea of having her own devoted thug after having been with NorseCODE for only three months.

In back, the recruit pleaded for mercy. Mist steeled herself against his cries. Too much depended on the work to let a soft heart get in the way.

Grimnir slurped hard on the straw of his Big Gulp and popped open the glove box to retrieve a roll of
tape. "I'll go back and redo him."

"Never mind," Mist said, aiming the van down the off-ramp. "We're almost there."

There was a vast, flat gray area of industrial parks and scrap yards, where a dummycorporation several steps removed from NorseCODE had prepared a warehouse expressly for this particular job.
Mist rolled down her window, letting in a blast of cold air and April snowflakes, and punched a security code in a box mounted on a short metal pole. A moment later, the automatic warehouse doors opened and she drove onto the concrete floor. The doors screeched shut and she killed the engine.

Grimnir got out and walked around to the side of the van. With reasonable care, he lowered the recruit's hog-tied form to the ground and used shears to cut the plastic ties that bound his hands and legs. The recruit had gone quiet, but Mist expected he'd start screaming again now that he was unbound. The warehouse was well insulated and equipped with fans and blowers configured to be as
noisy as possible on the outside, in order to conceal interior sounds.

Tall and trim in workout pants and a New Jersey Nets sweatshirt, the man stood, shoulders hunched, like someone expecting a piano to fall on his head. "I don't know what this is about, but you've got the wrong guy." His voice quavered only a little.

"Your name is Adrian Hoover," Mist said. "You live at 3892 Sunset Court, Passaic, New Jersey. You're twenty-seven years old. You've been an actuary for Atlantic Insurance since graduating with a finance degree from Montclair State. I could also recite your Social Security number, driver's license number, cell phone, anything you'd like. You're definitely not the wrong guy."

Mist's boss, Radgrid, stressed the importance of establishing authority early in the recruitment process.

While Mist spoke, Grimnir removed two shotgun cases from a compartment beneath the van's floorboards.

Hoover's face looked green and clammy under the fluorescent lights. His eyes darted around the warehouse, at the ranks of port-a-johns and the glass-walled side office, its file cabinets full of authentic paperwork provided in the event that agents of some Midgard authority came knocking.

"You are about to undergo a trial," Mist said. "It's your right to understand--or at least be made aware of--the purpose behind it."

Grimnir opened one of the gun cases and withdrew a long sword. He rolled his neck and shoulders to loosen them and took a few practice lunges.

"Trial? But . . . I haven't done anything." There was at least as much outrage as fear in Hoover's voice. Mist took that as a positive sign.

"It's not what you've done, it's who you are. You and your fathers."

"My dad? He owns a dry cleaners'. Is that what this is about? Does he owe you money?"

"My name is Mist," she said, forging ahead. "I'm a Valkyrie, in the service of the All-Father Odin. My job is to help him prepare for Ragnarok, the final _battle between the gods and their enemies. To that end, I'm in the business of recruiting fighters for the Einherjar, the elite regiment of warriors who, when the time comes, will fight at the side of the Aesir, who are essentially gods. In short, if we have any hope of winning, we need the best army of all time. For reasons we can go into later, we have identified you as a promising candidate."

Grimnir's sword swooshed through the air as he continued to warm up.

"Are you guys in some kind of cult?" Hoover said, making an effort not to look at Grimnir. "Religion, I mean? I'll listen to anything you have to say. I'm open-minded."

Mist opened the other gun case and removed another sword. The blade glimmered dully in the flat warehouse lights.

"There are two qualifications for one to earn a place on Odin's mead bench. The fighter must be a blood descendant of Odin. Well, that's a preference more than a hard-and-fast qualification, but, anyway, we have determined that you're of Odin's blood. The second qualification--and this one is essential--is that the fighter die bravely on the field of combat." She presented the sword to him, bowing her head in observance of a formality she didn't really feel.

Hoover looked at her, appalled. "A blood descendant of  . . . ? I don't even know what you're talking about, and you're going to kill me? You're going to murder me?"

"Murder?" Grimnir scoffed. "Hardly. It'll be a fair fight. And," he added with a wink at Mist, "there's always the possibility you could beat me. Now, take up your sword and prepare to be glorious."
Hoover covered his face with his hands. His shoulders shook. "Please, I don't understand any of this. I'm not . . . whatever you think I am. I'm an actuary."

Oh, crap, Mist thought. I can salvage this. I'd better salvage it. Maybe Hoover possessed the potential to become a great warrior, but nothing in his experience had prepared him to be captured during his morning jog, drugged, tossed in the back of a van, bound and gagged, and told he now had to fight a grinning ox with a sword to determine his postmortal fate.

She decided to go off script.

"I know how weird this is," she said, trying to avoid using a kindergarten-teacher voice. "Ragnarok, Odin, all that. I was raised Catholic, so this was all very strange to me too. But what you are one day doesn't have to be what you are the next. I wasn't always a Valkyrie. Just three months ago, I was an MBA student named Kathy Castillo. Then . . . something happened. My world flipped over, everything spilled out of its tidy order. But it's possible to go through that and thrive. Take the sword," she urged. "You don't have to beat Grimnir. You just have to fight him. You'll be rewarded. Trust me."

Hoover sank to his knees, convulsing with sobs. Mist continued to hold his sword out to him, awkward as an unreturned handshake.

She sighed. It cost NorseCODE a fortune in time and treasure to locate suitable Einherjar recruits, and nobody in the organization would be happy to hear they'd wasted their investment on Hoover. Least of all Radgrid.

"Grim, I don't think this one's going to work out."

Grimnir looked down at Hoover as if peering _beneath the hood at a hopelessly broken engine. "Yeah, I think you got that right. Well, stand him up, then. I don't like killing a man when he's on his knees."
Hoover looked up at them, his breaths catching in hiccuping gawps.

"We're letting him go," Mist said.

Grimnir pinched the bridge of his nose. "Kid, it doesn't work that way. We have to finish the job."
"We have finished the job. We're supposed to fill the ranks of Valhalla, not Helheim. He's obviously not fit for Valhalla, so I say we're done with him."

"Like it matters what you say? We work for Radgrid, and there's no way she'd be cool with cutting him loose."

"It matters what I say because I outrank you, and you've sworn an oath to me."

"I've also sworn an oath to Radgrid. And to Odin, for that matter."

"Great, and we can untangle that knot of obligations later, so for now how about we do what's right? Hoover's got no idea where he is now, no way he could find his way back. Let's drive him even farther out to the middle of bumfuck and dump him on the side of the road. We lose nothing that way."

"Yes," Hoover gasped, his eyes gleaming with hope. "Just leave me somewhere. I won't tell anyone about this, I swear. I wouldn't even know what to tell anyone if I wanted to."

Grimnir ignored him. "The test isn't facing death, the test is dying. You've been at this only three months, Mist, so maybe you still don't get how important the work is. But I'm Einherjar myself, and in the end it's gonna be guys like me with our asses on the line against wolves and giants. The system's worked in some form or another for thousands of years. You can't just start fucking with it now."

But Mist did understand how important the work was. Radgrid had impressed that upon her rather convincingly, and Mist lived in the world. It had been winter for three years now. She knew things were falling apart. And Ragnarok would be disaster beyond measure. Worse than the Big One, worse than an F5 tornado, worse than a city-drowning hurricane or a land-swallowing tsunami. Worse than a nuclear holocaust. The thin shield line provided by the gods and the Einherjar was the only thing standing between continued existence and Ragnarok. It was absolutely essential that the Einherjar have enough fighters for the war, and Mist was even willing to kill to see it done. As long as whomever she killed went on to serve in Valhalla. But sending them to Helheim was a different matter.

Grimnir took two steps forward, his boot heels echoing to the rafters of the warehouse. Rain clattered against the opaque skylights. Hoover was crying so hard now that Mist thought he'd vomit. Grimnir watched him with a pitying expression.

"Grimnir, don't--" Mist said.

Grimnir surged forward. Mist tried to block his thrust with the weapon meant for Hoover, her blade sliding off Grimnir's. She hacked downward, cutting through Grimnir's hat, and when her blade edge bit inches into the back of Grimnir's head, it sounded like pounding wet cardboard with a club. He squealed, his knees giving way, but not before his momentum carried him forward and his sword plunged into Hoover's belly. Grimnir fell on him, and Hoover released two loud, whistling breaths before falling silent.

Mist stared in disbelief at the corpses, their mingling blood gleaming like black oil in the queasy fluorescent glare.

The air grew cold and thick with a stretched cotton haze, and Mist knew what was coming. She'd experienced it three months earlier, when she and her sister, Lilly, had been shot on the way home from the grocery store. Mist never learned who'd shot them and why--thieves after their groceries, senseless drive-by, crazy drunk sniper-homeowner, it could have been anyone for any reason. Ragnarok was coming, and people were falling to all kinds of craziness.

An aching cold rushed through the warehouse, and then the road was revealed. The parade of the dead stretched as far as Mist could see, far beyond the walls of the warehouse. The dead shuffled forward, shoulders bent, eyes cast down, like slaves expecting the bite of the whip. Many of them were old and ill, dried out and hollow, their faces paper-white. Others had died more-violent deaths and shambled on with bullet holes in their bloody clothes. One teenage boy, dressed in the charred remnants of a T-shirt and jeans, trailed his intestines behind him like the train of a bridal gown. The dead were all around, dragging themselves in a queue without end, thousands, tens of thousands of murmuring dead, all walking the road to Helheim. Like Lilly three months ago. Like Mist, if Radgrid hadn't intervened.

If Adrian Hoover had died bravely, Mist's next job would have been to escort him through the seam between worlds and bring him to the warrior paradise of Valhalla in the city of Asgard. There he would eat the finest roast meats, drink the richest ales, enjoy the flesh of willing and comely maidens. Instead, he would now walk the road north and down, to Queen Hel's realm of Helheim.
As one of the Einherjar, Grimnir would take a while to heal, but he'd be okay. Technically, he'd been dead for centuries.

"My stomach hurts," said Hoover. Rather, his spirit body said it, staring mournfully down at his own corpse.

"I'm sorry," Mist said. The words came out slowly, as though she had to carve each one out of stone. "I tried to stop him. He gave me some sword training, but I couldn't stop him."
Hoover's spirit body shuffled forward, toward the slow herd of the dead. "My stomach hurts," he said again. "When will it stop hurting?"

Mist thought of Lilly. The bullet had ripped through her sister's side, under her rib cage, and exited through her belly. She had not died instantly. Neither had Mist.

"Adrian, don't go with them." She grabbed his arm. He felt like thick slush, and she couldn't pull him away. He kept moving along with the other dead. "You don't have to go with them," she said, desperate.

"But I do," he said. "Don't you remember murdering me? I'm not sure why, but I have to go down the road."

She had to do something. She had to save him. Somehow. She'd failed Lilly, but she wouldn't fail Hoover. What if she went with him, followed him to Helheim, claimed custody? Maybe she could bargain with Hel.

But the procession of spirit bodies was already fading to whispers of light, and when she reached out again for Hoover, her hand passed through his shoulder. She walked alongside him for a few more steps, and then he was gone, as were the other dead and the road itself. Mist found herself alone with the two corpses under the buzzing warehouse lights.

Chapter Two


VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA: chalk-white sky, waves the color of lead, sand like wet cement. Hermod trudged south, his jeans soaked, his socks squirting water like a pair of sponges. Beside him, an Alaskan malamute trotted happily.

"Here I am, miserable," Hermod said, "and look at you, all smiles."

Winston barked in the affirmative and bolted off into white shrouds of fog. Maybe he'd sniffed out a body washed ashore and was closing in for a snack. Hermod grudgingly admired the dog's attitude. When the world was dying, it made sense to cultivate a taste for carrion. Hermod only wished he could do a better job of following Winston's example. His last meal was more than twenty-four hours behind him, and all he could think about were steaming piles of roast boar and warm ale, right from the goat's teat. But it had been several thousand years since he'd enjoyed that kind of home cooking.

Despite the grim weather, Hermod and his dog didn't have the beach to themselves. Figures moved in the fog like ghosts, picking through storm debris for wood to dry. Old men waved metal detectors over heaps of kelp, and whenever one drew close, Hermod would count the man's eyes.

"Hey, mister, you wanna buy a god?"

Hermod froze in the sand. A gray apparition stood several feet away in the swirling salt air. Hermod unslung his duffel bag and yanked hard on the zipper. He plunged his hand inside and wrapped his fingers around the hilt of his sword. Behind him, waves thudded against the shore.

"What did you say?"

"I said, do you want to buy a dog?" came a reedy voice. "Isn't he just the sweetest? Oh, silly, don't lick my face!"

The figure came forward. It was a girl, draped in blankets. Dirty blond dreadlocks framed a grime-streaked face. She cradled a small ball of white and gray fluff. It squirmed and tried to get at her chin with a pink and black speckled tongue.

"Thanks," Hermod said. "I've already got a dog."

"Not like this one, you don't. This one's gonna grow up big. Real big."

Hermod took a closer look. The dog's fur was a mixture of snow and smoke. Its ears tapered to points. Its paws were as large as the girl's fists.

"That's a wolf pup," Hermod said.

The girl squealed, "Oh, cold tongue! Not in my ear!"

"Where'd you get a wolf pup?"

"I know someone who knows a woman," the girl said, placing her hand gently around the pup's muzzle. "And she knows a woman who raises them. I'll trade for your jacket if you want him."

The waves broke like distant cannon fire, and an old song scratched at the back of Hermod's memory. Something about a woman who raised wolves. But was it a woman? Maybe it was a witch or a giant. He'd never had much of a head for music, and there were so many songs and chants and poems and incantations crowding his collected years that he could hardly hear an old bit of skaldic verse without it devolving into "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."

There lives a woman, there lives a woman who raises the wolves . . .

The wolf pup squirmed in the girl's arms, and she struggled to maintain her grip. "Hey, what's with you, fuzzy bean?" Losing her hold, she dropped it onto the sand, and it scampered off on its big clumsy paws. "Where are you going?" she cried, taking off after it. "I wasn't really going to trade you! Come back!"

Hermod stared after them for a few moments, until Winston trotted out of the murk to his side. Red sticky bits of gull feathers stuck to the malamute's jaw.

"Let's get off the beach," Hermod said to the dog. "You're giving me the creeps."
***

YOU EVER get an earworm?" Hermod started on his eighth beer, very much feeling the previous seven. His alcohol intolerance had always been a point of embarrassment back home, where his brothers and cousins could put down barrel after barrel of ale. They might vomit it all back up before sunrise, but the point was, they could down barrels of it first.

"An earworm? What's that, some kind of parasite?"

For the past hour he'd been enjoying relative comfort at the bar of the Venice Sidewalk Cafe, conveniently located mere yards from the beach. An open restaurant on the boardwalk was a rare find, most of the food stands and cafes having shuttered themselves against weather and vandalism. His companion was a woman in her early forties with hair the color of a highly polished trombone; he remembered she was named Roxie, or Trixie, or Linda. He liked her because she had a cute button nose and was willing to buy him more beers than he could handle (which appeared to be four), and he was hoping she'd take enough of a shine to him to invite him home, or at least buy him a second plate of chili fries.

"It's like a song you can't get out of your head," he said. "It just plays over and over and over 'til you want to jam a spoon in your ear and scoop your brains out."

Roxie or Trixie or Linda nodded. "Yeah, I get those. One time it was the first movement of Stravinsky's Symphony in C, for, like, two days. Thought I was gonna go bugfuck."

Hermod took a sip of his thin yellow beer. "So, you live near here?"

"I have to say, though, I still adore Stravinsky," she said, ignoring his question. "Those orchestral textures of his--nothing else like them. It's just that nobody likes a skipping record. When you know what's coming next, and then it does, again and again and again, it's painful."

Hermod drew his finger across the rim of the plate, picking up chili residue, and licked it. "Painful."

"What's your earworm?"

"There lives a woman," he sang tunelessly. "There lives a woman who raises the wolves. You recognize it?"

She sipped her own beer. It was only her second. "Not the way you're singing it." She gave his arm a playful punch, then rubbed his shoulder, as if to make the boo-boo go away. "You're not as skinny as you look," she said, giving him an appreciative reappraisal.

"I'm not as anything as I look."

"Ooh, Mr. Mysterious. Where did you say you were from?"

"Originally? Just on the other side of the bridge."

"Okay. And which bridge would that be?"

"The rainbow one."

The woman giggled. "You're so weird."

"It's just the beer. That, and this stupid song going through my head."

The woman flagged the bartender and held up two fingers. "My daddy always said the worst hell is inside a man's head."

Continues...

Excerpted from Norse Code by Greg Van Eekhout Copyright © 2009 by Greg Van Eekhout. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

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(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Who would have guessed Mythology was SO MUCH FUN!

    Look out Comicon - a new set of characters is heading your way, and this time you have a Hispanic woman Valkyrie heading the cast of characters! I enjoyed this so much that I've bought more copies to give as gifts.

    Rarely is there a first effort fantasy novel that captures so much in one book. The story is tight, the writing is crisp with outstanding and memorable descriptive qualities. Norse Code is great for the visual reader, because the places are so vivid, and the style of writing is unusually lush for such a dark and fantastic world.

    There is also a depth of character development that had me cheering for Mist and her associates. I started reading this quickly for a light read, but slowed down to drink in the sparkling bits in the writing. Again, a fabulous first novel by this author! I can see this book as a film or (we can HOPE) the beginning of a series.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A terrific mythological science fiction thriller.

    Civilization everywhere is in total collapse with no hope for any survival. In that environs the Valkyrie expecting Ragnarok apply NORSE CODE genetic testing to choose the army of the dead.---------

    Due to a tragedy that left her sister dead, Valkyrie perfect warrior Mist nee Kathy Carlisle no longer believes in the Ragnarok plan. Instead she does the unexpected by simply vanishing. At the same time she dispears from the Odin project group's Valkyrie sect, the deity Hermod investigates signs of the end of days in California. He and Mist meet and travel to the afterlife of Helheim for differing reasons. Whereas she wants to rescue her sibling, he wants to rescue a world. Apocalypse increasingly seems imminent as the unlikely pair try to prevent the end but increasingly they expect to fail. Instead ancient prophecies are being manipulated by conniving Gods trying to regain the lost power they once yielded.-----------

    NORSE CODE is a fresh combining of genome research with Norse mythology. Mist and Hermod are a terrific pairing as she is on a personal quest no longer believing in prophesies, Gods, or science; while he is a nothing God who when he had some power he still was in the bottom rung of the pantheon food chain. This couple only has a world to save starting perhaps with her sister. Mindful of the Marvel comic books Thor premise, Greg van Eekhout provides his imprint with this terrific mythological science fiction thriller.--------

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Ragnarok, Valkyries, and Norse gods. What more could you want?

    The NorseCODE genome project was designed to identify descendants of Odin. What it found was Kathy Castillo, a murdered MBA student brought back from the dead to serve as a Valkyrie in the Norse god's army. Given a sword and a new name, Mist's job is to recruit soldiers for the war between the gods at the end of the world - and to kill those who refuse to fight. But as the twilight of the gods descends, Mist makes other plans.

    This book was amazing! I gave it 5 stars for sheer originality as well as for having great characters and a good plotline. I mean, honestly, how many books have you ever come across featuring the Norse gods and Ragnarok? I vaguely remember Odin and Loki, but the other gods and mythology were new to me. Greg did a great job of providing short backgrounds when necessary, and made it easy to keep track of everyone.

    Mist is a new Valkyrie who is not really comfortable with her job of finding new recruits for the final battle between the gods. On her very first job, when her first recruit is deemed unworthy and is set on the road to Helheim (the land of the dead), Mist decides to embark on a rescue mission. She will not only rescue her recruit, but also her murdered sister Lilly. To do this, she needs the help of the only one to ever go to Helheim and back, the Norse god Hermod.

    Hermod has problems of his own and would rather just be left alone, but somehow winds up accompanying Mist on her rescue mission. Along with her bodyguard Grimnir and Hermod's loyal dog Winston, they set off on the adventure to end all adventures. And hey, while they're at it, why not prevent the end of the world as well?

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    Really cool Norse Urban Fantasy

    I always feel like I should take the time to give a review on a book that I felt was worth my time and this book was def note worthy. The characters are likeable esspecially Hermod. The book was full of norse myth which is very refreashing from the average fantasy novel. Give it a shot. Its exciting and the landscape is always changing. I hope that these reviews help and encourage Greg Van Eekhout to write more novels.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    Completely offbeat and yet fantastic.

    It was a very random moment when I happen to see the spine. I thought, 'eh, why not'. The title was okay, the quick blurb seemed good, I took a chance. I am so glad I did. I was pleasantly surprise at how Greg filled in the gaps of of details in Norse Mythology and made me truly believe the events in the book were not only tangible but possible. It brought to life a diamond in rags. I will likely reread this one for many years to come. Hermond hands a little tighter in my flitting thoughts now...how odd.

    I would really like to see similar style/mythology books from this author in the future.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Nice Read

    I would have to say that this book puts a unique spin on the world of mythology. I portrays living gods and gives each its own unique personality. I think that this is a decent read. something quick to pick up between series.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book takes us through an interesting journey into the world

    This book takes us through an interesting journey into the world of Norse mythology. The nice thing about this book is that the author gives enough background and information about Norse mythology to help the layman figure out what's going on, but not too much as to make it into an overwrought mythology/literature lesson. The premise of the book is interesting and time-relevant with the Thor, Avengers, and other Marvel movies of the last few years: NorseCODE is a genetics company run by Valkyries to hunt down those on earth (Midgard) who are of Odin's bloodline. The end of the world, Ragnarok, is nigh and the forces of Odin and Asgard need to fill their ranks. Events set into motion eons before humans were thought of foretell of gods' deaths and when Ragnarok will take place, meaning plans must be made. Which is where Mist comes in. Once human but now reincarnated as Valkyrie, she must now hunt down those with Odin's blood and hope they pass the test to fight on Asgard's front. After a potential soldier retrieval goes wrong, Mist now is on a mission to set things right, causing her to go AWOL from the Valkyries and join forces with Hermod, one of Odin's sons who has taken a self-imposed exile in all the other eight worlds save Asgard. She convinces this nomadic god to join her cause to break into Helheim (the underworld) to hep make amends for the botched retrieval job. As he is the only being to have entered and returned from Helheim without, you know, dying, Hermod was the god for her. But the two end up working together to thwart the dominoes falling to kick off Ragnarok. 

    The plot was a well-written blend of urban fantasy and Norse myth, adventure and suspense. Is there more to the beginning of the end of the world? Is there someone on the "inside" working to make sure Ragnarok comes to fruition? Can a rogue Valkyrie and a god with commitment issues possibly stop the worlds from ending in a fiery war? You think that they're going to be able to pull it off until roughly the half of the book... then things take a turn for the worse. I began to wonder if a) this was the first book in a series and things were going to continue in the following volumes or b) this was going to be on F'ing depressing book. And I did a little digging, no this book is not part of a series. Things aren't looking good for the beings of Midgard. Of course, I will not say anything since I'm against spoilers, but I will say that this read ended in a way I did not see coming. 

    However, I do have one pet peeve with this book. The genetics company, NorseCODE, in the grand scheme of the book, is barely mentioned and gets seems to be a small stepping-stone to the rest of the "stop the end of the world" crusade that takes up the rest of the plot. I'm not sure if the author was looking for a cute play on words to get your attention (sadly, I'll admit that's how I was drawn to this book and ultimately purchasing it) and a secondary/tertiary plot point. The NorseCODE program does explain how the Asgardians are beefing up their army for the impending doom, and a little bit of the why, but the hunt for these Odin-born is not the focus of the story---as you think it should be if the book is named after it. In spite of the slightly misused title, I highly recommend this book for a good read on a lazy autumn or winter afternoon. If you're a fan of urban fantasy, of mythology and lore, and like your horses with eight legs, then this book is for you. It was a good read with a fresh take on mythology and fantasy, and an overall satisfying experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Poo

    I like poop

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2012

    Flat all the way around

    This is another book that I bought on a whim. It was just interesting enough that I didn't move on to something else before I finished it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2009

    Definately off beat but fun

    Dealing with the end of the world from an Odinist point of view is certainly a daring and interesting concept. Cutting to bottom line, I enjoyed it and happy to have read it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Unreadable, dreadful and bizarre

    At first glance the novel looked complicated so it was no surprise that after a few pages I was truly scratching my head, first question was "why am I torturing myself by reading this?" and they second was "what the heck is going on? ". I hated this book, it truly felt like a chore reading it, I had to force myself to get though each chapter that felt wooden and stiff..characters saying words and going though motions, it felt like playing with paper dolls, with no substance and depth to the semi pretty façade.

    I won't even talk about the story because it's kinda dumb, but lots of things about it pissed me off to no end. One of them was the way the warriors were found, supposingly the descendants of Odin who's blood line and unlucky genes made them favorable candidates to fight in the upcoming Ragnarok ( Twilight of the Gods, water submerges the world, lots of important Norse Gods die, yad yad yada...) were fooled into getting their mouth swabbed for fifty bucks so that some lab could take their DNA and if they fit the gene, then there was only one way to get them to join the army, by death...I can't imagine any sane person submitting themselves to some freak test for nothing, so that all ready made me dislike the book, you cant build a fantasy story on something so ridiculous, not in my world. The rest was as bad as this idea, Mist was a little mouse of a fighter, her quest to find her sister was overtaking her other job and overall the book was not pleasant, I read because I enjoy it but this was just not happening with this clunker, I hate trashing books but this isn't something that I see most people enjoying.

    - Kasia S.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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