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AZTEC AUTUMN by Gary Jennings


by Gary Jennings

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-86250-4
Publisher: Forge

Uneven, comparatively brief sequel to Jennings's epic historical tale Aztec (1980). Having watched the gruesome auto-da-fÇ of Dark Cloud, the doomed, conflicted hero of Aztec, Tenam†xtli, Dark Cloud's son, vows revenge on the Spaniards who have conquered and destroyed the Aztec empire. He befriends a Spanish notary who understands the Aztec language and begins to learn Spanish in a mission in the former imperial capital of Tenochtitlan (the ``The Heart of the One World,'' contemporary Mexico City). Jennings uses Tenam†xtli's Candide-like innocence to poke fun at the bearded, brutal Europeans with their booming arquebuses, their appetite for cruelty and gold, and their odd religion, which compels them to ``eat their god'' during communion. Daunted by the contradictions of Christianity, Tenam†xtli puzzles out the recipe for gunpowder, procures a copy of a Spanish arquebus, and makes a decisive terrorist strike against a Spanish garrison before returning to his native Aztlan. Along the way, he finds a utopian settlement ruled by a kindly Spanish priest, tarries lustfully in a village of women whose men have been slaughtered, befriends a fierce, bald-headed female warrior named Tiptoe, tangles with a seemingly immortal sorceress named G'nda Ke', and mounts the throne of his ancestral homestead as the ultimate ruler. Jennings's relentlessly talky narrative doesn't achieve the momentum of his earlier masterpiece, and, despite numerous references to divine coincidences, his twisted plot depends on too many trite devices. Characters thought to be lost, dead, incompetent, or merely far away are forever popping up to either save the day or ruin it for Tenam†xtli, whose rigid concept of honor compels him to lead a rebellion that even he realizes he can't win. A bumpy, meandering, wryly tragic tale, graced with delightful moments of passion and insight into the ancient culture that still haunts (and influences) modern Mexico. (First printing of 250,000)