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4.6 out of 5 stars35
4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2006
Gary Jennings's Aztec concerns the life of one individual man, his rise from humble beginnings to a man of wealth and influence, in ancient meso-America. If this sounds like an animated Disney film, I should mention that there are copious amounts of blood, sex and violence in this book.

I am generally not given to reading a lot of fiction but I was hugely impressed with this piece of work. Mr Jennings has created a truly memorable novel, filled with colourful characters and eventful set-pieces, a tapestry of romance, adventure, travel and history. It is hard to over-sell this particular book.

After visiting some of the places mentioned in this book, including the Aztec pyramids and reading some of the relevant history, I have the greatest respect for what Gary Jennings has achieved. The story is rich and evocative, the life of a meso-American civilisation at its peak is vibrantly brought to life; the clothing, the food, the rituals and the architecture, the wars and the human sacrifice. The introduction of the Spanish conquistadors and their subsequent destruction of a rich culture is painfully authentic.

As written above, I am not given to much fiction but this book was simply stunning. And no singing animals.
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on 18 November 2000
I First read this book about 3 or 4 years ago and it has left a profound effect on me. Since then Ihave read it now and again. For a book about a culture I know little or nothing about and a time which is so alien to me, it is amazing that 3 years and many books later it remains my favourite
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on 9 February 2001
It tells the tale of a young boy brought up in a middle class family only a few years before Cortez invades, the tragic destruction of his family through the social climbing schemings of his mother, his own turbulant personal life and his climb to extream wealth. His life is is forever changed by the berayal of his best friends, he stands helpless as he witnesses the death of all he people loves, the brutal and measured revenge he exacts and how he was unwittingly intrinsic in the fall of the empire he served. This story looks at the rise and fall of one of the most advanced cultures in the world at that time, the millions that made it's society, it's mythology and laws and warriors and how it was all brought to it's knees by a handful of reluctant conquistadores and the untimely introduction of smallpox.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2007
This is a monumental novel in length. It takes some commitment as a reader to start this very detailed work that reportedly took Gary Jennings ten years to produce.

The original publication was in 1980, just nineteen years before Jennings died at the age of 70.

The book follows the rise and fall of Mixtli, an Aztec who saw the coming of the Spanish and the downfall of the Mexica. Starting the story as a lowly son of a quarry attendant, Mixtli rises to become a man of influence. There is quite a lot of humour in the novel as Mixtli tells his uninhibited tale of his sexual activities combined with his erudite observations of what life was like in the Aztec empire before the arrival of the Spanish.

More horrific (and graphically described) are some of the religious ceremonies involving human sacrifice and Jennings explores how to an Aztec this was accepted and how to the Spanish this was repulsive. A view we would of course share, but Jennings does not miss the irony of this coming from the invading Spanish Christians considering it was they who triggered the genocide of the entire Aztec culture, and indeed they who happily devised novel ways of murdering Aztecs who broke their newly imposed rules.

Here then are some good factual based stories that make it fairly easy to digest some ancient Central American history. The actions of Cortes, appear to me, to be pretty much as they are known in historical fact. The Spaniards are depicted along the same lines as described in the `Black Legend', i.e. `cruel', `intolerant' and `fanatical', so probably not the book for you if you are an ardent Spanish nationalist.

If you're a fan of historical fiction, then you must read this. There is only one historical novel that I have read that is comparable in depth and scope and that is the brilliant This Thing of Darkness by the late Harry Thompson.
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on 15 November 2008
From the first few pages of this book I was hooked. I had imagined this book to be a general story about an Aztec, but was I mistaken. There is nothing general about this book. The story follows the path of an Aztec called Mixtli and boy does he have a story to tell. I never knew where the story was going to take me next. I found at times I wanted to turn away as it is a bit gruesome in some areas but then being excited about reading the next page to see what happened. The story throughout the whole book maintains it credability. When you are reading the book you can feel all the emotions, etc that Mixtli has. You are there with him, seeing what he seeing, feeling what he feels, etc. Throughout this whole book I could never imagine how it was going to end. I had never seen this ending coming. I was so surprised and shocked. I highly recommend this book. It is an experience that you will never forget. The way the author has written the book is amazing.
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on 1 December 2002
If you want a novel that has everything (adventure, history, sex, story-line, characterization, debunking of myths, humor, horror, human insight, etc.) this is IT! Jennings novel has to rank as one of the all-time stories for story's sake. Echoing other reviewers here, I was absolutely ticked off that the story had to come to a close.
Unfortunately, I was equally disappointed by Jennings' subsequent tries at emulating this storytelling feat (particularly Aztec Autumn - what a bust!) The author apparently used up all his creative powers in constructing and researching this novel. Yet if I could have done even half as good a job as Jennings did in writing Aztec, my life would have been heroic!
This is as close to creative genius as any historical novelist has come to in our era. I am not prone to hyperbole in my reviews, but if you haven't yet read this book, you are missing out on one of the true treats of contemporary fiction. Order it, now!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 November 2007
I first read this book when it was published in 1980 and was mesmerized by the story telling skills of the author Gary Jennings, who went on to write several other books in the series and also The Journeyer, a wonderful book about the travels of Marco Polo. Aztec was certainly the first fictional book I had read about the Aztecs and I absolutely loved it.

It is the story of what must have been the greatest native civilisation that inhabited north America, in the area now known as Mexico. It is a story of epic proportions about Mixtil a young boy who rises above the lowly beginnings of his family and distinguishes himself, firstly as a scribe and later as a warrior.

He earns himself a great deal of money as a merchant traveling to all corners of the Aztec lands. Lands that were extremely diverse, including mountains, jungles, deserts and the coastal lands. Mixtil, travelled them all.

This large volume is full to the brim with excitement and adventure and gives an insight into what it must have been like to be part of the Aztec nation. The weapons they had, the games they played and the human sacrifices they made of their enemies. I read it avidly. The only down side to the book is the virtually unpronounceable words of the people and the places. But this is a small price to pay for such a wonderful read.
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This is a long historical novel using its main character to visit nearly every aspect of Aztec life just before, during and after the coming of Cortés. The story is told as evidence recounted to Spanish friars at the request of the King to record the ways of the Aztec people. This gives the author an opportunity for a few pops at the nature and basis of the Spanish rule in Mesoamerica. The method also allows a long catalogue of sexual adventure and operatic misfortune and misunderstanding. It also gives a remarkable vision of how the Aztec empire may have been as the hero is variously, scribe, warrior, trader, traveler and interpreter. I am uncertain as to how accurate this picture is, but if it is fiction it is the fiction of a remarkable imagination. There is something akin to the style and reach of The Game Of Thrones to the adventures of Seven Flower Dark Cloud; it is not quite to the high standard of Gore Vidal's Creation but well worth five stars.
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on 7 August 2008
I love this well-researched, touching and informative novel. If this didn't really happen, it should have! The characters are well-drawn and the narrative not too wordy. It's the opposite of Lord Of The Rings, in that descriptions of the landscape are brief but incisive. Read it and you WILL cry! It's my Husband's favourite book.
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on 11 January 2001
This book is over a thousand pages long and about a culture I know little about but has since fascinated me. It is extremely difficult to get into and many people I have recommended it to have quit after a few hundred pages. The other few have made it, just like me, their favourite.
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