Monday, June 13, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: The Mask of Loki: A Tale of Two Thomases by Thomas T. Thomas

The wizard thinks he's in control. The gods think that's funny...

Josh just thinks he sucks

It started in the 12th century when their avatars first joined in battle. On that occasion the sorcerous Hasan al Sabah, the first and Chief Assassin won handily against Thomas Amnet, Knight Templar and White Magician. There have been many duels since then, and in each the undying Arab has ended the life of Loki's avatar. But each time the avatar is reborn,and the Assassin tires....

It is now the 21st century. Loki's time approaches, and Ahriman, Lord of Darkness, must fall.

I think this review marks the last Roger Zelazny novel that I haven't covered. We've still got a bunch of short stories and idiosyncratic collections like The Illustrated Roger Zelazny that will merit their entry here, but that's not the same thing. I read Loki after I read Flare, so I went in with very low expectations, and I liked it in the beginning. It's set in Metro Jersey in the near future, and interspersed with flashbacks of different dudes being killed by Hasan the assassin.


The assassin?

Why does that sound so familiar-

Oh, right.

Okay, you've probably guessed a few facts about me over the course of all these reviews. (Also, there's a picture right at the bottom of the page.) I'm white, pretty liberal, and while I don't want want to be that white liberal guy who's offended by everything, but Jesus dude, writing two only two Middle Eastern characters of consequence and naming them both Hasan and making them both assassins was perhaps not the most sensitive choice that could have been made.

And nothing I've read about either author suggests that any form of racism played any part in this decision. I don't think it was a great decision, mind you, but I seriously doubt that it was one that was deliberately offensive or insensitive. If anything, I just imagine that that one of the authors watched too much Bugs Bunny growing up.

Hasan chop!

Flare just wasn't interesting. The Mask of Loki actually has some pretty entertaining concepts and some engaging segments, but they go on past the point where they're interesting, and every time I just wanted them to be over. I liked the 12th century segments with Thomas Amnet, but there were too many of them and they went on for too long.

The whole thing reminded me of Ben Bova's Orion, and the references to Ahriman only cemented this.

Naming the therapy program Eliza is rather on the order of naming your psychic Cassandra, but I rather enjoyed the exchange the first time around. Not so much the second, third or fourth time.

Likewise, there is a set piece where Thomas gets a job playing a floating piano in a swimming pool. That's pretty neat, but the scene dwells too much on the trivia of how it would function and just drags on for about five pages too long. The book is 340 pages, and it could have been half that. There's a lot of flab here. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be a revelation that Thomas Gurden was the reincarnation of Thomas Amnet. The back cover pretty much comes out and says it, and they're both named Thomas.

It did have a fair amount of stuff I did enjoy. The confrontation at the end (and Amnet and Hasan's initial confrontation in the desert) Liked the ending a lot, and the characterization of Loki was quite a lot of fun.Shame he doesn't show up until the 11th hour.  Hasan's final fate was pretty clever too. I also dug the philosophy of martial arts when Thomas was fighting with his girlfriend. I think there's really a good book hidden in here, maybe not a classic, but an enjoyable tale nonetheless.


  1. Hey Josh, don't forget Wilderness! You haven't covered that one (except for "The Long Crawl," the abridged version of Zelazny's half of the novel).

    --Chris DeVito

  2. Hey, you're right! That made my day! And this way, I get to end the novel reviews on a high note!

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said ". . .but the scene dwells too much on the trivia of how it would function and just drags on for about five pages too long." And I'm not just talking about the piano scene, specifically--that line of yours can really be applied to most of the book.

    I just read the ". . . And Call Me Roger" entry on MASK OF LOKI after finishing the book, and apparently Thomas T. Thomas was big on hard SF. It definitely shows, here--you can tell he really wants to get into the nuts and bolts of how things work. And, while that may be enjoyable for some readers, I am not one of them.

    It's a shame, really--I liked what was happening early on (I hadn't read the back of the book or any reviews, so I went into page one with basically no idea of what was going on), but like you said, this thing could have been cut in half and not really suffered for it.

    Unfortunately, I didn't really get a good experience out of the ending that you say you enjoyed, because by the time I got to page 300 I'd already started skimming. There were literally entire pages (consecutively) that could have been cut out in places without losing anything significant, and I wasn't about to read them word-for-word.

    Ah well. At the end of the day, at least it's not FLARE.

    1. Your comment kind of got buried, coming when it did when a lot of other people were commenting on the princesses post, but I have to agree. TTT was much more in to the nuts and bolts of hard SF and I don't think his style meshed well with Zelazny's at all.