Aztec - Gary Jennings if a guilty pleasure can elevate itself to the level of transformative epic, and then come plummeting back down to farce and depravity, and then up again, and then down again, and around and around and around... then this is that novel. there are many things to enjoy. some enjoyments are guilt-free: the sense of wonder, the lavish details, the description of native civilizations - so many aspects of so many cultures, all so clearly well-researched and engagingly depicted. some enjoyments inspire only guilt: the numerous, excitedly engorged accounts of atrocity and bloodshed, the overripe sex scenes that become almost ridiculous in their frequency and comically graphic, often grotesque detail. it is a jacobean soap opera writ large, candide placed in his trashiest adventure yet: the always-horny narrator moving constantly through varied scenes of destruction, despair, bawdy comedies of manner, periods of learning and excitement, times of cold anger and lingering resentment, from youth to infirmity. doom and good fortune are doled out plentifully.

reading this in the central plaza of Oaxaca during a sunny week preceding the Day of the Dead made the experience a vital one, and a really embarrassing one as well. i couldn't keep my eyes out of the book; "it's really well-researched" was my mantra whenever my friends would look at it with doubtful, critical eyes. it was impossible to earnestly defend such a spectacle of michael bay proportions. just being seen reading it made me feel like such a common tourist. it's an indefensible book, a combination of longest boy's adventure ever and a jack-off book of epic proportion. it is also lots and lots of guilty fun.