Here's yet another book by Lars Walker; I liked it almost as much as I liked The Year of the Warrior, although it's different in almost every way, being set in the near future instead of the distant past. The one thing they have in common is that both are tales of the clash of conflicting worldviews: the struggle of pagan Scandinavia against the coming of the White Christ in one case, and the struggle of a tired, emaciated Christianity against the new paganism in the other. Though perhaps I should say new paganisms instead, for Walker includes not only the overtly neo-pagan, but also the Gnostic paganism that's been creeping into the mainstream Christian denominations over the last few decades.
Walker has written a book that is both a tale, well-told, and a cautionary look at the end point of certain current trends. In his near-future America, the only real gods are the twins of multi-culturalism and diversity. It is illegal to use racial or ageist epithets. Every town has a Happy Endings euthanasia clinic; every person has a right to die when they wish. The Extinctionists are a growing political force; they believe that the Earth can best be preserved by the extinction of humanity. The Definition of Religion Act, passed unanimously by Congress, determines which sects will be recognized legally as religions, worthy of receiving tax-exempt status--and only those sects which accept that all religions are equally valid pass the test.
Yes, it's a bit unlikely--it was meant to be extreme. I think we have too much sense as a nation to go so far astray. But every one of the points I mention is a simple extrapolation of a current trend.
That's the background. The foreground is a small college town named Epsom, Minnesota, home of a small "Lutheran" college. The scare quotes are required; the school still has a chapel and holds services there, but our hero, Carl Martell, was hired as a professor there mostly because he wasn't Christian--something to do with diversity requirements.
It's an interesting time in Epsom, which is an old-fashioned Minnesota community. A bachelor-farmer died recently, and his farm has been taken over as a commune by a neo-pagan group from California; it's making a few people nervous, and there's a lot of angry sentiment in town. Meanwhile, the college is being visited by a famous Norwegian poet named Sigfod Oski, a controversial figure and avowed pagan who delights in shaking things up.
And what he's after at the moment is bringing back Odin the All-Father. Not for Oski the pale neo-paganism of today--he's after the blood-drenched paganism of yore. And only Carl Martell and a few others stand in his way.
As I say, I enjoyed it. G.K. Chesterton often talked about the wild romance of Christianity, the glorious adventure of it. It didn't surprise me when Walker captured that glorious romance in The Year of the Warrior; the setting was tailor-made for it. It does surprise me that he managed to capture it so well in a tale set in modern-day Minnesota.Posted by Will Duquette at May 26, 2004 08:52 PM
Thanks for these Walker reviews, Will. You've stirred my interest in all three of the books far more than I had stirred it myself--if that's what I did. Stirring, that is.