The divine brawl
Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, stood at a corner and surveyed his almost empty bar. Tonight was a big night and everything had to be perfect - for tonight was god's night out. And these weren't just any gods who would be patronising his bar but the king of Olympus, Zeus himself, along with two other foreign dignitaries. One of them was a battle hardened warrior - the strongest of the Norse gods, Thor and the other was the god born of Izanagi's nose - Susanoo. He wondered why Indra - the Vedic king of gods, the slayer of the mighty Vritra, suddenly cancelled on the visit - maybe he was up to building another grandiose palace. He speculated on how the meeting would go with the lightning like temperaments of these gods - it wasn't everyday that the lords of thunder and storms got together.
Chalice after chalice of mead was drained. It was past the point of levity and now bordered on sadness. Thor, the morose warrior, the one fated to die, had a haunted look in his eyes. His firm stance and fixed eyes betrayed no sign of lack of control and it would not have been apparent but for his tone.
“Dude, being a god isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Like I don't have my own life to worry about… Ragnarok is coming and with it those hairy giant guys. What did I ever to do to have such a messed up destiny?! Oh yes slaying the Midgard serpent is heroic and all but why the hell do I have to die with it? It just isn't fair, I tell you.”
Susanoo who had been gloomy for most of the meeting suddenly spoke.
“It's a damn lousy job. Those mortals are always complaining about their life. They should get a taste of this. I was ordered to rule the seas once - but just because I didn't want to move out of my mom's house, they banished me from heaven. ” He shook his head with self pity.
“And if the hardship and war and being a hero isn't enough - it's humiliating. Once I lost this hammer and it turned out the giants had it. They demanded Freyja as ransom. I had to dress up in women's garments to recover it and I was the butt of Odin's joke for the next millennium."
“The life of a god - when you think of it - amounts to squat. After I was thrown out from heaven to Izumo - I killed the eight headed dragon who had devoured eight children of an old couple. I saved their only remaining child and after all that the majority of the mortals have forgotten even my name. And they say we turn a blind eye!” He continued, sinking into a state of induced melancholy.
Zeus the amorous god, who had been eyeing the Valkyries who had come with Thor, between ogling, now and then offered a sympathetic nod to his cohorts and then spoke in a weird pretentious tone.
“Life is hard. I understand your pain my brothers. But be thankful though that you guys don't have a nagging wife. Sacred marriage of Hera and Zeus - my foot. I never get to have any fun - that witch.”
The two depressed gods stared in condescending disbelief at the Olympian, which he took to be a look of empathy. He continued whining amidst contradictions of his various exploits and how Hera had tried to stop him each time. At this point the inebriated gods, remembering all the tales they had heard about Zeus and Metis, Thetis, Io, Europa, Leda, Danae and Alkmene were beginning to grow irascible and bitter.
In a tone of unveiled contempt and sarcasm Susanoo blurted out
“It is indeed hard to love so many women - poor you, if there's anything we can do…”
Zeus felt a little insulted but continued to chat about his exploits nevertheless. Dionysus and the Valkyries exchanged a worried look as the air began to get tense, like it was a taut string, vibrating with suppressed energy.
“Oh you didn't get hurt during your amorous fancies did you? Maybe your beard got a little dirty - such a shame.”
“If you have something to say to me, say it out aloud will you…you...you coward.”
Everyone who knows a god, and a god of the potent extremities of the world for that, knows that you never call them a coward.
The oriental deity sprang up and drew the Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven, the very sword he had found in the tail of the dragon he killed.
The Olympian - though tipsy was still alert and quickly threw on the aegis and drew a thunderbolt aimed at the visiting deity. The composed Thor quickly came between the two and told them to behave like gods.
Zeus, taking Thor's equanimity for timidity, took hold of the hammer which was resting on the table. Nobody ever, ever touches Thor's hammer.
“You stay out of it - go hide behind those Valkyries and leave the fighting to men.”
Thor punched Zeus right in the face at this point and thus started the divine bar brawl.
There was Zeus with his thunderbolt on one side and Susanoo with his sword on the other, with Thor swinging his mighty fists and hammer with impunity. From nothing had broken out the Armageddon, which resulted in thunder, lighting and rain as never seen before. In his brother's aid, Poseidon swelled up the seas, armies of dead joined the war at Hades' command. Odin's war cry could be discerned above the din. Susanoo's sister - the sun goddess Amaterusa panicked at the carnage below and fled the heavens and so darkness engulfed the world. This is how the inevitable end came to be, the true apocalypse, and thus rendered Rapture and the Mayan prophecies moot.
The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest
When Stieg Larsson climbed seven flights of stairs to his death of a massive heart attack in 2004, he had left behind three complete, but unpublished novels, which, according to sources close to him, were written for himself and never intended for print. Little did he know that the series, after being published posthumously, would take the reading world by storm.
In the first book, we're introduced to Mikael 'Kalle' Blomkvist, the disgraced publisher of the Millennium magazine, hired by an eccentric tycoon to solve a decades-old mystery. When he makes a breakthrough in what he'd initially thought was a wild goose chase, he enlists the help of genius hacker Lisbeth Salander, who has recently turned the tables on her abusive legal guardian, Advokat Bjurman.
The consequences of everything that goes down in the first book come to play in the second, when Bjurman tries to get even with Salander, opening a can of worms that he had never imagined would hold such serious implications. Bjurman ends up dead, along with two researchers working on a controversial exposé to be published by Millennium, and police have every reason to suspect Salander. Lucky for her, Blomkvist, and a handful of other people believe she is innocent, and as the nationwide hunt begins, they shore up their forces to protect her.
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest aims to wrap up all the loose ends in a fast-paced, nail-biting adventure. This is the grand stand, where the good guys race the clock and pool their resources for a serious showdown, and the bad guys come out with all guns firing. It's impossible to give more detail than that without giving away spoilers, but suffice to say, from romance to political trivia to butt-kicking action, this book has a little bit of everything.
This is not to say that the story, or indeed, the series as a whole, is without its flaws. The character of Blomkvist is obviously a fantasy version of Larsson himself, and sometimes it gets a little icky when all these smart, powerful women just seem to throw themselves at him. Also, for a novel that seems to want to take a stand against abuse of women (the original title for Dragon Tattoo was 'Men who Hate Women'), there is a lot of gratuitous violence. Also, the author lays the legal and political backdrop on a bit thick, and this may prove a deterrent for many readers.
If you've invested in the first two books, however, it would be a shame not to read this one through. It reads like a cross between a Sidney Sheldon and a Frederick Forsyth, updated with some Dan Brown a la The Digital Fortress, so if you're a fan of those authors, you won't be disappointed.
By Sabrina F Ahmad
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