Odin's Voice

Author: Susan Price
Pocket Books
RRP 12.99
ISBN 1 416 90144 2
Available 01 August 2005

On Earth in some undetermined future, society has changed radically. Mars has been colonised for the last three hundred years and Earth now has legalised slavery. The worship of Norse, Greek and Roman gods have become the norm, with Christianity having seemingly disappeared. Into this strange new world two girls are born. Affroditey a freeborn teenager is sold into bondage following her father's suicide. Kylie is a born slave who is freed from her bondage to become the voice of god, in the temple of Odin. Seemingly unconnected, fate and the will of Odin will bring these two women together to determine the destiny of a single child...

Susan Price is a well respected children's author. She published her first book The Devils Piper at the tender age of sixteen (now that's impressive). In 1987 she won the Carnegie Medal for The Ghost Drum and The Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for The Sterkarm Handshake. Odin's Voice is the first part of her new Martian Trilogy.

The first thing I found odd about Odin's Voice is the society which forms the background of the novel. With space travel common and a colony on Mars were talking about a thousand years hence, however, the changes in society are never explained. Just why should the worship of gods, which had fallen out of fashion a good fifteen hundred years ago, have had such a revival is never explained. Nor is there any explanation as to why slavery is now legal. In the Roman Empire it was an economic necessity, but there appears no logical reason within the book as to the value of slavery here. It may be that the intention was to create a technological society which had grown up from a Romanesque background, a type of future alternative history. Either way, nothing is ever explained, maybe that was the intention.

The characters are well drawn especially Kylie who grows from the frightened bonder of Freewoman Perry, through her manumission, to become the 'Voice of Odin'. As she grows in influence her character also grows in confidence. Her motivation to recover her biological son, Apollo, from her previous employers is very powerful and understandable. Affroditey, is just plain annoying. Although no ages are specifically given, she is written as a 15-ish year old. Her fall from grace, whilst sad, is never enough to make her a sympathetic character. She learns little from her experience and holds onto her inborn prejudices to the end of the book. It would be fair to say that she starts off as a moaner and only progresses to being a frightened moaner with the emotional instability of your average teenager.

Whether Kylie actually speaks with god is left up to the reader. There is little direct evidence either way in the book. It is true that Kylie, herself, believes it, as do the worshippers at her temple. Given some of the problems that Harry Potter has run into with the church, I would imagine that the apparent resurgence of pagan worship and the lack of any reference as to what happened to Christianity would have left Susan Price open to more than one clergyman condemning the book, but then any coverage can be seen as good coverage.

So is it worth reading? Well yes and no. The endless whinging of Affroditey does get on the nerves but hopefully with their fight to mars it may be that it is there, in the second book, that we shall see her character progress.

Overall a good read from a well respected author.

Charles Packer

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