NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe Apocalypse Door

by James D. Macdonald

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2002, $22.95, 224 pp

This is a strange one: Strange but fun.

It starts out as a typical espionage book, but quickly takes an odd turn: the agent involved isn't CIA, but Knights Templar. The Knights were not suppressed in the Middle Ages when Philip the Fair tried to close them down for their money, but went underground and have continued to this day. Today, it appears, they're mainly concerned with the sorts of problems that the CIA and MI5 can't touch, though it appears that they also get involved in purely secular matters as well – at the start of this book the agent, a warrior monk, and the first person narrator of it (called Peter Crossman, a nom de guerre) is investigating the disappearance under suspicious circumstances of several UN workers from somewhere in the Middle East.

Predictably, the matter is more serious that it seems and soon he is fleeing from something which may be alien or may be demonic or may be just ordinary baddies. The CIA is after him and it appears that Sister Mary Magdalene of the Special Executive Branch of the Poor Clares – a trained assassin (!!!) is after him.

The book is a romp, a fun spy story, a great fantasy and an altogether good read. (It had a distinct flavor of Tim Powers's books like Declare where there are powers in the world that most of us don't know about (and are happier for not knowing!))

It appears that Macdonald is setting up for a potential series – he's brought in the Teutonic Knights, a group which was founded in imitation of the Templars to aid in the Medieval German expansion into and civilization of the southern Baltic, but who have earned a definitely unsavory reputation in history.

If the series continues as well as it began, I will be looking forward to it.

Definitely recommended!

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