The Aztlan Kid
By RM Krakoff
Review by Harriet Hart
Author R.M. Krakoff describes his third novel The Aztlan Kid: Estranged Man in a Strange Land as an “alternative history/action/adventure novel.” In it he rewrites the history of Mexico.
The Aztlan Nation did not succumb to the onslaught of Cortez in 1519. Instead, it pushed the conquistadors back to the sea; they’d burned their ships and had no means of escape so were captured, imprisoned and killed. Cortez was executed.
Having survived the Spanish attempt at conquest, the Aztlan Nation developed into a flourishing culture with a government that placed the welfare of its citizenry first. By 2010, the Mexica Empire is one of the largest, richest nations on earth with borders that range north to Oregon, east to Louisiana and south to Honduras whereas the USA has only 44 states.
The Aztlans isolate themselves, practicing economic nationalism and avoiding external conflict with their non- interventionist military policy. They keep a highly skilled army and navy in case of an attempted invasion by their nearest neighbour to the north.
The Appendix provides a fictional time line beginning with the Nahuatl speaking peoples settling in Mexico in the 6th century and outlining their subsequent accomplishments: developing a sewage system for Europe in 1855, inventing the first telephone switchboard in 1893 and sending the first unmanned space probe to reach the moon in 1959.
As the novel opens, protagonist Tototl, a biotechnologist working on a method of growing food on Mars, arrives in New York City to attend a United Nations conference. We see America through his eyes: dangerous, unhealthy, crowded and polluted. Tototl is under CIA surveillance, watched by novice CIA agent, Ollin. Nicknamed Oso, the Aztlan Bear, he defected from the Aztlan Nation because it banned the consumption of alcohol. Oso possesses no political ideals and is untroubled by ethical concerns. He’s here for the beer.
Krakoff is at his best narrating the cloak and dagger, hero versus villain chase and encounter scenes. The plot is vast and furious, the outcomes uncertain. He creates likeable and believable main characters: the handsome Mexican scientist, the lovely Lika and the intrepid Amoxtli who is determined to save their lives. Krakoff is equally gifted at painting his villains: the despicable CIA agent and the ruthless hired killer, former Green Beret Colonel Schwartz, dispatched in case Agent Oso fails.
This novel would make a great action flick with its fast moving plot and sustained conflict. It’s a quick read, perfect for air travel or the doctor’s waiting room and will have you on the edge of your seat.
Krakoff’s “alternate history” is really a critique of current US society and political system. His satire laced with humour provides food for serious thought. Could there be a government on Earth that puts its citizens first? Will there be a space race to colonize Mars because we’ve trashed this planet with our greed and aggression?
To find out, buy The Aztlan Kid, available at Diane Pearl’s Collecion on Colon in Ajijic. The novel is also available on Kindle.