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Day of 

the Giants 



del Rey 



Read it!



Revolving around the adventures of Leif and Lee Svenson, twin American brothers of Nordic decent, our story is set in an uncertain future, rife with global strife, conflict and war. Sacrificing a collegiate career in engineering, Leif remains at home to tend the family farm while his brother scours the globe, gaining fame as a mercenary for hire. And the action picks up when Lee returns home to recuperate from some serious injuries sustained during his latest campaign -- just as the entire world, already on the brink of collapse, is crippled by an unearthly weather pattern:

As a blizzard of mythical proportions socks the planet, sending a teetering civilization into chaos, on top of all that are several reports of mass-hallucinations concerning large, busty women riding giant steeds that thunder across the sky, who sing ear-splitting songs "loud enough to raise the dead." Turns out Lee had an encounter with one of these visions when he was badly wounded, and his description of what followed reminds Leif of the old Norse tales their grandmother used to tell them about the Valkyries and the Fimbulwinter: the first sign of the Ragnarok -- the twilight of the Asgardian gods, or to put it more bluntly, Teutonic Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it. 

Once that's properly set up, two strangers come into the lives of the Svensons: Laufeyson is a shifty fellow who can seem to disappear at will; whereas Jordsson is a surly brute, who carries around a very large hammer. (And for those of us who read a lot of Thor comics probably already know where this is headed.) Lee recognizes them as the fellow mercenaries who saved his hash, which is strange because Leif knows them by different names. Regardless of monikers, the Svensons have no time to clear up their true identity before trouble comes calling. Seems that Leif has been having some trouble with his neighbors ever since his dog was accused of getting loose and killing other people's livestock -- pivotal provisions in these dire times. The over-sized animal is innocent of these crimes, but tempers are quick in this desperate climate, and as far as the injured parties are concerned it's lynch first and ask questions later. And when this pack of vigilantes storm the Svenson farm, Laufeyson and Jordsson stand by the brothers, which really confuses the mob since Laufeyson was the one who riled them up for blood in the first place. 

What in the name of Odin goes on here, you ask? Well, we're about to find out:

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"Jordsson's voice rang out again, like a clap of thunder, and the [hammer] left his hand in an air-piercing sweep. Something splattered out in the snow, and the maul seemed to rebound as if it had a spring instead of a head. It bounced back squarely into Jordsson's waiting hand. Leif noticed it abstractly, but his eyes stayed riveted to the headless thing on the ground." 

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Armed with an automatic pistol, axes, and Jordsson's hammer, the battle commences against the armed mob. Though greatly outnumbered, the four hold their own as Leif overcomes his nerves and joins the fracas. But in the end, the numbers overwhelm them and both brothers wind up mortally wounded. And as he lay their dying, Leif sees the Valkyries circling above them -- but this isn't a vision:

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"Wild singing was coming from the air above, and with it came the thundering of hooves, beating down like a muffled drum...a big woman on an immense horse, dropping out of nowhere...[Leif] felt her hands clutch his hair, felt himself lifted with a single heave of her arm and dropped across the shoulders of the horse."

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Taking a wild ride over the rainbow barrier of Bifrost, Leif is hauled to the fabled land of Asgard: home of the Norse gods, where it appears that the Ragnarok is indeed fast approaching. And since Asgard needed a mortal champion from Midgard (Earth) to turn the tide, and to get into in Asgard one must die a heroic death in battle, Odin, leader of the Asgardians, staged the dust-up with the mob, explaining Laufeyson's treachery. Truthfully, Odin had sent his two elder sons, Thor (Jordsson), and the trickster Loki (Laufeyson), to Earth to bring back Lee, a proven warrior, to be their champion, but Loki, probably up to something no good, tries to pass Leif off as his twin brother. Seeing through this deception, Thor brings Lee across the rainbow bridge as well, and then accuses Loki and Leif of high treason and demands that they both be tossed into the infernal pit of Niflheim. 

With some fast talking by Loki, Leif is spared this grisly fate when he convinces Odin that his champion can build them some weapons of mass destruction -- like Lee's automatic pistol, for the Einenhard: the army of dead heroes who will help the Asgardians fight against the hordes of the Ragnarok. And the Einenhard needs all the help they can get; just imagine an entire army of Three Stooges clones who spend the entire day training by hacking each other to pieces, only to be reassembled by Odin at the end of the day to do it all again tomorrow. Unfortunately, this disintegration and reintegration has been going on for so long that they've kinda lost their fighting edge. So while Lee is put in charge of whipping the Einenhard back into shape, Leif is assigned to the mines where the dwarf craftsmen will help him reproduce any materials he needs ... Amazing mechanical magicians these dwarves are, too, who concoct what's needed by first eating the raw materials and then spitting out the desired elements (-- including some volatile uranium). Realizing these methods aren't really refined enough for the delicate work of gunsmithing, Leif settles on a crude hand-grenade instead. As work commences, Leif knows Loki is his only true ally, but he also knows that according to the legends he can never truly trust the god of mischief, either. Convinced that Loki is up to something, Leif also has to keep an eye on Odin's younger sons -- Vali and Vidarr, who are destined to survive the Ragnarok, which is why Loki purports they're the ones who're up to no good, trying to speed things along.

Meanwhile, Leif has fallen for Fulla; an Asgardian maiden charged with tending the Tree of Life -- whose golden apples supply the Asgardians with their power. But Fulla doesn't trust Leif because of his association with Loki, and as their romance runs hot and cold, much to Leif's consternation, the former farmer also notices that the Tree is in pretty bad shape. Barely producing enough apples to keep the Asgardians going, seems these mythical gods know a lot about magic, fighting, and guzzling mead, but know diddly-squat about farming. Seeing an opportunity to ingratiate himself, Leif tries to win Fulla over by helping the Tree. First, he has the dwarves belch up some fertilizer and then prunes out all the dead branches, giving the newer ones a better chance to bloom. When Fulla catches him doing this, she doesn't understand the pruning and assumes he's destroying it. And between attacking the Tree and several industrial accidents -- that weren't really accidents, but sabotage -- Leif is once more accused of treason and dragged before a high tribunal. Things look bad but Lee, Thor, Loki, and the dwarves stand by Leif, defying Odin's inevitable guilty verdict. And things are about to get even uglier when word comes that the Tree is now producing bigger and better apples. One taste sways the court in Leif's favor, and he's spared -- for now.

As preparations for the Ragnarok continue, rumors abound that enemy agents are spying on Asgard in the guise of giant hawks, meaning time is short. With eternal darkness looming, Fulla harvests all the apples and carries them in her satchel for safe-keeping, and when Leif comes out of the mines to meet her, he spots the treacherous Vidarr moving to intercept her. But Vidarr was just a distraction as one of those giant hawks swoops down and snatches Fulla and her precious cache of apples, and then flies away to the realm of the evil frost giants. Needing to save her, Leif quickly steals one of the Valkyrie's flying horses and immediately gives chase...

Lester del Rey is probably better known for publishing magazines and compendiums of other people's science fiction stories than for his own writings. This and Rocket Jockey are the only things of his I've ever read. Barely breaking 120 pages, del Rey's Day of the Giants is a quick and extremely entertaining read. Small chapters and a quick pace kept things humming right along. In fact, you almost wish that del Rey expanded a little bit more in some parts. Like how I got the biggest kick out of the dwarves and their manufacturing prowess, and I wish we could have spent more time with them. But my only real complaint is that horribly misleading cover; the paperback I have shows several UFOs raining fire down on a doomed Earth. The hell? I definitely like the German version better, just take a look for yourselves:


As I got deeper into it, Day of the Giants kept stirring up memories of some old comic books I had read in my younger days concerning the Ragnarok, where the Asgardians fought and lost to the fire and ice giants, the Midgard serpent, Loki, and several large wolves. According to the legend, it's a predestined that after all the Asgardians die, the demon Surtur will then destroy the world by setting it on fire with his flaming sword. Author Walter Simonson touched on these events during his fantastic run on The Mighty Thor (#348-353), and the old Justice Society of America sacrificed themselves to stop the Ragnarok in the classic The Last Days of the JSA one-shot. Prior knowledge of these legends does help but isn't necessary as Leif remembers and constantly rehashes the old legends as the story progresses.

Does Leif save Fulla? Is the Ragnarok truly on it's way? Is Surtur and the fire giants of Musspelheim ready for the end of the world? Or are the frost giants of Jotunheim jumping the gun and stirring up trouble? Regardless, can Leif and Lee stem the tide? Should they even try? If they lose, the world ends in ash. If they win, then the Asgardians will take over and rule the Earth with an iron hand. Unfortunately, if you want those answers, the book appears to be out of print, meaning you'll probably have to scour the used book stores stacks for a copy to find out. I won't tell you how it ends, but I can tell you that the whole experience was well worth more than the twenty-five cents I paid for my copy.

Originally Posted: 07/31/01 :: Rehashed: 05/20/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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