The Last Viking
The cover of The Last Viking is not for those who are squeamish about reading romance novels in public. It has the hero and heroine, Rolf and Meredith in a nekkid embrace while the surf washes over them and hides all the naughty bits. Since the story takes place in Maine, I can’t help but wince at how cold it would be – but hey, Rolf is a Viking and I guess Meredith isn’t noticing such a mundane thing as the cold.
I really enjoy time-travel books, but I haven’t read too many of them where the main character travels forward in time. That’s what happens to Geirolf (Rolf) Ericsson in Sandra Hill’s screamingly funny book. Rolf is a farmer and master shipbuilder in what is now Norway in the year 977 A.D. He is journeying on a quest to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to return a sacred relic his father had plundered, when his ship is attacked. Rolf is sucked into a whirlpool and escapes from it by clinging to Ingrid, his ship’s figurehead. He finds himself in Maine in the year 1997.
Meredith Foster is a scholar who is dedicated to her beloved grandfather’s dream of building an authentic Viking ship. When she comes home and sees a Kevin Sorbo look-alike dressed in Viking clothing and jewelry in her living room, roasting a rabbit in her fireplace and announcing that she will be his bedmate while he is there – well she is horrified, but Rolf is like a tempest sweeping everything before him. Pretty soon he is making himself at home and telling Meredith all about himself, his family, his quest and how he got to her house. Meredith thinks Rolf’s crazy at first, but he does know an awful lot about Vikings and the 10th century and that, plus good old-fashioned woman’s intuition leads her to believe his story.
Ms. Hill explains how Rolf can understand English by having the relic he carries act as a sort of universal translator (if you watch Star Trek, you’ll know what this is). I love how Rolf talked. His speech was just archaic enough to make him sound like a non-native speaker of English without overdoing it. Rolf finds out that there are no more modern Vikings since they assimilated themselves into the populations they raided and have died out as a distinct group. Rolf is very adaptable and just loves 20th century comforts like hot showers, malls, Oreos and mead in long-neck bottles.
Rolf would make a feminist want to roast him in the fireplace alongside his rabbit. He is a total and unapologetic male supremacist who thinks if more women were like Martha Stewart, relations between the sexes would be improved. Needless to say, he does not like Oprah Winfrey. His favorite T.V. show is Home Improvement, and he all but worships Tim Allen. Just wait till you read the scene where he discovers modern power tools.
Meredith Foster had me liking her and wanting to shake her at the same time. She is alternately aloof toward Rolf and then half a sentence later she is on him like paint on a wall. I think she could have been a very likable character, but she had more mood changes than a pre-teen girl. As for Rolf, yeah sure he’s a male chauvinist but he’s never mean nor cruel and goes out of his way to help people. Wait till you read how he fixes up Meredith’s graduate assistant Mike, with Sharon Stone.
The Last Viking is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I can forgive Meredith her annoying personality and Rolf his male chauvinism and just lose myself in the humor of seeing the 20th century through 10th century eyes. One small problem – Rolf loves to take showers and wash his hair with Breck shampoo. He mangles the pronunciation of Breck to Drek. He’s always talking about how much he loves drek and how Meredith’s hair smells wonderfully of drek. The Yiddish word for garbage is dreck. The pronunciation is the same and the spelling is similar enough to be very disconcerting, to put it mildly.
Other than this, I was willing to overlook the anachronisms and paradoxes which surely existed in Hill’s story, but I was laughing too hard to pay much notice. With love scenes so wonderfully sensul and prose jut purple enough, it didn’t much matter.