Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Wheel of Darkness - Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

2007; 385 pages. Genre : Thriller. Overall Rating : B..

    Someone has stolen the Agozyen {"Darkness"} from a remote Tibetian lamasary. NBD, except that it has the power - indeed it has the destiny - to annihilate mankind from the face of the earth so that the world can begin anew. That's a bummer for us humans.

   .FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast and his ward, Constance Greene, need to track down the thief and recover the purloined power object. They end up on a luxury liner, where things go amok when they realize that the "darkness" has already been unleashed.
What's To Like...
    The plot is action-packed and fast-paced. There are several unexpected twists, including the "Hero vs. Ultimate Evil" confrontation. The plot is a bit formulaic (a bunch of terrified people trapped in a confined space, with a monster rampaging about), but it is convincingly done. There is even some Holmesian logic involved, as Pendergast has to somehow quickly and deductively narrow the suspect-list down from the 2700 passengers on board.

    .The negatives are few and mere trifles. There's a certain bumblingness (I doubt that's a real word) about the monks. The monster isn't all that scary. Then there's a small incident that piques one of my literary peeves. To wit...
Just once I'd like to see...
    The commander of the ship, Commodore Cutter, is a real butthead. That's fine. A "Caine Mutiny" situation develops, and he is subsequently relieved of his leadership role. Later on, for reasons I won't give due to spoiler concerns, it is expedient that the crew again avail themselves of his services. They find him sulking in his quarters, and with gritted teeth, offer him his job back.

   .Alas, Commodore Cutter has no redeeming qualities. He spurns the offer, leaving the crew to a seemingly hopeless fate. My peeve is this - how come 99% of the characters in Action/Thriller/Alt-History stories have to be either black or white? Just once I'd like to see some "grayness". It would've been nice here to see Commodore Cutter accept their offer and contribute to the resolving of the issue, albeit without stealing the spotlight from our intrepid hero. If nothing else, it would've added a bit of complexity to him.

   .But I digress. The Wheel of Darkness is a worthwhile thriller; keeping me on the edge of my seat and turning the pages as the situation became more and more dire. This was my second Preston & Child book {"Relic" was the first} , and it is obvious that they make a good team for writing contemporary novels in this genre. I'm sure I'll be reading more of the series.

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