Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Alexander Cipher - Will Adams

   2009; 431 pages. New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Thriller; Action-Adventure.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Daniel Knox is a dive instructor now, but when the ex-archaeologist gets a lead on the whereabouts of Alexander the Great’s tomb, he knows this could be the opportunity of a lifetime.  Unfortunately, several other parties have actively taken up the same hunt.

    Fortunately, Knox has a number of contacts in Egypt that he can call upon.  Unfortunately, some hate his guts and want nothing to do with him, while others would like to kill him.

    Who said archaeology was dull?

What’s To Like...
     Most of the story takes place in (fittingly enough) Alexandria, plus the deserts to the south and west of that city.  This is first and foremost an action-adventure, with Knox and others getting into and out of one scrape after another.

    The book is well-researched, both regarding what happened to Alexander’s body and Empire after his death, and the history and culture of Egypt in general.  The requisite historical backstory gets a little wordy and clunky at times, but once that’s in place, it’s thrills and spills galore up through the final page.

    What I liked most about The Alexander Cipher was the non-stereotypical portrayal of the various Egyptian characters. It was a breath of fresh air to meet a cast of Egyptians that were diverse in their natures, instead of the usual brain-washed, ignorant, anti-Arab bent that most novels use.  Indeed, the baddest of the baddies were from an entirely different ethnic group.

    Knox was too over-the-top for my reading tastes, but if you’re a Dirk Pitt fan, you’ll probably like his luck, pluck and resourcefulness in escaping death time and time again.  The fact that everybody else in the book already knows him strains the believability, but the fact that almost all of them dislike him is kinda kewl.

    There’s a little bit of sex, and some cussing; but nothing excessive.  Some good guys die; some bad guys go on living.  For me, the ending felt a bit contrived and unbelievable.  However, it held a neat plot twist, and tied up the all the loose ends.  This is a standalone novel, as well as a start of a series.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Chicane (n.)  :  An artificial narrowing or turn on a road..

    (Alexandria)  Archimedes had studied here; so had Galen and Origen.  The Septuagint had been translated here.  Euclid had published his famous works here.  Chemistry took its very name from here; al-Khemia was the black land of Egypt, and alchemy the Egyptian art.  Aristarchus had proposed the heliocentric theory here, well over a millennium before it was rediscovered by Copernicus.  Eratosthenes had calculated almost exactly the circumference of the earth by extrapolating from discrepancies in the shadows cast at the sun’s zenith both here and in Aswan, some 850 kilometers to the south, on the summer solstice.  (pg. 94)

    He smiled wryly.  “I think you’re the kind of woman not to be afraid of what she wants.  I’m right about this, yes?”
    “Good.  Then let me make this clear.  If you ask me to leave once more, I truly will leave.”
    There was silence for a few moments.  Elena nodded thoughtfully to herself as she unlocked her door and went inside.  “Well?” she asked, leaving the door open behind her.  “Are you coming in or not?”.  (pg. 173)

 “What? . . .  Alexander wore earrings?”  (pg.  19)
    The Alexander Cipher was a pleasant enough read, although I thought it could’ve  used a bit more polish.  The ending is ingenious but too abrupt and convenient.  The insertion of historical detail felt forced in spots.  The characters were interesting, but without any surprises.  Daring escapes came just a bit too easy for our hero, and he has far too many coincidental connections to the other characters.

    8 Stars.  Add one-half star if all you’re looking for is an “airport” novel.  And since this was Will Adams’ debut effort, we'll cut him some slack and see if the writing gets smoother in the sequel, The Moses Quest.  It’s on my TBR shelf.

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