Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Excavation - James Rollins

   2000; 416 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Thriller; Action-Adventure.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Professor Henry Conklin has mummy issues, especially with the one he’s recently unearthed high in the Peruvian Andes.  He’s convinced it predates the Incas, and has flown back with it to the United States to have tests run that will prove his hypothesis, leaving his student archaeologists to carry on with the excavation.

    Alas, the test results are not what the professor was hoping for – the mummy is actually a Dominican priest from the conquistador days.  But what is found inside his cranium more than compensates for the archaeological disappointment.

    Meanwhile, his crew of interns are making some amazing discoveries themselves.  Unfortunately, their finds have attracted the attention of the local thieves, who think those things are worth killing for.  And when it comes down to a fight between college students versus hardened bandits, put your money on the latter.

What’s To Like...
    The story is fast-paced with non-stop action that is at times over-the-top.  The temple travails in particular will remind you of Indiana Jones.  The combination of Archaeology, Ancient History, and Science makes it my kind of book.  The Historical Fiction portions felt quite believable and well-researched.  I particularly enjoyed the “is it natural or is it supernatural?” motif.  Preston & Child would give it four thumbs up.

    There are some kewl beasts and critters to contend with.  Anyone up for taking on the albino tarantulas?  Nah, didn’t think so.  The “native tribe” is well-crafted.  They may seem primitive, but you don’t want to get on their bad side.

    The rest of the characters are rather stereotyped, especially the professor’s student interns.  You have the black athletic jock, the glasses-wearing nerd, and the spoiled, rich-kid a**hole.  There's a pair of love interests, but both are obvious and predictable.

    There are some cusswords, but no sex or drugs or rock-&-roll.  This is a standalone novel, and AFAIK none of the characters appear in any other books by James Rollins.  Oh yeah, the (mass paperback) book cover is way kewl.

    “What now?” Maggie asked.
    Sam glanced forward and backward.  Everyone began talking at once.  Sam raised the light to get everyone’s attention.  “Stay calm!  It won’t do us any good to panic!”
    At that moment, Sam’s flashlight flickered and died.  Darkness swallowed them up, a blackness so deep it seemed as if the world had completely vanished.  Voices immediately dropped silent.
    After a long held breath, Norma spoke from the darkness.  “Okay, now can we panic?”  (pg. 155)

    Ralph stood with his head cocked, listening to the growing howls.  “Whatever we decide, we’d better hurry.”
    “Like I said before, they’re growing more confident because we aren’t doing anything,” Maggie said.  But if we began moving, taking the fire with us, that ought to spook them again.  Also, maybe this cavern is their home.  If it’s a territorial thing, by moving, showing them that we’re leaving, they may not attack.”
    “That’s a lot of maybes,” Ralph countered.  (pg. 210)

 “It is only ordinary gold.  Worthless.”  (pg. 90)
    Excavation is an early effort by James Rollins, his second published novel to be exact.  It felt a little “rough around the edges”.  Although there are an ample number of plot twists, their resolutions seemed predictable (was there ever any doubt about how Joan was going to escape?) and clichéd.

   This book is not part of his “Sigma Force” series, which will turn off some prospective readers.  I’ve now read four of his books – 2 featuring the Sigma Force troupe, 2 not.  I find I prefer the “non-Sigmas” by a slight margin.

    Excavation may not go down as Rollins’ masterpiece, but I didn’t find any plot holes and/or scientific/historical implausibilities.  It was an entertaining read, and sometimes that’s all you’re looking for.

    8 Stars.  Add 1 star if you prefer your Action-Adventure reads to be over-the-top.

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