Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm Back!

Now that life has settled, and I've decided to stop procrastinating, I have returned. And I had all these great ideas in the interim, and now I can't remember any of them. Oh well.

I've decided instead to laud a series of books that are rapidly becoming my favorite. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are two authors who have come together to write what are by far the best techno-thrillers I have read. Honestly, I think they're better than Crichton's work. Congo did not have me leaving all the lights on and shining my light into every corner when I got up to go to the bathroom.

Relic definitely did.

Relic is the first book written by these two geniuses. It starts out with an ill-fated scientific expedition to the Amazon Basin, with even more bad fortune following the crates of scientific finds all the way to the New York Museum of Natural History (transparently modeled after the American Museum of Natural History, in New York).

Suddenly, people begin dying in brutal ways. The manner of wounds indicate what has done this is not human. But what is it then?

The main character, Margo Green, teams up with the journalist Smithback and the enigmatic FBI agent Pendergast to discover who--or what--is committing these crimes.

First off, these authors have a knack for characterization, especially through dialogue. Smithback is a perfect example of this. The moment he opens his mouth, you know just what type of guy he is-dogged journalist, jokester, and flirt. The police lieutenant D'Agosta is another fine character. Even the most minor characters come to life with a few deft keystrokes.

The other thing that is outstanding is the suspense. These guys could give horror movie directors several good lessons in frightening people. By choosing a large, sprawling, sometimes archaic museum, they set the atmosphere immediately. And describing just enough to let you know something very bad is going to happen, and you're not sure what. In fact, the thing you notice most is that whenever they mention the "odd smell", you immediately stiffen up. You can see what's going to happen immediately. As they are well aware, the greatest fright comes from anticipation.

Finally, the thing that got me most was the incredible, freaky twist at the end. Something you never saw coming, something that filled me with actual jaw-dropping horror, which no book has been able to do before.

Most of this is positive, however I do have a criticism. I appreciate this takes place in a heavy scientific setting. However, there is a lot of technical jargon that can lose a reader. The only reason I managed to get through it is because a lot of the jargon in this book was about genetics, and that's something I remember from high school Biology. But a lot of the equipment, the terms, etc. were over my head. And sometimes they run on in explanations about how these things work, and it only confuses me more. During re-reads my mind tends to skip over those parts without realizing it.

I would give this a 4 stars out of 5 with regards to readability.

Next I will review Reliquary, the sequel, and then Cabinet of Curiosities, all of which are part of the Pendergast series, as the books become increasingly focused on the FBI agent.

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