Saturday, July 05, 2008
70. Excavation - James Rollins

Simple plot summary: an archaeological excavation uncovers the 500 year old mummy of a Spanish priest buried in the Andes along with the ruins of an ancient temple structure. The head of the dig returns with the mummy to the US and discovers it's skull is filled with gold. Or so he thinks. It turns out to be a unknown, gold-like substance. The students left behind on the dig get trapped within the ruins and have to make their way through the temple and the caverns beyond to survive. Along the way they're chased by albino tarantulas and creatures that, from their description were last seen in The Descent. The rest of the book is filled with chases involving a killer (literally) band of secretive monks, a lost Incan village and gold that isn't gold which will transform itself into whatever you wish for, and, of course, more sunlight-deprived cave dwelling humanoids. Who may or may not be from outerspace.

Terrible. Well, not completely but 415 pages of my life I wish I could have avoided. Rollins' characters were carbon copies on those that you'll find in any other cheesy novel or film - they lacked substance and, at times, I found his blatant stereotyping of them offensive. The plot of a work of fiction should be given some leeway in terms of outright believability but this pushes the limit. Monks trying to recreate Jesus/God in order to bring him to life? And the Incans who succeeded in resurrecting one of their own gods? Hmmm, a quick look at the plot of his latest novel, The Last Oracle, and you begin to see that it's just a tad bit similar. And it's not just similarities between these two books. Halfway through Excavation and I was having flashbacks to the first Rollins book I read, Amazonia. Plenty of the same themes running through that novel as well, although it was far more believable and much more enjoyable. I was not surprised to discover on his website that Rollins will be penning the novelization of this summer's big screen dud: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Who better than to write the book version of one of the most unbelievably bad cheesy films than a cheesy novelist?

In the "acknowledgements" portion at the beginning, Rollins makes a point of thanking Eric Drexler, the author of Engines of Creation, whom he writes was the inspiration for the science behind Excavation. It's easy to tell that Rollins, a real-life veterinarian, was blown away by Drexler's book - he refers to him a number of times throughout the novel when the subject of nanotechnology is discussed. I don't know much about this field of expertise but I do know that relying on just one source for your material is not recommended. To be honest, if this "science" had been left out and a few minor changes made, this might have been a half decent book.

Because I enjoyed my first experience with his writing (somewhat), I'll give him one more shot. However, I wouldn't recommend running out and buying one of his books to start with - try to find a copy at your local library or your neighbourhood used book store.

NOT recommended.

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