Sunday, June 27, 2010

Half a review for half a book

kw: book reviews, fantasy, thrillers, religion

A family friend who knows I've read The Da Vinci Code said I should read Map of Bones by James Rollins. Well, I tried, I really did, but about halfway through I jumped to the last twenty or so pages to read the denouement, and to be done with it. Too much bloodshed, much too improbable in its hairbreadth escapes, and too sadistic.

It is in the genre made popular by The Da Vinci Code: an ancient conspiracy with roots buried deep in the Vatican, makes a discovery that threatens the world order, and tries to consolidate their power using it; an elite force of spies and "special operatives" defeats them in a thrilling climax.

In this case, the action centers on bones purported to belong to the Magi, the visitors "from the East" who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, and on themes in Christian and pseudo-Christian pagan art (such as labyrinths) which provide clues to an ageless crypt that magically protects its secrets. Nowhere is it explained how the ancients (including Moses) converted gold into an inert white powder (an "m-state metal"; a hoax so far as I can determine) or how they produced the lasers and room-temperature superconducting materials that protect their secrets. By the way, large amounts of m-state metals such as iridium are stated to reside in our brains. Not so.

Along the way, a harmless club of aging aristocrats gets slandered as the origin of some really gruesome monsters (human variety, such as Vlad Tepes, the original Dracula). Surprisingly, this novel has a more sympathetic view of Roman Catholicism than is common among the Da Vinci spinoffs. And, in a common sort of ploy, a few random Bible references are used to blow out of all proportion the historical excesses of some who followed the apostle Thomas and mixed his teachings with gnosticism. Much mischief has been done through the ages by taking verses that seem hard to reconcile and supposing a duality, where God's intention has always been inclusiveness.

Our friend certainly dotes on thrillers. Me? Not so much.

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