Friday, August 05, 2011

Secret Societies and the Readers Who Love Them

So you may have heard of this author, Dan Brown?  He wrote this relatively successful novel called The Da Vinci Code, all about this professor who chases down ancient conspiracies about Jesus and Mary Magdalene to solve a modern day mystery.  I guess they made a movie about it or something...

Obviously Dan Brown's best-selling novel was more than relatively successful.  Say what you will about Brown's writing, he seemed to have tapped into a part of our cultural consciousness that believes in conspiracies and secret societies and vaguely impossible sounding alchemical magic.  And it's didn't start with Dan Brown, of course.  Indiana Jones was searching for lost artifacts in the jungles of the world at least 20 years before Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code.  I'm not sure why we as a society are so intrigued by the shadowy figures that we somehow fear are secretly running the world...perhaps it helps us make sense of the senseless, you know, like debt ceiling agreements or Donald Trump's hair.

Since every single literary phenomenon apparently needs its clones, there have been plenty of Da Vinci Code copycats.  I've read a few, and liked a few of those, but I had always avoided the novels of one of the more successful ancient mystery/secret society authors to compete with Dan Brown, James Rollins.  Something about his Sigma Force felt too militaristic and male to  be of much interest to me.  After all, I prefer even my mystery/thrillers to have female detectives.  Sexist of me, probably, but that's a topic for another post.

Well, wouldn't you know, Audible.com had a James Rollins book, Map of Bones, available FREE the last time I was looking for something to listen to on a roadtrip.  And who doesn't love free?!?  So, over 13 hours later, I can tell you that my concerns about Sigma Force were unfounded.  I was completely drawn into the world of Gray Pierce, Rachel Verona, and the mystery of the ancient mages they were trying to keep from the Imperial Dragon Court.

Map of Bones begins with a massacre in a church in Cologne, Germany.  Armed men dressed as monks unleash some sort of device that cause people to be electrocuted in their seats.  They also steal the scared relic of the cathedral-the supposed bones of the biblical Magi. Sigma Force is called upon by the Vatican to help them determine exactly who stole the bones and what their plans for them are.  Gray Pierce and his team are sent to the Vatican, and much mayhem ensues.

The upside to this kind of book is that the action is pretty non-stop, and there are lots of twists and turns to keep you engaged along the way.  And actually, there is some character development here, which you don't always find in this kind of action/adventure story.  The downside of this type of story is the enormous amount of historical exposition the author must try to work in around the gun fights, bombs, and car/boat chases.  Like most books of this types I've read, occasionally it felt slightly more like a history text than a novel, but Rollins actually does a decent job of having these little lesson occur in contexts that make sense-not, for instance, while standing over a dead body like one scene in Da Vinci Code.  All in all this was a fun, satisfying use of 13 hours in the car!


1 comment:

  1. I'm bummed that I missed out on this great deal. I haven't read James Rollins yet, but want to give him a try. I'm glad that it worked out for you.

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