Sunday, January 27, 2013

Subterranean, James Rollins

While is enjoy great literature, I am not averse to a romping action story.  And when I listen to audiobooks, which I only do when I drive or exercise, I need something that will keep me from being bored without taking attention away from what I am doing-especially when operating a 2000 pound piece of machinery at high speeds.  It is in this spirit that I downloaded my first James Rollins novel a couple of years ago.  Rollins is best known for his Sigma Force novels, where the dashing Commander Gray Pierce and his crack team of geniuses with black belts race around the globe averting catastrophes and solving historical mysteries.  They are basically The Da Vinci Code on steroids.  I've listened to a couple, and while I can't exactly speak to the accuracy of Rollins' historical or scientific research, the stories are plausible enough not to trigger my "yeah, right" meter.

I decided for my latest audiobook to download one of Rollins' stand-alone novels, called Subterranean.  The plot is like a mash-up of Jurrasic Park and Journey to the Center of the Earth, in that it had both human arrogance and greed,  and big, scary monsters from the past.  A team is sent below the surface of Antarctica to explore the remains of what appears to be a human settlement in caverns that have been recently discovered.  Also discovered-a solid diamond statue that has aroused the interest of scholars and businessmen alike.  The team includes an anthropologist, a geologist, an expert caver, a biologist, and a few Marines along for security.  What the team doesn't know is that the previous team that had been sent in to explore the series of tunnels and caverns had disappeared without a trace.  As they delve more deeply into the earth under the "uninhabited" continent, they discover fierce marsupial predators, unknown species of sharks, predatory snails as big as a basketball, a luminescent fungus that emits a powerful knock-out drug, and a tribe of intelligent marsupial "people" living in a village and growing a wheat-like plant...

Which is exactly where he lost me.  For about half the book, the plot, while incredible, did at least seem to have some basis in solid science...the semi-reptilian, marsupial predators did tweak my suspension of disbelief, but I went with it because humans running away from something trying to eat them is basically the basis of every monster-movie, ever.  But an entire race of beings, not human, developing human qualities and human-like behaviors and societal structures, despite having no contact with humans-sorry, nope, not gonna happen.  Had this novel been billed as fantasy, or had the setting been another planet, I could have gone there.  But not in a supposedly scientific thriller.  I did what I almost never do-I abandoned the story, choosing instead the download Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, which at least has the decency to call itself a fantasy novel.

So, if you're not bothered by scientific inconsistency and completely implausible storylines, then give this book a try.  But for myself, I'll stick with Rollins' historical mysteries, which for all I know may only sound well-researched, but which allow me to listen without rolling my eyes.

1 comment:

  1. It's not scientific inconsistency or implausible plot - we sort of expect this from this type of book; the thing that totally ruined this for me was the narrator - John Meagher. The Seals sound like k.d.lang & the "ossie hero" sounds like a 13 year old white Sth African boy - when he's making out with the female lead, I want to scream "Cradle snatcher!"

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