Thursday, March 08, 2007


by James Rollin
Avon Books
510 pages

One of the most endearing allures of the adventure pulps was their exotic locations. Having been written in the midst of the 1930s, there were still many mysterious places remaining on the globe in those days, the use of such locales was perfect for firing the imaginations of the readers. In the intervening years, mankind, and its ever intrusive machines, spy satellites, etc.etc. has poked its nose in every dark and deep shadow of the world and thus filled in most the blank spots marked uncharted.

That there still remains a few isolated pockets of terra firma where man has never trod, at least civilized man, gives the impetus and weight to this new thriller by James Rollins.

It is set in the middle of one the world’s last, honest-to-goodness, unexplored jungles; the Brazilian Amazon. Much like Michael Crichton’s CONGO, it is this savage wilderness that pulls us in to the mystery of the unknown. Whereas King Solomon’s fable gold mines were the supposed secret treasure in that earlier work, here Rollins invents a lost tribe of natives who supposedly possess supernatural abilities. One of these being the ability to regenerate missing limbs.

Nathan Rand’s father disappeared on an expedition to find this lost tribe. Now, four years later, a member of that doomed party, who had only one arm, emerges from the jungle, dying, but with two arms. Very soon both American and foreign pharmaceutical companies begin making plans to re-enter that green, deadly world in hopes of discovering the ultimate fate of the lost expedition. They also seek to find the miraculous restorative secrets of the jungle people. Medicines that can regrow limbs would make drug companies ten times richer then they already are.

Rand is asked to join the American team, led by a brother and sister team working for the C.I.A. and the American Health Institute. With them are representatives of the same drug company that employed his father, and a contingent of highly trained Army Rangers to help protect the group against the many dangers ahead. Of course any experienced reader, upon meeting this large cast is all too aware that most of these characters will serve only as fodder for the writer’s, and jungle’s, unique and imaginative death traps. And do they ever appear fast and furious. From giant river caimans, South American crocodiles, to a more bizarre swarm of deadly locusts. There are mutated piranhas that leap out of the water like frogs, by the hundreds, to a pack of giant black leopards with razor sharp claws that act as guards to the hidden valley where the lost tribe resides.

The guessing game inherent in any such novel is trying to figure out who will survive and who will not. The book’s finale, the revelation of the secret behind the lost valley and its wondrous healing plants is really well handled and I didn’t feel cheated at all. There’s a truly nasty, sadistic villain who has a psycho girlfriend twistedly into making shrinking heads out of the people she kills, if the rest of all this wasn’t enough to convince you, AMAZONIA is one hell of a great pulp ride. I’ll certainly be hunting up more of James Rollins work in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sound like a book I need to read.