Sunday, March 08, 2009

THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS

THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS
By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Vision Books
492 pages

The last time we saw Special FBI Agent, Pendergast, he had survived a deadly encounter with his brother, Diogenes, who died in that contest. All of that took place after Diogenes has violated his beautiful young ward, Constance Greene. In an attempt to heal her scarred psyche, Pendergast takes her to an ancient Buddhist monastery hidden deep in the mountains of Tibet. It is there that they learn that a very rare and powerful occult object has been stolen from the monks and Pendergast is asked to retrieve it. He is told that this strange thing, called Agozyen, is capable of unleashing a great evil upon the world. One that could have catastrophic results for all mankind.

Pendergast and Constance take up the hunt, trailing the thief to England only to find him horribly murdered and the Agozyen gone; this time into the hands of a killer. The trail leads to the docks and the launching of a new, super ocean liner called the Britannia, about to depart on its maiden voyage to New York City. The magnificent, ultra modern ship carries with it over three thousand guests and crew. And a fiendish, arcane monster that quickly makes its presence known with a series of gruesome, random murders.

Thus, while Pendergast and Constance continue to search for the identity of their unknown prey, the crew of the Britannia finds itself dealing with ship-wide panic and paranoia as their wealthy guests soon realize their leisurely cruise has become a nightmarish voyage to destruction. When Pendergast is mentally attacked and then subjugated by the Agozyen, it falls to Constance to somehow save him, if she can, before all is lost.

Since his first appearance in the team’s book, RELIC, Special Agent Pendergast has rapidly evolved into one of fiction’s most unique and appealing action heroes. I’ve always maintained that there is a modern version of most of the classic 1930s pulp heroes. We’ve all known from his debut novel that Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt was our new Doc Savage and all his subsequent adventures have born that out. I’d like to suggest that Pendergast is our new Shadow. He’s as original and mysterious a crimefighter whose greatest asset is his brilliant mind and encyclopedic knowledge of everything under the sun. I think the late Shadow scribe, Walter Gibson, would have been a huge fan of these books. They are pure pulp heaven.

2 comments:

Michael said...

Interesting about your comments of these sort of 'modern pulp characters'.

I've found myself reading more and more of the 'techno thriller' works in recent years, especially continuing series. I do think they have many of the styles of the early pulps.

I got into Cussler's in the late 90s or so, I think when I read on-line of a sort of connection/inspiration from Doc. I've been reading all of Cussler's stuff since.

I also go into the Pendergast (and other works by his creators) stories, and have enjoyed them. Douglas Preston's stand along novels have been using the character of Wyman Ford, who is interesting.

Some others I've enjoyed:

James Rollins. His initial works many times tied into 'lost worlds', tho I felt a lesser author to Cussler. Of late, most of his works have been about 'Sigma Force', an interesting science strike team of DARPA commandos. He also wrote the latest Indy novelization. He does give Doc Savage as an inspiration to him.

Jamed DuBrul's own geologist hero, Philip Mercer I find very interesting. Sadly, he hasn't been able to get out a lot of novels of him.

Craig Dirgo has his 2 John Taft works. Enjoyable.

Ron Fortier said...

Thanks for stopping by Michael, and your own observations. In launching their new Gabriel Hunt series, publisher Charles Ardai told a New York con crowd this would be the first such "new" pulp hero. As I was fortunate to be sitting on this panel with him, I took hold of my own mic and immediately corrected him, detailing the many such "new" pulp heroes we've been entertained by all these years. And I finished with saying, pulp heroes never went away, they just got modern.