24 October 2010

78. Amazonia

Amazonia - James Rollins

This book took forever to read. I carried it with me for about a month. I read a few pages here and there. I kept trying to really get into the story, but it just didn"t grab me and not let me put it down. The book was just good enough to keep me coming back and the plot was just good enough to make me wonder what would happen next, but overall it was found lacking.

It starts out great. A man wanders out of the Amazon jungle after being missing for four years. He has regenerated an amputated arm! He is also riddled with numerous aggressive cancers that kill him before he is able to share his story. From that point it is discovered that he is highly contagious and people begin to die throughout the world.
A team is put together to trace his footsteps back into the Amazon in hopes of finding a cause and possibly a cure for what has happened.
So far, so good. It goes slowly bad from there. Nothing drastic, mind you, but it is full of jungle cliché and b-movie silliness.
While traveling the Amazon, what are the typical things encountered by everyone?

Well, there must be the obligatory death by alligator (caiman in this story)...check!

How about the mysterious jungle people and the legends that are meant to keep out all strangers...check!

Oh, and the "outsider" who after some tragic event has been accepted as a member of the "tribe" and is fully trusted by indigenous folks with all their secrets...check!

There needs to be a second group to throw a monkey wrench in the works in the name of corporate greed. Of course the big evil drug corporations will hire the "ends justify the means" evil tracker guy to steal the cure once our heroes find it. And of course this guy will have fallen in love with a sadistic tribal woman who is the world's greatest shrunken-head artist. (Can you feel the ridiculousness yet?)

These things just felt like jungle-story cheese to me. And then there were other things.

How about the group gets attacked by a cross between giant venomous frogs and piranhas. These little critters killed an entire tribe of natives, but just by coincidence the groups "medicine man" happens to have some powdery substance that puts these things to sleep.

So, we escape the piranha-frogs with minimal loses. Whew...but then they are attacked by a flesh-eating swarm of locusts. Once again, the medicine-man uses some ancient natural jungle herb remedy to keep the bad monsters from attacking (though not hurting them) and the group escapes. Once again, the only guys dying are Army Rangers. (Military is expendable when we are writing a book that is supposed to be pro-environmental solutions only. Man made solutions would not help make the jungle itself seem so supernaturally powerful.)

Then we need to get across a swamp. Oh, man, what will we do now? Let's build rafts! The rafts then get attacked by more caimans. But these fellas are not normal. They are ancient. They are well over 100 feet long! Once again...Rangers die.

Then there are the giant black jaguars that look like shadows at night. Please!

Finally we make it to the goal. This is the place where a tribe lives that was supposed to be only a thing of legend. But they are real...and it is totally whacked! A giant tree has captured all manner of creatures for centuries and is keeping them alive in its root system. It is analyzing their DNA and altering it to suit its own purposes. This tree has altered human DNA to enslave the offspring. The tree has created the piranha-frogs, the man eating-locusts, the giant jaguars and who knows what else! GET OUT OF HERE!

I carried this book all these weeks and plodded through it just to read some crack-head junk like that? So, the events of the story were just good enough to keep me interested, though they felt kind of goofy and clichéd. The climax was totally cartoonish in my opinion and wouldn't even make a decent believable Saturday morning monster movie from the 70's.

Overall, it was OK...but barely. Maybe that is why it took me over a week to even try and type this blog entry.

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