Book Review: Excavation

Excavation

James Rollins

High in the Andes, Dr. Henry Conklin discovers a 500-year-old mummy that should not be there. While deep in the South American jungle, Conklin’s nephew, Sam, stumbles upon a remarkable site nestled between two towering peaks, a place hidden from human eyes for thousands of years. Ingenious traps have been laid to ensnare the careless and unsuspecting, and wealth beyond imagining could be the reward for those with the courage to face the terrible unknown. But where the perilous journey inward ends—in the cold, shrouded heart of a breathtaking necropolis—something else is waiting for Sam Conklin and his exploratory party. A thing created by Man, yet not humanly possible. Something wondrous . . . something terrifying.

Excavation was one of the few books I had left in reading through James Rollins’s catalogue — and I definitely enjoyed it a lot.  (Now I just have to read a couple of the newest books.  I’m also not yet reading his co-authored books.)

Like all James Rollins books, Excavation has extended sections that take place underground.  (In an author bio I read once, Rollins said he was a fan of spelunking and scuba diving, so almost all of his books take place underground or underwater.)  And like all Rollins books, Excavation mixes ancient history with modern science, creating a thrilling crisis with global implications.

While the writing style makes it clear that this is an earlier work of Rollins, as he has certainly gotten better with time, Excavation is one of the strongest of his earlier novels.  Rollins brings together a diverse cast of characters that bring unique skills and gifts to the plot, allowing each character a moment in the spotlight.  I particularly like this aspect, as I often tire of books where the central character seems able to do anything and solve any problem.  The characters in Excavation had to work together to get through it alive.

(And as a gay reader/writer, I was particularly pleased to see that Rollins included an openly gay character who not only played a central role, but was not stereotypically or flamboyantly gay.  I believe this is only the second time I’ve come across a gay character in Rollins’s books, but I particularly like how he handles them — they are seen as just regular characters who happen to be gay.  They are just as strong and courageous as all the others and they are not handled with special care because of their sexuality.  Far too often in fiction, I find that gay characters are included by an author to show how gay characters are normal people… and end up taking it to far that the character either becomes unbelievable or uninteresting.  Rollins handles gay characters very well.)

And if I can continue driving the James-Rollins-praise-mobile… Rollins does an excellent job of combining history and modern science, and adding in a touch of fiction to tie it all together to a thrilling and mysterious whole.  I’ve read other authors who have tried to do the same thing to varying degrees of success, but there was always an element of unbelievability to it, whereas Rollins gives everything such a polish that whatever he writes seems entirely plausible, despite knowing in the back of my mind that it’s complete fiction.

Rollins, in general and in this book, creates a believable world with an imminent crisis, and pulls the reader along for the thrilling ride.

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