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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Subterranean" by James Rollins (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Read a lost chapter from Subterranean (Read this after the book as it does contain spoilers) Here
Order Subterranean from Amazon here

AUTHOR INFORMATION: James Rollins is the pen name of Jim Czajkowski and is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of The Doomsday Key, The Last Oracle, The Judas Strain and many other adventure thrillers. Jim also writes fantasy under the pseudonym James ClemensThe Banned and the Banished, The Godslayer Chronicles—and was also the writer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie novelization. Jim is also a veterinarian in Northern California and can often be found underground or underwater as an amateur spelunker and scuba diver.

PLOT SUMMARY: Beneath the ice at the bottom of the Earth is a magnificent subterranean labyrinth, a place of breathtaking wonders – and terrors which are unknown and beyond imagination. A team of specialists led by archaeologist Ashley Carter has been hand-picked to explore this secret place and to uncover the riches it holds. But they are not the first to venture here – and those they follow have not returned. There are mysteries here older than time, and revelations that could help change the world. But there are also things that should not be disturbed – and a devastating truth that could doom Ashley and the expedition: they are not alone, underneath the ground lies a world akin to none!

CLASSIFICATION: Subterranean is a rip-roaring mix of action and adventure, techno thrills, and a splash of the fantastical. Think Michael Crichton’s Jurrasic Park meets Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

FORMAT/INFO: Subterranean is being re-released as a hardcover after releasing nearly 11 years ago as a mass-market edition. The HC edition stands at 422 pages and is divided into 5 titled sections further divided into 37 chapters along with a prologue and an epilogue. The narration is via Third person omniscient and features many characters mainly Ashley Carter, Ben Brust, Khalid, Sergeant Michaelson, etc.

March 9, 2010 marked the HC release of this book by Harper Collins.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Subterranean was the debut novel of James Rollins under the Rollins pseudonym. It was published in 1999 and was available only in the mass market format. Nearly 11 years after its release it is being republished in the hardcover format. Subterranean is a book which is hard to describe without revealing much of its plot. The book begins with a scene set in some underground caverns and with a typical pattern ends on a note which will compel the reader to read ahead.

The book’s main protagonists are Ashley Carter, who is an expert in archaeology and Benjamin Brust who is ex-Australian military. Ashley Carter gets an exciting offer to lead an expedition into Antarctica to find out the whereabouts of a recently discovered idol. Ben Brust however gets coerced into joining the group due to his caving skills and because if he doesn’t he will have to face legal consequences for his previous action. A team of individuals is assembled which includes experts from other nations as well and they plan to go ahead to find out the origins of the idol. The set up is such that they will have to travel to Antarctica and then go below it to mine it for the idol origins and other possible treasure which can be salvaged.

As per expectations things go haywire for reasons unexpected (I cannot reveal what reason as it’s a highlight of the book) The team then due to the circumstances gets broken up into smaller groups and it is from here on the real fun begins. James Rollins draws us into a subterranean world which is wondrous and deadly at the same time; the world created is almost like an extra dimension/character to this book and this was often a highlight of James earlier standalone books wherein the environment was always a special one and a crucial part of the story as well. The story then takes some rapid twists as the reader is taken deeper into the subterranean world. The plot then totally escalates into a wild adventure ride wherein the background of the earlier teams and the origin and details of the idol are revealed. In the end James packs up an incredible climax involving several of the plot threads bringing the story to a resounding climax.

The imagination of Rollins, in making up such a fascinating underworld and the terrific action sequences will keep the readers hooked on to the book. This book is one of my favourites and was the second book I ever read of James Rollins but this was the book which made me a fan of his. This book is a self contained one and the author has also left a very appropriate strand open for a sequel which if he does write, will immediately become a must-read book personally.

CONCLUSION: Highly highly recommended for all thriller and adventure fiction fans. This book is quintessential James Rollins fare and possibly one of his best. So pick this up and find out for yourself why James Rollins is considered by many to be a unique combination channeling both Clive Cussler’s action plots and Michael Crichton’s science-laced ideas to come up with his own brand of thrillers.

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