This was my first James Rollins read, at the suggestion of my friend Kandravy, who also recommended I read the amazing A Game of Thrones and The Name of the Wind. Amazonia is clearly not on the same level as these books–but I’m a fan of adventure/sci-fi novels. Growing up I read every Michael Critchon book I could get my hands on. I was also drawn in by the book jacket’s hook about a man who goes into the jungle with one arm missing and stumbles out of the jungle years later with both arms in tact–how could you not want to start reading!? But unfortunately, my excitement for Amazonia was short-lived.
The book centers around father and son, Carl and Nathan Rand. Years ago, Carl, Nathan’s father, led a scientific expedition into the Amazon, never to be seen again. Though recently, a well-known member of the expedition, Gerald Wallace Clark, stumbles out of the jungle with his previously missing arm in tact. He passes away shortly after escaping the jungle, but the company that had invested in Carl Rand’s exhibition, Tellux Pharmaceuticals, alongside the CIA’s Environmental Center and Special Forces Command, decide to follow Clark’s trail back into the jungle to try to find clues about the missing expedition. Nathan Rand is asked to be a member of the new expedition and he can’t turn down an opportunity to learn more about what happened to his father.
A large team, including Tellux’s Dr. Richard Zane, army rangers, scientists, a professor who speaks over 150 indigenous tribe dialects, an anthropologist, a pet jaguar, etc, begin the deadly trek into the Amazon. And it doesn’t take long for members of the exhibition to start dying off. The team encounters what seem to be supernaturally enhanced killer piranhas, ants, jaguars, locusts and more, as they follow Clark’s path and start piecing together the mystery of the missing exhibition.
Meanwhile, as Clark’s body is shipped back to the U.S. for testing, something he had or was in contact with causes a plague to spread, threatening to kill thousands of Americans, unless the exhibition can possibly find the anectdote hidden in the jungle.
I just couldn’t shake how unreal the book became the further I read on. At first, it was a bit far fetched, but what book in this genre isn’t? But it got more and more “out there,” with all the supernatural animals and wildlife, the people in the jungle who can’t be trusted, and other scenarios the team encounters that I can’t mention or I’d give away the whole story. I could barely will myself to finish the book. Kandravy’s response to me was, “Far fetched like dinosaurs eating tourists?” I had to laugh, because I did love Jurassic Park. But yes, this was more far-fetched, to the point where I couldn’t believe an ounce of what was going on and I started to dislike the characters because of it. I think you can only take hokey sci-fi so far before you lose the reader completely and Rollins lost me.
Based on Amazonia alone, I’m not sure that I’d read more of Rollins. Can anyone persuade me otherwise? I’m also considering re-reading Congo, to see if I enjoy it as much now that I’m older?