Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Last week, I had a problem, a problem that I love to have. You see I had $15 in Border's Bucks that I had to spend during the month or else they would disappear. I had earned them by doing on-line surveys (not too many actually but I feel well-rewarded). So there I was at Borders Bookstore trying to decide what to buy. Now $15 equals about two paperbacks and it's very difficult to pare down my choices to just two. Do I go with what I "should" buy like another book in a series that I haven't yet completed, or do I go with a whole new author? That can be risky but only rarely do I end up with something I don't like. So I compromised with one of each. For my new book I chose Atlantis by David Gibbons. I had never heard of him nor recall seeing his books (which was difficult for me to believe considering how often I browse bookstores). I was totally sold on the cover, not only the art work but also the words on the back where it described it as an adventure that tops them all. It would be like Indiana Jones meets The DaVinci Code.

I really loved the premise of this book. The main character is a marine archeologist and gathers a team of experts in response to a find that seems to lead toward the discovery of the lost Atlantis. And I knew if I liked the book there were at least three more by the same author and with the same protagonist. The author himself is a professor of archeology at Cambridge for crying out loud and has led numerous underwater excavations and written extensively on the topic. To top that off, my daughter is an archeology major with a keen interest in underwater archeology so I figured she could enjoy it after me. What could go wrong?

Well, this is the hazard of buying a book by its cover. If I had looked at the Amazon ratings for all four books by David Gibbons I would certainly have looked elsewhere as I have rarely seen so many negative reviews for one author. It's easy to see why. The book had such promise and fell soooo short. To begin with, Mr Gibbons may be a great professor but he hasn't a clue about what makes a quality novel. My most important criteria for a good read is characterization. Characters have to be multi-dimensional and go through changes (either positively or negatively) somehow within the course of the novel. The main three characters in this book started out perfect and ended up perfect. The first half of the book is devoted to the three of them showing off their knowledge to each other, sounding like professors in a classroom. I realize that there is a lot of information that the reader will have to know in order to make any sense of the events that come later, but Mr Gibbons goes way overboard here. Way too many facts that, while interesting on their own, were just not necessary for good story telling.

And the plot was simply not believable. In the space of about two days, the characters solved numerous archeological puzzles that have been around for eons, one discovery leading to another and among the three of them they always managed to have the expertise required to answer the puzzle before them. And then half way through the book we get the thriller part thrust upon us in the form of a sunken Russian nuclear submarine and assorted bad guys to interfere with the archeological parts of the novel. The main character gets shot and is in dire peril of losing his life but three pages later it's as if that never happened. We get to see him shooting down a helicopter with a gun (of course he happens to know the weak spots of that particular helicopter and can adjust to the 200 mile per hour winds so he knows just where to aim). Truly Mr Gibbons seems less comfortable with the action parts of the plot and it shows in it's choppy presentation. The "edge of your seat" thriller aspect of this novel was more like "why do I care what happens to these people?" As soon as he can he wraps up that portion of the story and the characters go back to their professorial discussions and one-upsmanship.

It's too bad. I think Mr Gibbons has potential as a writer but this one seems like yet another attempt to capitalize on the success of The DaVinci Code style of novel. Hopefully he can learn how to build suspense, hold his audience, and most importantly, create characters to which the reader can relate and come to care about. Unfortunately, given the ratings he has received on his other books, it seems he has not learned these lessons and thus will be limited to impulse buyers who are attracted to the cool covers of the books.

Fortunately, I got to follow this one up with another short story from Stephen King's Skeleton Crew collection: "Nona". This is among the best of the collection so far and involves a man in prison who relates the story of meeting the exquisitely attractive Nona and her powerful pull on him...so powerful that he commits several violent murders on her behalf. There is a very subtle horror here in addition to the violent outbursts; it really grabs you and shakes you and doesn't let you go. And I enjoyed seeing some of the characters that show up in other King works, especially Ace Merrill from Needful Things. A very impressive tale and absolutely classic King.

Next up is The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like so many movies I've seen, as well as books I've read! If it's done in a cheesy or comedic way it can work (as with Indy, for instance), but if it takes itself seriously... No.

    (Incidentally, how many people out there think that The Da Vinci Code was actually well-written?!)


Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire