Veteran fantasy writer Foster (Kingdoms of Light, 2001) attempts a comic, contemporary adventure story with painfully awkward results.
After a tryst with femme fatale Tai Tennison leaves American drifter Steve Bohannon feeling “as if he had been typhooned halfway across the South Pacific,” he wakes up in his Port Morsby, New Guinea, hotel room to discover she's stolen $2,000 in cash but left his credit cards and traveler’s checks. Motor-mouth Australian pilot Sorely McCracken tells Bohannon that Tennison has gone into the dank New Guinea Highlands to join prospector Ragnarok Stenhammer on a crazed quest for gold. Swayed by motives he can’t quite understand, Bohannon decides to pursue her, hiring McCracken as a guide. For about half of these pages, Bohannon veers between elation and dismay at the New Guinea landscape with its huge butterflies, disgusting leeches, and primitive, cannibalistic tribespeople, who will start a war over a misplaced pig but halt their hostilities to help McCracken change a flat tire. With faithful Highland guide Alfred, they eventually discover the beautiful Tennison, the brooding Stenhammer, and gold that, quicker than you can say “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” becomes a liability as ironic calamities imperil their survival.
Manic, overheated travelogue, with astonishingly bad prose: McCracken’s “individual eyebrow hairs struck repeated blows for follicular independence, twisting and curling violently in all directions like helectites on the wall of a limestone cave.”