RELIC by Douglas Preston


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 An eccentric, grisly, thoroughly original thriller sure to please doctoral candidates and gore junkies alike. The real star featured by Preston (Jennie, p. 1080, etc.) and former St. Martin's editor Child isn't the brain-eating, evolutionary aberration, quaintly dubbed the ``Museum Beast,'' that hunts victims in the subterranean catacombs of New York's Museum of Natural History: It's the museum itself. While the creature is never dull, thrill hounds couldn't ask for a creepier environment in which to encounter grad student Margo Green, journalist Bill Smithback, FBI Special Agent Pendergast, and a mob of bureaucrats, genetics geeks, and NYPD cops. On the eve of a heavily promoted megashow, the shredded bodies of two boys are discovered in the museum's basement. As the death toll mounts, Agent Pendergast, attempts to postpone the opening of an exhibit called Superstition. But he's vetoed by a publicity-conscious superior. Meanwhile, Green and Smithback combine forces to get the lowdown on some mysterious crates from a failed Amazon expedition that no one wants to talk about. It turns out that the ``Museum Beast'' is really a freak of nature, its DNA half-reptile and half-primate. It followed the crates to New York because they contained the last samples of its only food--when the supply ran out, the monster began snacking on nutritionally similar human brains. Fast, smart, and almost bulletproof, the beast also served as the central figure in the rituals of a vanished Amazon culture. If this all sounds wildly cool, it's nothing compared to the novel's final third, in which several groups of characters (including the mayor) are trapped in different parts of the museum and must fend off repeated attacks from the lizard-ape, which munches on SWAT teams and socialites before squaring off against Green and Pendergast. A thriller staged in the world's scariest building, with no room for the squeamish.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-85630-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994

Kirkus Interview
Douglas Preston
January 2, 2017

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God—but then committed suicide without revealing its location. Three quarters of a century later, bestseller Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization. The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story is his account of the expedition. “A story that moves from thrilling to sobering, fascinating to downright scary—trademark Preston, in other words, and another winner,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


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