CATACOMBS by John Farris


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In a marked improvement, Farris gives up his slobbering ghouls (All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, The Fury) for a foolish but evocative, updated H. Rider Haggard occult-adventure--something like a nuclear cross between She and King Solomon's Mines. Erika Weller, co-leader of the Weller/Chapman expedition, has spent six months studying the artifacts of her digs at a prehistoric burial ground near Lake Tanganyika--only to have fellow archaeologist Henry Landreth steal the red-diamond bloodstones they've found, stones which contain (in pictograph) the history of an advanced cat-people civilization that flourished 10,000 years ago and is still in suspended animation in a gigantic catacomb hollowed out of Mount Kilimanjaro! (The catacomb is protected by FIREKILL, a forcefield merging gravity with the earth's electro-magnetic core.) Landreth has sold the stones to Tanzanian leader Jumbe Kinyati; so now Jumbe has the crucial pictographs for building a FIREKILL whose field will repel any nuclear force sent against it, and he offers his formula to the USSR and the US--whichever one gives him guided missiles within 30 days (he plans to run the white government out of South Africa). Enter, then: super-agent Matthew Jade, who's assigned to steal the bloodstones for the US. . . while KGB superspy Michael Belov also gets in the act. Jade retrieves Patty-Hearst-like Raun Hardie, daughter of the dead archaeologist who first found the catacombs, from a Colorado prison; she'll help Matt parachute right onto the slope near the catacomb. And much blood-and-thunder stuffing, international-melodrama style, ensues--before they finally do get into the catacombs. . . which are collapsing under rising magma. No exploration of that lost civilization, then; and too much hard-to-swallow folderol along the way. But for readers willing to suspend heaps of disbelief: a lively, often scenic, thriller/fantasy hodgepodge.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1981
Publisher: Delacorte