A convincing sci-fi thriller about a pair of modern-day scientists who discover an ancient Chinese colony in the jungles of South America.
In Canter’s (The Bastard, 2012) fast-paced thriller, Mason Drake and Tree Summerwood—longtime friends, former lovers and fellow scientists—have their work cut out for them. As they study the biodiversity of the Amazon rain forest, their work is dramatically interrupted when they become the only survivors of a helicopter crash on one of the 3,000-foot tepuis that form the jungle’s remote highlands, where “only the deep trenches of the world's oceans had seen fewer humans.” It’s not long before they discover evidence of a long-lost colony founded by the 15th-century Chinese explorer Zheng-He, “the Magellan of China.” The colony has become a thriving, hidden civilization composed entirely of women, ruled over by a forbidding empress. Mason and Tree meet the exotic Hsiang K’un-Chien (“Perfume of Earth-Heaven”), who possesses a remarkable physical ability that allows her to get to know both Drake and Summerwood, which gives the book’s second half an unexpected, deftly written erotic charge. In search of their missing mission colleagues, the pair must negotiate both their feelings for each other (Mason, scarred by his recent past, is wary of Tree’s feelings for him) and the strange ways of K’un-Chien’s people. Canter expertly sharpens his narrative with humor and action; vicious piranhas, a clutch of menacing Komodo dragons, swarms of killer bees and weirdly intelligent monkeys are only some of the oddities Mason and Tree encounter as the plot builds momentum. They’re also caught in a sexual power struggle among the hidden tribe, and when they prepare themselves to escape, the book’s tempo increases even further. Canter masterfully allows the scientific exposition to flow naturally in the narrative; like books from Michael Crichton and James Rollins, the story is both informative and exciting. Fortunately, the bit of clichéd dialogue is more than countered by thought-provoking digressions into the sources of sexuality and sexual fidelity, all while suspense holds until the very last page.
A striking sci-fi adventure.