Australian thriller writer Reilly follows up his high-tech adventure Ice Station (1999), this time sending a mild-mannered professor on a breathless, hokey, beat-the-bad-guys hunt for an ancient Inca artifact that could blow apart the planet.
Starting on page one with a hapless French monk whose head explodes “like a watermelon,” the action just keeps on coming. William Race, a translator of ancient languages, is whisked out of his seedy NYU office and put on a US military jet to the Peruvian rainforest, where a gang of brilliantly able scientists (including Race’s former lover) and gruff military personnel are rushing to find an Inca statue that, according to an incomplete copy of a 16th-century manuscript Race can read as if it were a newspaper, was snatched from the clutches of murderous Spanish conquistadors and hidden in an undiscovered temple deep in the jungle. The catlike statue, called the Spirit of the People, was carved from a meteorite that smashed into Peru at the dawn of the Incan empire, and it just might contain a deadly concentration of an extraterrestrial element that, when combined with the latest, easily transportable doomsday technology, could destroy the Earth. At first, Race takes a backseat in most of the action here, watching as a rival bunch of homicidal German commandos fall prey to Indian arrows and monstrous cats. But, as nail-biting stunts, man-eating crocodiles, 11th-hour reversals, and other spectacular calamities reduce Reilly’s cast to a handful, Race learns that the triangular birthmark under his left eye just might be what the Incas believed to be the Mark of the Sun, and that, just like the original Incan prince who saved the statue from Pizarro’s looters, it just might be Race’s destiny to defend it against those who would exploit it for evil ends.
Michael Crichton meets Indiana Jones in a campy, blatantly derivative, nonstop plot-boiler: great, gasping, mindless fun.