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Planet Earth is fried and fricasseed in this wildly suspenseful post-apocalyptic action yarn only partially set deep beneath the ocean waves.

Compared to the sun-scarred humans still clinging to life topside, young biologist Jesse Baines is living well. Pacifica—the secret undersea lab nestled off the coast of San Diego where he and a community of other scientists have taken refuge after society’s collapse—is a self-sufficient oasis far from the reach of marauding cannibals. Still, Jesse can’t shake the feeling of being imprisoned in this pineapple under the sea, so he longs for a chance to ditch his cushy confines. When an unexpected disaster threatens Pacifica, he leaps at the chance to take part in a risky reconnaissance mission to recover some necessary items stored back on land. What unfolds next is all part of an ambitious plot that evokes elements of The Road and BioShock, the epic video game. Pryce’s muscular prose is relentlessly descriptive and often times even poetic in its blood and guts portrayal of a world seared into insanity. A keen sense of apprehension and anxiety consistently stokes the engines of suspense in an inexorable march toward ultimate calamity. Things only start to lag once the door is thrown open and the boogieman let out. Although artfully rendered, the main villain here is either a clichéd madman (right down to his evil genius grin), or (more generously) a loving homage to every Hollywood bad guy who’s ever plotted to take over the world. The story’s deep, dark, terrible secret, meanwhile, is a conspiracy theorist’s fantasy whirling with fears of overpopulation, global warning, genetic engineering and cloning. Some of the plot points seem a bit forced in order to facilitate the high adrenaline set pieces, while at least two other story threads are left virtually high and dry. But vividly rendered characters worth rooting for and supremely orchestrated action combine to compensate for any listing that might occur, which helps keep this semi-aquatic adventure on course to a thrilling conclusion.

Nail-biting fun amid near-future pseudo-science.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0984669103
Page count: 386pp
Publisher: Cenozoic
Program: Kirkus Indie
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FictionTHE LOST WORLD by Michael Crichton
by Michael Crichton