Thursday, May 13, 2010

Forty-Eight X : The Lemuria Project - Barry Pollack

Summary: A colonel with a shadowy past… A new kind of war and warrior… A military science experiment out of control… On the island of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the United States has gathered together its most talented scientists to conduct top secret experiments. Their goal—to create a revolutionary new warrior. A warrior so strong, so valiant, so expendable that the age of “casualties of war” becomes only a sad and distant memory. And so, the Lemuria Project is brought to life—by a Nobel laureate in genetics and a three-star general seeking redemption in a long-lost and forgotten metaphysical civilization.

Haunted by a dark and dangerous past, Colonel Link McGraw is the officer chosen to train and lead these special “soldiers.” In the course of battles to renew his tattered reputation, he, above all, knows what constitutes the perfect soldier. It’s simple: Follow orders, command decisively, make no excuses, and have no regrets.

When Egyptian beauty Fala al-Shohada and Israeli Joshua Krantz, romantically paired archaeologists, stumble across the top secret project, they are determined to uncover its true nature and pursue their quest to the island of Diego Garcia. Science and politics clash, as do Krantz and McGraw, who vie for Fala’s affection. When they discover they aren’t the only ones on the island competing for her attention, shocking truths are revealed.

The future of the entire human race comes to a crossroads on Lemuria. Will humanity find there its loftier spirit or become a lesser species in earth’s evolution? (Summary from book - Image from - Review copy courtesy of publisher)

My Review: I should have heeded the warning on the gimmicky paper seal that held this book when it arrived in the mail: “Warning: Detailed information about the Lemuria Project is contained within this novel.” If I knew then what I know now, I would have set the book aside and saved myself the trouble of learning about what is surely among the least thrilling secret military projects ever devised by aspiring fictioneers.

It’s not that the plot was predictable and the characters wooden; one comes to expect these things from genre fiction, and see past them. In fact, using a stock plot, near-stock characters (aside from the military mens’ unexpected new-aginess, about which more later), and background research that had all the depth of a Wikipedia article should free an author up to focus on grand visions, penetrating insights, or thought-provoking speculation. No such luck here, though; Forty Eight X-The Lemuria Project fills its pages with plodding exposition, dialogue that reads like late-night infomercial transcripts, and platitudinous hand-wringing about the ethics of war and genetic manipulation. Finally, it drags itself to a series of heavily-telegraphed plot “twists” that serve in place of any true climax.

But on the bright side, the novel’s very clumsiness opens the door for moments of true entertainment. The image of a battle-hardened, square-jawed general getting touchy-feely with his flaky “spiritual guide” above the cosmic vortices of Sedona will stay with me for—at least a bit. Such moments abound, thanks to the book’s attempts to shoehorn all of its poorly-fitting themes into a coherent plot. In other words, this one’s for you, B-movie fans and connoisseurs of the unintentionally ironic. All others, consider yourselves warned.

Star Rating:
2 stars. Warning for delicate sensibilities: It’s not the graphic carnage that has the potential to offend so much as the distressingly awkward sex scenes and the cavalier chauvinism with which they’re handled.

Sum it up:
Jurassic Park with apes and reincarnation, but with less dramatic tension.

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