Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Last Templar (review) and the menace of history

I’m pondering this new phenomena: the pseudo-mystical historical artifact hunt conspiracy thriller. It’s history out to make trouble for modern man. Seems to be centered primarily around Christian mythos, but there’s a fair amount of Egyptian tapping as well. When did history and speculation become such a threat to the current day, and what is the mind set of the current day reader making such things plausible, interesting, and believable? It’s sort of like Zombies. Zombies freak people out, more so than say, the Boogey man. Why? What is it about the living dead that makes a rational person so ready to accept they’re a threat? It’s always interesting to me, what things worry the modern psyche.

I guess part of my interest is academic. The Eternity Covenant has elements of the conspiracy thriller, and artifact hunting, though the stories in the series are more overtly mystical and assume that all Gods of myth exist as does magic in it’s many forms. Nothing pseudo about it. So it’s interesting to see how others handle similar things.

I read an older model, Cleopatra’s Needle. It caught my eye in the bookstore because of a certain element of the current WIP I’m involved in, and held it because it used elements of Jewish mysticism. The book itself started off okay, but got far too bogged down in details. I finally put it down midway through because it had so much backstory there was no front story anymore. That, and I couldn't really care less about the characters. Always the kiss of death for a book where I'm concerned.

I did try to read Da Vinci code. But as my earlier review attests, it was not my cuppa. Too much info dumping left the real story, and me, by the side of the road.

Now I’m reading The Last Templar. This one is working for me. The info dumps are there, but instead of dumps they’re done in terms of the story, one person advising another, or a team of the FBI, or correcting something. Or, a shift for a few pages to the past events and characters that have shaped the pseudo-mystical historical artifact hunt conspiracy in the current day. I’m not sure you can write a book of this ilk, with so much historical minutia building to a conspiracy, without info dumping. How much obscure history and heresy can you expect the average reader to know? It’s a trick, though, getting it out without sacrificing the story. I have to say the Last Templar, by Raymond Khoury manages to bring in the victory on that account.

The pacing is a little choppy, but it’s interesting. Still, it’s based in Christian myth. I wonder, am I missing the main stream books of this new sub-genre of thriller that explore other elements of history? Or, is this the main thrust of the sub-genre in that it’s what the major publishers are pushing?

Either way, the book itself is enjoyable. The Templars, wow! Couldn’t get more religious-mythic fodder for conspiracy then them. It’s worth picking up. Even more so because the author handles facts well. Definitely a good holiday read.

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