Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Alexander Cipher

Book Review : The Alexander Cipher
Author : Will Adams
My Rating : 3 out of 5 stars

I am always on the lookout for books by new authors. When I saw "Alexander Cipher" and read the description, I was very enthusiastic about reading it. Now, having read it, I am not so enthusiastic about recommending it.

The book calls itself thriller, and it's written in the style of a modern page turner. Problem is, there is not enough incentive to keep turning the pages. That's a shame, because there is definitely a lot of potential here. The idea is cool, the author can write a complex plot and develop characters if he chooses to. But by focusing more on the Hollywoodish presentation than substance, the author lets the potential remains just that - a potential. On the plus side, there are no major logical holes - at the end things are nicely tied together.

During a building construction (in Alexandria, Egypt) a necropolis gets discovered which leads to some clues about the real location of the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. The excavation of this site and ensuing search for the location of Alexander's tomb entangles the lives of all characters in the story. The hero is Daniel Knox, an archeologist who is connected by just one degree of separation to everyone else in the story.

This is a decent idea, sort of Indiana Jones, sort of Da Vinci Code. And there is plenty of running around - in fact way too much running around. That doesn't leave author much scope to do anything else. There is a bit of history lesson, there is some character development (especially the Egyptians) - but there is no puzzle solving as was in Da Vinci Code. And since we are not invested in any of the characters, we really don't feel much for them, let alone root for them. As a result, the countless action scenes do not feel thrilling, as we really don't care about what happens to whom.

I am OK with mindless page turners, but not if they are this long. And this didn't have to be like that. Egypt, Alexander, lost tomb, treasure hunt with clues - this is more than enough ammunition to sprinkle a handful of historical trivia in a gripping thriller. Just stop making your characters run from a place to place every third page, escaping one danger after another and sit down to develop them, throw in some puzzles, blend in some more history, take the reader with you on an intelligent adventure ! Oh well.

I can neither recommend against reading this book, nor for it. Set your expectations right, and you may like it.

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