I like prologues but I’ve been told it’s frowned upon in today’s publishing market. I’d argue then that perhaps epilogues should also be ditched because the epilogue of this book blew it for me. The long, slow drag to the climax. I mean, I can only maintain my attention for so long following cops and guards and visitors and FBI agents and museum staff through underground tunnels for so long before I forget who everyone is and I don’t care what the hell happens to any of them.
I have mixed feelings about this book. So many things worked and so many didn’t. Honestly, there were too many characters that just didn’t need to be, too many needless scenes and conversations of back stories on Margo’s office mate. In the beginning of the book (chapter 3, especially) there I a lot of head-hopping. Chapter 33 is a chapter focused on Moriarty in his office that adds nothing to the plot, Chapter 37 is filled with lists and Part Three is 160 pages long, the bulk of which is spent either chasing or running from the creature in the underground tunnels.
Let’s talk about Margo while we’re at it. While I appreciate the feeble attempt at giving a female character a lead role in the story, she was the blandest, flattest, most boring character I’ve ever had to tolerate. I hated her and wanted her to get eaten by Mbwun. Oh and self-centered? Yeah that too. Besides the fact that as she sits in the cafeteria bemoaning how much work she must do while the police are investigating the brutal deaths of two children, she actually has the gall to say what an unbelievable horrible day it was because she only got three new paragraphs written and still had to work on the display case. Later the boys do warrant four short sentences before she goes on to wonder about her dinner. Margo is a brilliant researcher who chooses to take a JOURNALIST (yeah the one she wasn’t sure she could stand in Chapter 7) into her confidence. Eh, who am I kidding, her brilliant mentor, Dr. Frock, forgot he was in a wheelchair once, so maybe she comes by it honestly.
And now I want to say something I haven’t said much of this semester: I loved this monster (at first). The whole primitive creature searching out his only food source, making do with what he can when he can’t get those plants was believable. The explanation on the hormones in the hypothalamus made sense and the idea that there could be this strange, primitive creature in the depths of the rain forest is also believable. I liked it. I liked the statue, the journal, the mystery/backstory of the beast. And I liked Pendergast’s nonchalance. If this book had been focused on Pendergast with the others as minor characters and the monster stayed a misplaced primitive beast from the Amazon, this would have been an excellent and much shorter book. But no…
A review of a monster story by me would be amiss if I didn’t mention scientific inconsistencies and so, SPOILER alert here goes. The autopsy scene was laughable. No medically trained professional would use inches in measuring. (and by the way, 10” in DIAMETER is huge for a kid’s head). Medicine uses the metric system. The doctor has some good eyes as well, because to look at a damaged brain and see that the thalamoid region is missing is a pretty amazing feat. It is a small area in the mid brain that one would have to dissect deeply to find.
And last but certainly not least, poor Dr. Whittlesey i.e. Mbwun. I saw it coming but hoped I was wrong. Truly a virus that causes an immediate change to the body’s form is pushing it, but hey a potion worked for Jekyll and Hyde, so I can deal with that even (although I still would have liked it to just be a previously unrecognized creature) but the virus can’t replicate itself so the creature needs a constant supply of it or else it dies? Why? Why would it die? I mean if the virus caused the body to change, then it is functioning with that change, right? And if the virus keeps it at that form one would hypothesize that without the virus, the victim would simply revert to its previous form. And if it is all about the virus, why then did Mbwun need the hypothalamus? How in the world would it replace a strange and unique virus? One could also hypothesize that in eating the hypothalamus of so many humans, Mbwun would begin to revert to Whittlesey. And I hate to be that person, but Kawakita is an Assistant Curator in the Evolutionary Biology Dept. He isn’t a virologist and he must have left the museum with a million bucks because he has managed to build a secret lab in a warehouse in Long Island with all the equipment needed to manipulate viruses and keep research animals? All this BEFORE he could start selling his new, improved “drug”. I can’t even. This epilogue ruined the book. RUINED IT!
You know what the enemy of good is? Better. Sometimes we need to leave it alone and let it be. I wish Preston and Child could have.