Genre: Thriller: Adventure
Rating: 3.5 Water Towers
James Rollins has a great imagination. This is, I think, the 4th book of his I have read and Excavation did not disappoint.
In 1538, in the Andes Mountains in Peru, Friar Francisco de Almagro is running for his life from Inca warriors. He just escaped his fate (death) to try to out run the inevitable. He reaches an Incan holy alter where he knows there is no escape, so to keep the gold cross he has wrapped around his neck, and knowing the Incas will not disturb one who died at this alter, he slits his throat.
Fast forward about 460 years.
Professor Henry Conklin has uncovered a mummy in the Andes Mountains and has brought it to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for examination. There, an old flame who is also a Professor (Joan) helps Henry analyze the mummy. Henry and Joan find the gold cross, then realize that the mummy had its throat cut. Then under closer examination with a CT scan, sparks fly….in more ways than one. The mummy starts to move wildly and a gold liquid substance explodes out of its head and goobers up the lab. As it turns out, this substance “Z” has quite amazing properties (it is NOT gold) being able to respond to virtually any type of energy, including a person’s thoughts.
After Professor Henry found the mummy he left his nephew, Sam, and a few graduate students in Peru to continue the “Excavation”. While Henry was fooling around with the mummy, and Joan, in Baltimore, the dig site was invaded by the guards who were hired to, supposedly, protect it. What they found was simply astounding, and all but one invader died grisly deaths attempting to extract the treasure from the magnificent gold and silver, booby trapped, room.
Discovering this intrusion, Sam and the graduate students (Maggie, Ralph, Norman and a 10 year old native boy , Denal, who is their interpreter) are trapped by a grenade blast from the lone survivor and are forced in the ensuing days to enter the gold / silver room to escape the impending collapse of the entire dig site. They have to figure out how to gain safe passage through the booby trapped room, which they do, and in the process pick up a “gold” dagger. They use that dagger, which magically turns into a key (remember thoughts can transform this “Z” substance though Sam does not yet know this) to escape from danger. They find themselves in a cave in the side of the mountain. They are safe….at least for a while.
As the book zooms through the pages, danger awaits the team in the form of pale tarantulas and strange ape-like beasts that like to kill then eat you. Eventually Sam and company find a way out of the cave (using the magical Z substance dagger once again) only to find themselves in the company of a native tribe of people who are……hmmm, I better not say…..and fighting a sect of monks hell bent on protecting the secrets that the “Excavation” has uncovered.
Mixed in the plot are love stories, great characters, suspense, intense action, and sadness and hope.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of James Rollins’s books I have read. Note: Under another name James Rollins is a practicing Vet in the Sacratomato area. So the science stuff rings true..very cool.