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Monday, February 7, 2011

Subterranean, by James Rollins ($9.99) (c1999)

Two words: escapism, fun. This was James Rollins' debut book, and people have been coming back for more since then. Like Clive Cussler and Michael Crichton, he takes his readers on improbable adventures, with a smattering of real history and science to back it up.

An older scientist has amassed a group of specialists and military guards to explore a series of linked caverns two miles beneath ... Antarctica. A relic has been found, indicating a primitive culture existed long before man stood on two legs, and archaeologist Ashley Carter and Australian spelunker Ben Brust are two of the people who will investigate its origins. Ashley has a young son who, for contrived reasons, must accompany the group, at least to the underground military base from which the team will plough into the tunnels and caves. All this bustling about has irritated something nasty in the subterranean world, and it's coming to express its dismay ... loudly. Does this smack of something like Jurassic Park meets Journey to the Center of the Earth?

It's all contrived. Ashley and Ben's two-dimensional characterizations are alternately irritating and laughable. Movie stereotypes abound: hyperventilating curvy scientist, Middle Eastern biologist with a hidden agenda, macho-macho military men, and smelly but loveable characters that draw on forces from the dawn of man. Jurassic Park meets Journey to the Center of the Earth meets "Star Wars" meets Lord of the Ring.

Despite all that, it's hold-your-breath fun.

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