Here’s another review to go alongside my Books and Tea reading challenge. I picked Altar of Eden as my Why Haven’t I Read This Yet? title, as I got it from a quirky bookshop on a day trip to Canterbury.
Related: New year, New me Challenges
Related: Visit Canterbury
Having never read any of James Rollins’ works, and with the book having a rather vague blurb, I had no idea what to expect.
The premise (I think) is a female biologist, Dr Lorna Polk teaming up with Border Patrol (for some reason), to investigate a series of animal experiments, while a highly intelligent sabre-tooth tiger runs wild in the Louisiana swamps. Of course, the head of Border Patrol is Jack Menard, the older brother of Lorna’s teenage boyfriend, who died in an accident that they were both in. Of course, everyone in his family resents her for it. Of course, they’ll end up together in the end.
I really wanted to enjoy it because it seemed like it would be an easy read, but I struggled to get into it. There’s a lot of telling, rather than showing: for example, Rollins introduces Jack’s older brother, by him referring to Jack as ‘little brother’, then by telling a nothing back story of his character – he was in prison and hit a police officer. The book is full of weird choices, like the use of acronyms that the main character doesn’t understand, which then need to be explained to us as readers, or strange dialogue choices – ‘You said jaguars fed not just on turtles and fish, but also on caiman. The southern cousin of the American alligator.’ Why on Earth would anyone add the second sentence? Surely everyone, or at least the caiman he is talking to (who said it in the first place) knows what a caiman is. And even though Rollins is leading up to changing the setting to ‘Uncle Joe’s Alligator Farm’, I’m sure his readers would have been able to work it out without being told.
The book’s saving grace is that the chapters are incredibly short, only a few pages each. If you’re into multiple POVs, the narrative perspective changes from Lorna in the first section, to jumping between characters. If you’re into complicated, inexplicable action, the latter half of the book is for you.
Altar of Eden had so much potential to be a really thrilling story, but in my opinion, it fell a little flat, relying on chaotic action movie tropes rather than crafting a meaningful story.
Oh well, onto the next book!