Amazonia: A Haggardian adventure for the modern age

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Amazonia by James RollinsAmazonia by James Rollins (aka James Clemens)

A scientific expedition of thirty people enters the Amazon jungle and is never heard from again. One of the expedition’s members was Gerald Clark, a former special forces turned CIA agent after he lost an arm in combat. Four years after he disappeared with the expedition, Agent Clark stumbles into a remote mission — covered in markings, his tongue cut out — and then dies in a fit of convulsions. That’s not even the strangest part. When Agent Gerald Clark comes out of the jungle, he has two arms.

How’s that for a premise? If that’s not a spectacular story hook, then I don’t know what would be. While not technically classified as fantasy, Amazonia does contain its fair share of monsters, magic, and lost worlds. It’s fantasy in nearly every way except marketing. Most of James Rollins’ work rides this line between genres, and it always makes for a fun read. If you are looking for a good adventurous romp with a sprinkle of fantasy there really is no better avenue than a Rollins novel.

Despite its incredible premise, Amazonia doesn’t quite deliver on all that promise. It relies very heavily on some classic Amazon adventure tropes. The thick humid jungle is as much an adversary as the bad guys of the story. That’s right, I said “bad guys,” as in twirling-mustache, pith helmet-wearing, French accent-speaking Bad Guys. The heroes of the story are just as stereotypical. The main character is a shotgun-wielding Nathan Fillion look-alike with daddy issues. The natives are often depicted as magical and mysterious. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things on their own, but put them all in one story and it makes for a fairly predictable recipe.

Stereotypical characters aside, Amazonia was a blast to read. Rollins really shines when it comes to writing action. The sequences he writes come alive and play out in your mind like a summer movie blockbuster. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Amazonia as a SyFy channel special presentation followed by Sharknado on a Friday night lineup. Amazonia is definitely worth a look for those who think they might like a classic adventure, but don’t want to stray too far from their fantasy comfort zone. If I ever find myself in a reading slump and I can’t seem to settle on a particular book, Rollins has never failed to be a great remedy.

Published in 2002. The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world’s most inhospitable rainforest–a former Special Forces soldier, scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death, who went in with one arm missing . . . and came out with both intact. Unable to comprehend this inexplicable event, the government sends Nathan Rand into this impenetrable secret world of undreamed-of perils, to follow the trail of his vanished father . . . toward mysteries that must be solved at any cost. But the nightmare that is awaiting Nate and his team of scientists and seasoned U.S. Rangers dwarfs any danger they anticipated . . . an ancient, unspoken terror–a power beyond human imagining–that can forever alter the world beyond the dark, lethal confines of . . .

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit’s staff September 2009 – September 2012) Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn’t have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

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2 comments

  1. This was a terrifically fun read and the novel that started me on a brief but interesting passion for Rollins stories.
    • Justin Blazier /

      Something similar happened when I read his novel called Sandstorm. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. and it sent me on a several month long James Rollins marathon.

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