In the Courts of the Sun: Promising techno-thriller/time travel hybrid can’t quite deliver

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In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D’Amato science fiction book reviewsIn the Courts of the Sun by Brian D’Amato

In the Courts of the Sun is an interesting novel, built Frankenstein’s-monster-like from the elements of a Michael Crichton techno-thriller, Gary Jennings’ Aztec series, and one of Stephen Baxter‘s unique spins on time travel. I enjoyed the book, but it’s uneven. The book was written by artist Brian D’Amato and is the first in the JED DE LANDA two-book series.

The story is heavily character-driven, led by Jed DeLanda, a supremely intelligent, anti-social, hard-core gamer of Mayan descent. DeLanda is one of the few people in the world who can play an ancient Mayan game used to help see into the future. Capitalizing on the real-world 2012 doomsday popularity, D’Amato’s story places Jed in position to help decipher a recently discovered Mayan codex, and play his game to help unravel mysterious clues about the end of the world as predicted to take place on December 21, 2012.

Sequel.

Jed, connected through an insanely rich man and his organization, is given a chance to go back in time to find the author of the codex which predicts this 2012 doomsday. He’s not actually going back in time, himself, but his consciousness is transferred to an individual in 664 AD. The original target for Jed’s consciousness is the ruler of the Mayan city of Ix. Instead, Jed2 (as the consciousness part of Jed is referred to) misses the target and is placed in Chacal, a champion Mayan ball player who’s been selected as a sacrifice in place of the Mayan ruler.

About one-third of In the Courts of the Sun takes place in 664 AD in Central America and Mexico with Jed2 narrating his search for the author of the codex and how he might be able to play the game and determine the details surrounding the foretold 12/21/12 holocaust. Jed2’s narration is sandwiched between Jed’s narration leading up to the consciousness time travel and its aftermath.

The story is carried by a heavy amount of Jed’s inner monologue, which at times is quite good and insightful. I was particularly appreciative of his well-stated rants of self-actualization, and his introvert’s perspective on other personality types. Jed’s very snarky, which at times was wonderful at lightening the mood, but at other times was a little grating and rambling. He spends a good amount of time detailing the Game.

The conclusion of In the Courts of the Sun is disappointing. I don’t know how else to put it. I’m a big fan of exploration-era history and historical fiction, but haven’t brought myself to read the second half of the series, which was originally promoted as a trilogy. I’m guessing between editing needs and driven by low sales, the series was reduced to only two parts.

Published in 2009. Publisher: December 21, 2012. The day time stops. Jed DeLanda, a descendant of the Maya living in the year 2012, is a math prodigy who spends his time playing Go against his computer and raking in profits from online trading. His secret weapon? A Mayan divination game-once used for predicting corn-harvest cycles, now proving very useful in predicting corn futures-that his mother taught him. But Jed’s life is thrown into chaos when his former mentor, the game theorist Taro, and a mysterious woman named Marena Park invite him to give his opinion on a newly discovered Mayan codex. Marena and Taro are looking for a volunteer to travel back to 664 AD to learn more about a “sacrifice game” described in the codex. Jed leaps at the chance, and soon scientists are replicating his brain waves and sending them through a wormhole, straight into the mind of a Mayan king. Only something goes wrong. Instead of becoming a king, Jed arrives inside a ballplayer named Chacal who is seconds away from throwing himself down the temple steps as a human sacrifice. If Jed can live through the next few minutes, he might just save the world. Bringing to mind Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and Gary Jennings’s Aztec, yet entirely unique, In the Courts of the Sun takes you from the distant past to the near future in a brilliant kaleidoscope of ideas.

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JASON GOLOMB, who joined us in September 2015, graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve noticed that books written by people who identify primarily as artists tend to be far more character-driven than plot-driven; is this your experience, as well?

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