Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Book Review: Ken Follett's Hammer of Eden

The Hammer of EdenI just submitted this review to Amazon.

Plot holes big enough to drive a seismic vibrator through

The idea, at first blush, is bold and captivating. A fringe, cult-like group is determined to protect their Northern California commune from developers. To do so, they need a credible means to force the state government to cease their incessant land-grabs. With the help of a geologist who's joined the commune, the cult leader (Priest) determines there may be a way to trigger earthquakes using a sonic mapping device known as a seismic vibrator. Priest intends to blackmail the state using the threat of earthquakes.

Follett's talent is prodigious. He's almost capable of making us believe that this preposterous scenario is remotely plausible. But even his immense talent isn't enough to make up for the succession of plot holes big enough to drive a seismic vibrator through.

Example: At one point, Michael seems to be the only one in the state who hasn't seen Priest's picture on television. Because Michael encountered Priest early on in the story, he should have recognized him on TV and the entire FBI dragnet should have ended a lot sooner.

The puzzle pieces are all there, in formulaic fashion: The cute, female FBI agent. The cute, divorced male geologist Michael. The Manson-like cult leader Priest who, though illiterate, is able to evade the FBI repeatedly while driving a giant seismic vibrator that tops out at about 40 mph. I'm sure you can guess what happens.

If you're stuck inside on a rainy day and you happen to have this laying around (and nothing else to do), certainly go ahead and read it. Otherwise, learn macrame or origami. You'll drive yourself crazy second-guessing the characters and the author in this all-too-predictable bore-fest. Mr. Follett is far too talented to be producing works of this caliber.

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