The Lost Island (a book review)

The Lost Island
Is it lost if no one knew it was missing?

It’s time for another excellent MojoFiction book review! Who said these are excellent? Statistically speaking, there’s a really good chance that someone probably did.

Anyway, since the book we’re reviewing, The Lost Island, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, is an adventure, let’s make this review an adventure.

Close your eyes (after you’ve read this review) and imagine you’re on a small, but luxurious boat in the Caribbean Sea. You have in your possession an ancient map discovered on one of the pages of the legendary Book of Kells. What’s that you say? A map of the Caribbean in an ancient Irish book? A map that was most likely created by the ancient Greeks? If that doesn’t grab your attention, what will?

Now, imagine that you have no idea what to expect at the end of your quest, but your employer (I didn’t say it was your boat) has led you to believe that it’s nothing less than a miracle cure for pretty much any malady known to man (except battle-royale video games – there appears to be no cure in sight for that madness).

It all sounds simple enough, but the map appears to be leading you to the Mosquito Coast, one of the most dangerous stretches of jungle in the world. Is it worth it? Do you press on as the danger closes in around you?  If you’re Gideon Crew, master thief and globe-trotting adventurer, you do.

I’ve never read a “Gideon Crew” book by team Preston & Child. I’ve read one Pendergrast novel, but it was weird. I didn’t know what to expect with Mr. Crew. The Lost Island actually starts off a little shaky, to be honest. See, Gideon Crew is a master thief, so there has to be something for him to steal or it wouldn’t be any fun. The authors start the story with a little pilfering action to get things going. But, by putting that at the beginning, the authors create a dilemma. How do you make a major heist right at the start really exciting? There’s no build up or anything, just an assignment to steal. The answer here is, meh, not that exciting.

I think if I had read the first two books in this series, I might have enjoyed the opening a little more. As it stood, it felt like I was being introduced to a morality-deprived anti-hero (wait to you see what they do to the poor Book of Kells). That’s not really the case, but I think some of the character complexities have been relegated to the previous novels.

There is, however, an unexpected, crazy-but-cool premise to The Lost Island. That’s where this book excels. The characters are okay, not boring but not deep – except for Amy, which I’ll get to in a moment; the dialogue is serviceable; the locations aren’t really anything new. But that premise… Other books have explored the idea of cultures older than the Age of Exploration sailing to the Americas. Lincoln & Child one-up everyone here. It sounds bizarre when you first read it, but they opened it up nicely to the point where I didn’t have a problem suspending my disbelief.

In the end, they actually ask larger questions than it at first appears. At what price progress? What are you willing to sacrifice to, presumably, move the human race forward? Who are you to make that decision? Good questions in today’s overpopulated and violent world.

Back to the character, Amy. She’s fascinating, full of mystery and depth. She’s been damaged in some way during her young life and it leads to unexpected character choices. I think the authors hit on something good there, but they don’t focus on it, which is too bad. You would think that a writer who hits on a character like that would want to go all the way, but they don’t. She should have been the main character. Her personal stakes are higher; her motivations held close. That would have been an engrossing perspective.

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