Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka

Prophet of Bones
Author: Ted Kosmatka
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (April 2, 2013)

Description: Paul Carlson, a brilliant young scientist, is summoned from his laboratory job to the remote Indonesian island of Flores to collect DNA samples from the ancient bones of a strange, new species of tool user unearthed by an archaeological dig. The questions the find raises seem to cast doubt on the very foundations of modern science, which has proven the world to be only 5,800 years old, but before Paul can fully grapple with the implications of his find, the dig is violently shut down by paramilitaries.

Paul flees with two of his friends, yet within days one has vanished and the other is murdered in an attack that costs Paul an eye, and very nearly his life. Back in America, Paul tries to resume the comfortable life he left behind, but he can't cast the questions raised by the dig from his mind. Paul begins to piece together a puzzle which seems to threaten the very fabric of society, but world's governments and Martial Johnston, the eccentric billionaire who financed Paul's dig, will stop at nothing to silence him.

My Thoughts: PROPHET OF BONES was a curious book. It is science fiction and alternate history both. In this story, when the evolutionists and the Creationists debated, the Creationists won the argument. Science is very much under the control of the churches which don't want anyone to find any evidence that life began earlier than 5800 years ago. They are aided in covering up any contrary information by billionaire Martial Johansson who is busy playing God and creating his own genetic crosses.

Paul Carlsson is a scientist who is an expert on bones. He is recruited to look at some at an isolated dig in Indonesia. What he sees doesn't fit in with anything he knows about. Someone else has found out about the discovery too and is eager to kill anyone who might spread the word. Paul's friend is killed and Paul loses an eye but manages to make his way back to the United States. Unknown to the attackers, Paul has brought some samples of the bones with him. 

The story keeps building in intensity as everyone Paul brings in to the search for what the bones are is killed shortly after giving Paul additional information. Everyone is in danger and Paul has no one that he can trust. 

This is science fiction with a strong emphasis on the science. I don't know enough about genetics to know if the quotations that begin many of the chapters are real or made up. I will say that they are certainly written as though they were from academic papers. I also wasn't at all able to follow the very convoluted information about the genetic samples. This made it hard reading. 

The only way that I knew Martial was the villain was because his henchmen left a trail of bodies behind them.  The only way I knew that Paul was the hero was that he only left the bodies of those who attacked him behind. I think the book lost some intensity for me because I couldn't connect with Paul. As a character, he was opaque to me. I had no idea what kind of a person he was or what his goal was. 

Lacking an understandable plot, strong characters I could relate to would keep me reading. This missed on that aspect too. My ARC has positive blurbs by Clive Cussler, Nelson DeMille, and Steve Berry. Either they are more well versed in genetics or they read a different book than I did. I don't know who the audience for this one would be but I know I wasn't the right one. 

Favorite Quote:
"It's easy to pretend that it's just theories we're playing with—ideas dreamed up in some ivory tower between warring factions of scientists like it's all some intellectual exercise." Gavin looked at him, his dark eyes grave. "But then you see the actual bones; you feel their weight in your hands, the sheer factual irrefutability of their existence..." Gavin stared at the road ahead. Finally he said, "Sometimes theories die between your fingers." 
I received this ARC for review from Christine at Henry Holt. You can buy your copy here.

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