My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lincoln Child is a favorite writer of mine, and I have spent nearly a decade of reading well-constructed and thought out novels by this talented artist. When I first read his collaborative novels, “Riptide” and “Cabinet of Curiosities,” it was a truly magical experience that I can still recount vividly.
Over the years, Lincoln Child and his writing partner, Douglas Preston, have written a series of joint novels dubbed the ‘Pendergast Novels,’ as well each crafting several solo novels on their own accord. Generally speaking, Douglas Preston’s plots focus more heavily upon history and archaeology, while Child’s endeavors can be best described as ‘Technological Thrillers.’ Together they seamlessly blend these two wonderful genres to create a unique and riveting experience that indubitably leaves the reader imploring for more.
“The Third Gate” is Lincoln Child’s fifth solo novel, and is essentially a self-contained tale with no immediate sequels or prequels. So, if you want to dive into something that is a not precursor to a long-running series then this would be a perfect novel to read on cool summer’s eve.
Child takes the age-old mummy curse paradigm and re-imagines it for contemporary audiences by wrapping up present day technologies, a bit of the paranormal, and a splash of mummy’s curse for flavor. The resulting cocktail follows Jeremy Logan, an Enigmalogist, as he begins his employment for the mysterious, but highly successful explorer, Porter Stone. Along with a group of qualified technicians, scientists, archaeologists, and historians, they travel to an area found in South Sedan ominously titled, the Sudd. The Sudd is not a fictitious place, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) is the largest swamp in the world; it continues to grow in size every year due to its proximity to the White Nile. The core of Child’s plot focuses upon the final resting place of Narmer, the first king of unified Egypt. Stone has managed to locate his tomb by piecing together scraps of information scattered across the globe, but unfortunately it resides in one of the world’s most inhospitable corners, the Sudd. Towards the beginning of the tomb’s excavation a tablet is discovered depicting a particularly nasty mummy’s curse. At first glance, nothing is thought of it, but as mysterious circumstances start presenting themselves Stone is forced to bring someone onboard with an expertise in the odd, hence the inclusion of Jeremy Logan.
The premise grips you the moment you begin the novel, and throws you into the deep end with surprising results. The introductory chapter is phenomenally written; it is one the best beginnings that I have ever encountered in mainstream fiction. It is poignant and emotionally gripping, which immediately invests the reader in the characters and subsequently the plot.
However, the rest of the novel falls short until at glimmer presents itself at the very end. This is terribly disappointing considering the stellar introduction. Most the interesting plot points are divulged to Logan as he is being recruited to work on site for the famed archaeologist, Porter Stone, but once he arrives at their base of operations (deep within the Sudd) the narrative begins to lag. A bulk of the novel is spent following Logan as he aimlessly wanders about asking questions to anyone who will care to listen. Most of his questions go unanswered and it is not till the end of the book that it begins to pick up the pace once again.
Sadly, many of the characters are flat and shallow, and the few that are more rounded are not fleshed out properly leaving more loose ends then necessary. Much of Logan’s back-story is egregiously hinted at but never divulged in detail to the reader. It seems interesting and as if it would pertain to the plot, but by the end all but a few scraps of information are provided. Stone is one of the few characters (besides the protagonist) that has more than a flat edge about him; he plays the classic successful entrepreneur to a ‘T,’ and provides much of the driving force to the overall project, and thus the plot. Many of the other characters have interesting qualities, but they tend to be conflicting or underdeveloped.
The ending adequately wraps up the core narrative, but feels very rushed and sudden. It feels like 50-or-so pages are missing from the novel, and I that I was in fact reading a poorly abridged version. The lingering notions sprinkled in the closing paragraphs that are supposed to leave the reader feeling profoundly affected seem instead to come out of left field, ultimately undercutting the entire rhythm of the novel.
Oddly enough, I also thought I was reading a Douglas Preston book for the first hundred pages before realizing that Lincoln Child was attempting to write historical fiction, instead of his usual techno savvy novels. It is like Lincoln Child tried to copy his writing partner’s style, which resulted in a sloppy, mediocre novel that falls flat compared to his prior work. Child’s solo works include sentient computers, evil amusement parks, and alien weapon deposits, so to suddenly shift gears and write a historical thriller seems counterintuitive to his style.
I rate “The Third Gate” three-and-a-half stars out of five. Lincoln Child is far better than his latest work, and I would highly recommend reading “Utopia” and/or “Terminal Freeze” before cracking into the “The Third Gate.”
(Source: Review: The Third Gate by Lincoln Child)