Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: COVENANT

Suspense/thrillers is a category of literature that has exploded in popularity in the last few years. The reasons for this are many, but an important one is the notoriety and success surrounding The Da Vinci Code several years ago, which also led to a mini-boomlet regarding "hidden" history theories and historical anomalies. Covenant fits squarely into both genres, and first-time author Dean Crawford has constructed a worthy and gripping tale that engages the reader's attention from the first page until the last. I don't like to give away too much of the plot in these reviews if I can help it, but the current and topical is mixed well with the offbeat and "off-range," to use a phrase from the book: unsavory aspects of the modern world like the kidnapping rackets in world trouble spots, private security firms, and evangelical Christian fantasies are welded with care to theories and ideas about alien contact in the past and the mysteries of pre-history. I happen to know a great deal about those theories and secrets, and so I wasn't surprised by what I was reading, but there is a lot of food for thought for the casual reader here, presented in a very absorbing manner, and the issues raised are very legitimate to ask.
There were other novelties that I liked. This is the first book in some time that I have read that takes place in the Middle East where the villains are not diabolically sneaky and fanatical Muslim jihadists; the Muslims in the book are portrayed sympathetically and with a great understanding of how the "War on Terror" and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict looks from the other side of the fence (no doubt a result of the fact that Crawford is British, not American, and therefore is largely free of the hysteria of the Bush years that infected nearly all Americans to some degree). Crawford's degree of knowledge about the anomalous nature of the dawn of civilization is impressive, accurate, and focuses on areas far beyond an infantile fascination with Chariots of the Gods trivia; in particular, he is very cognizant of the fact that the beginnings of civilization around the world are underwater, after the Great Melt at the end of the last Ice Age. Crawford's view of the obsessions of the evangelical Christian leadership in this country also are accurate and are followed to the logical conclusions--that preconceptions shape views in ways that do not allow the evidence to speak for itself, and even more importantly the intense and very real desire of many fundamentalists to keep the fires of conflict burning in the Middle East because it is, according to their interpretation of the Bible, necessary for Armageddon to occur.
There were also a few things that were minor irritants. There were a few idiomatic errors instantly obvious to American eyes strewn throughout the book (the one I recall most vividly was a character referring to the Redskins being "in the bottom of the ninth," but there were a few others) that British eyes no doubt missed. The characters tend to give explanatory speeches, necessary for plot development and information to the reader, in places in the narrative where it simply makes no sense to give ten-minute dissertations. The hero, a burned-out bum at the beginning of the book, instantly reverts to his former Marine self when tested, and absorbs an incredible amount of physical punishment that apparently has no effect on his ability to perform wondrous feats requiring tremendous dexterity and strength. There is the usual high body count that is common in these thrillers, although this is mitigated somewhat by the action taking place in venues (Gaza, the Washington DC ghetto) where deaths by violence are less unusual than most places. And most annoying to me was the last two pages being used as a prop to begin what Crawford obviously wants to be an ongoing series a la Steve Berry's Cotton Malone canon.
But overall, I thought this was very credible first effort, and a refreshing new entrant in the genre. And if the reader is interested in finding out more about the book or might be willing to purchase the book, this is a reminder to click on the book title; you will be linked to amazon.com

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