Travel Reads: 2012: The Secret of the Crystal Skull

I must admit that I’ve dragged my feet writing this review. I finished reading 2012: The Secret of the Crystal Skull over a week ago.

The thing is, I don’t relish writing a bad review. I would love it if every book that gets sent to me is a gem I can recommend you read. But, alas, that is not always the case. Take this book, written by Chris Morton and Ceri Louise Thomas as an example.

This book has potential. But it didn’t reach it because, I believe, a decent editor never saw it. Read on and find out why.

A Little Background About the Book
Morton and Thomas are the creators of the highly acclaimed BBC documentary and nonfiction book The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls: Unlocking the Secrets of the Past, Present, and Future. The authors created this novel from a screenplay they’d written back in 2002 and spent a few years shopping around Hollywood, to no avail. So, they re-imagined the story and adapted it to the novel form.

This is important, because I don’t think it completed the process. Much of this book reads like a treatment, not a novel, as I will detail a little later.

Summary of the Story
The Mayan prophecy of the world coming to an end on December 21, 2012 is coming true and the only thing standing in the way is Laura Shepherd, a Mayan language expert at the Smithton Geographic Museum in New York.

Laura was busy translating the glyphs on a fragment of Mayan prophecy stone when she hears strange chanting in the hall way. It is late at night, so no one should be around. When she investigates, she discovers the body of her colleague dead at his desk, a strange crystal skull in his hand.

As the story progresses, that crystal skull and it’s unique history draws her into worlds she’s never imagined.

What Worked for Me
The plot of 2012 is sound. It has all the beats it should have to build tension and move the reader through the story.

Tense moments are tense. There is a scene that explains the circumstances of Laura’s daughter’s death that really did have me on the virtual edge of my seat. I could “see” the scene playing out in my mind.

In the vein of the recent blockbuster, Avatar, this novel has an underlying environmental message that could very well have been understated. Believe me, I’m on board with the message … I just wish it hadn’t been so in your face.

What Pulled Me Out of the Story
I hate to do this, but you, dear reader, need to know what you’re getting into if you decide to pick up a copy of this book.

If nothing else, this book really needed a proofreader. Since the phrase “was sat” was used so very often throughout the book, I suspect that the writers changed verb tense at some point in their process and used search and replace with disastrous results. As far as I can determine, not even British English would use the phrase “was sat” instead of “was sitting.”

The novel is written using British English. Not a problem in and of itself. I read lots of novels using British English and have no problem. However, this novel is set in New York and the characters are American. Americans don’t speak British English. They don’t refer to elevators as lifts. So every time a British turn of phrase came out of an American character’s mouth, I was summarily thrust out of the story.

Do you remember that scene in A Princess Bride where Indigo says to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”? Well, that scene played around in my mind several times while reading 2012. For example, in Chapter 46, the villain, Caleb, is enjoying a glass of Scotch while contemplating the downfall of our hero, Laura.

“But as he swilled the amber liquid around the fine crystal glass and took a sip …”

Let me lay this out for you: The word “swill” means:

  • slop, food for pigs
  • to drink greedily or grossly

Now tell me, do either of these definitions fit the meaning of the sentence above? Can someone take a sip while drinking greedily or grossly? And the darn thing, is Caleb keeps “swilling” his drink throughout the chapter. And worse yet, in the novel’s climax, oil “swills” about the floor!

I believe the word the authors were looking for is “swirl.”

Anyone who has taken a writing course has heard the mantra “Show, Don’t Tell.” Well, this book is a very good example of why. This book keeps you at arms length from the story … telling you everything and showing you very little. It was frustrating. How can I feel the experience of the action if you’re telling me from the POV of a far off, objective and unemotional viewer? Erg.

At some point in the book, Laura reads the diary of the woman who first discovered the crystal skull. The diary is written as if the writer jotted down her entries days after each event and in the style of a short story. Who writes in their diary like that? And, if they do, do they do it consistently? Probably not.

Well, there you have it. It took me more than a month to read this book because reading it was so painful. I would not wish this book on you.

That said, if I were to meet the authors, I would advise them to get this manuscript into the hands of a good editor. It has potential and with some massaging and tweaking could be a very good read. Just not in its current form.

SCORE: 1 out of 5 Palm Trees Possible

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NOTE: Although I received this book free to review, that did not affect my opinion of the book. Read past reviews of books I’ve received for free and you’ll know I don’t hold my punches.

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About the author

As The Genre Traveler, Carma Spence loves to view the world through Genre-Coloured glasses. In other words, she sees the world through a lens of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, where trash cans can be Daleks in disguise and neighborhood forests can harbor faeries and sprites. Magic realism is real! Or at least you can choose to see the world that way to add to the fun and awe of life.