Amazonia by James Rollins (aka James Clemens)
A scientific expedition of thirty people enters the Amazon jungle and is never heard from again. One of the expedition’s members was Gerald Clark, a former special forces turned CIA agent after he lost an arm in combat. Four years after he disappeared with the expedition, Agent Clark stumbles into a remote mission — covered in markings, his tongue cut out — and then dies in a fit of convulsions. That’s not even the strangest part. When Agent Gerald Clark comes out of the jungle, he has two arms.
How’s that for a premise? If that’s not a spectacular story hook, then I don’t know what would be. While not technically classified as fantasy, Amazonia does contain its fair share of monsters, magic, and lost worlds. It’s fantasy in nearly every way except marketing. Most of James Rollins’ work rides this line between genres, and it always makes for a fun read. If you are looking for a good adventurous romp with a sprinkle of fantasy there really is no better avenue than a Rollins novel.
Despite its incredible premise, Amazonia doesn’t quite deliver on all that promise. It relies very heavily on some classic Amazon adventure tropes. The thick humid jungle is as much an adversary as the bad guys of the story. That’s right, I said “bad guys,” as in twirling-mustache, pith helmet-wearing, French accent-speaking Bad Guys. The heroes of the story are just as stereotypical. The main character is a shotgun-wielding Nathan Fillion look-alike with daddy issues. The natives are often depicted as magical and mysterious. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things on their own, but put them all in one story and it makes for a fairly predictable recipe.
Stereotypical characters aside, Amazonia was a blast to read. Rollins really shines when it comes to writing action. The sequences he writes come alive and play out in your mind like a summer movie blockbuster. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Amazonia as a SyFy channel special presentation followed by Sharknado on a Friday night lineup. Amazonia is definitely worth a look for those who think they might like a classic adventure, but don’t want to stray too far from their fantasy comfort zone. If I ever find myself in a reading slump and I can’t seem to settle on a particular book, Rollins has never failed to be a great remedy.