Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Genesis Code by Christopher Forrest

When it comes to secret history thrillers, for some reason I am pretty easy to please. I particularly like the ones that try to find a reason for all of the commonalities found in early civilizations. So, this book seemed right up my alley.

Christian Madison is the former protege of Joshua Ambergris, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist. Ambergris has discovered a code written into our DNA from a much older, advanced human civilization. Yet, right before he can share this discovery, he is murdered. Thus sets up a trail of clues for Madison, along with associate Grace Nguyen, to follow, to learn the secret of the Genesis Code.

While this book had some potential, it failed in some spots. First, a glaring error from the writers of the back cover blurb: upon mentioning that the code is from a much earlier civilization of humans, they effectively kill one of the major revelations from later in the book. While the back makes it seem like it should be obvious, this information, while hinted at, isn't officially revealed until page 214 of this very short 246 page book. That is 87% of the way through the book. Seems like a bad idea to put on the back cover, but then again, it was the main reason I picked up the book. A painful catch-22.

Beyond that, there were a couple of factual errors. First, Tutankhamun's named is spelled four different ways int he novel. While one is a simple typo, the other three are all variants that are technically correct, yet were a little irritating. It would be nice to stick to one version of the name, or explain why you are calling him Tut-ankh-Amen, Tutankhamun, and Tutankhamen. Yes, they all are close, but for whatever reason I found the wanton switching distracting. Also, while it is a common error, Shakespeare in fact wrote in Middle English. If he had written in Old English (think untranslated Beowulf) it would have been truly undecipherable to all of us reading it in high school. Old English, when spoken aloud, sounds more German than English, with its Germanic origins showing strongly.

Also odd was the very awkward way that the author avoided giving the dimensions of the Great Pyramid. One of the character's key arguments, which we are supposed to believe, hinges on these dimensions, yet Forrest does not provide them. However, earlier in the chapter, he gave number after number, all far more meaningless than these dimensions. The simple number game that is played to always reach similar numbers is also a bit trite and outdated now, at least among cutting edge thrillers, and expounded non-stop with four full pages of nothing but numerical coincidences really slowed down the tale without doing much for me.

On top of all of that, the writing just wasn't excellent. The super short chapters really cut into the flow of the story more than they sped the pace, chopping things up far too much. Character development was rather weak as well, most of it being summed up with a passage repeated verbatim repeatedly through the book about the lead character's son. Also of note: I have never read a book that used the word "facade" so much. It popped up more than I ever could have imagined. I was actually starting to look for it as the book dwindled down.

I really wanted this book to be good, and the DNA angle was certainly a new and original one. It is too bad that after that, it fell back on overdone 2012 predictions and trite numerology. After one new idea, the rest became horrifically cliched, and the story just wasn't the excitement-filled punch it could have been. If the author extended the chapter length, not devoted the first half of the novel to nothing having to do directly with discovering the truth of the code, and developed the characters more, this could have been a lot of fun.

With a little more experience, Forrest could become a much better author, and I see a lot of potential here. However, this one had potential, but not much else. The original idea (to me at least) of DNA encoded by a past common society of man (to explain commonalities in ancient cultures) was what got me through this book, as well as a real pick up in action scenes, that showed some of Forrest's writing talent at its best, near the end, are what got me through this. If the quality of the end had pervaded the rest, this would have been an entirely different review.


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