Alert, alert! No April fooling, it’s the first Wednesday of the month, time to participate in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club! Click the nifty Book Review Club widget to visit other reviews. First, however, stay tuned as I recount my lunch date with Zeus and a review of Wilbur Smith’s THE SEVENTH SCROLL.
As you might recall from my previous book reviews, I usually ask the immortals to meet me at work. This time, however, Zeus had a meeting with his attorney in Dallas. Those familiar with downtown will probably find this humorous, but Zeus insisted we eat at the Record Grill, his favorite joint. I didn’t complain as I ended up paying, and you can get a full plate for under $5.
ME: Hi, Mr. Zeus. Thanks for meeting. Did you enjoy Wilbur Smith’s THE SEVENTH SCROLL?
ZEUS: Hmpf. If one can enjoy mortals hunting for treasure and Egyptian history, then I suppose so. Romance and adventure and all. I prefer Greek stories. Willie’s earned the right to mention himself in the book. He’s written 27 bestsellers and sold 110 million books in 26 languages. What are you asking, Da? Of course, I enjoyed it.
ME: It is D.A., not Da. Yes, well, did you know that Stephen King calls Wilbur Smith the best historical novelist?
ZEUS: I know everything. That King fellow isn’t a king, for one. I’m king, the immortal god who commands the Heavens and who [DR – Note, I edited paragraphs of self-praise out]. What you probably didn’t know Da is that Willie was born in Zambia. He wanted to do journalism after graduating and did for a time, but his father’s advice to get a real job prompted him to become a tax accountant.
ME: You’re kidding?? Ha! That’s funny. A tax accountant? I suppose I know a thing or two about tax accountants. Well, Dickens was a lawyer. Have you been reading Wikipedia again? Let’s get on to reviewing the book.
ZEUS: Ah, yes, I am an expert book reviewer. Consider how beautifully the book begins. It reminds me of the Greek bards of old:
The dusk crept in from the desert, and shaded the dunes with purple. Like a thick velvet cloak it muted all sounds, so that the evening was tranquil and hushed.
ME: If folks only heard that passage, they’d think Mr. Smith’s book was poetry. Why, that’s the slowest two lines in the entire story. Mr. Smith has recounted elsewhere that his very first publisher and agent (Charles Pick) told him to write for himself and upon what he knew best. It’s clear he does that in THE SEVENTH SCROLL as it’s a thoroughly enjoyable adventure story out of Africa, touched with a smidge of romance. The book begins Royan Al Simma’s archeologist husband murdered just as they prepare to decipher 4,000 year old instructions to the greatest Egyptian treasure tomb since King Tut. Determined to continue, Royan hires a good ol’ Englishman explorer and collector, the daring Sir Nicholas Quenton-Harper to guide her into Africa.
ZEUS: Fine. You’ve made your point. Only don’t forget to consider who killed Royan’s husband and the obstacles she’ll face, not to mention one of the most exotic and vividly described settings you’ll see in a book. It’s even more enticing than its precursor, the bestselling RIVER GOD.
[Zeus and I have to scoot down on the counter to accommodate a judge and two construction workers who just entered. The Record Grill only holds about fifteen customers at most.]
ME: I’d agree. In fact, I unwittingly read THE SEVENTH SCROLL first. Sequels aren’t unusual these days, only none of the others I’ve read pick up the story 4,000 years later like Mr. Smith does!
[DR – Note, the original book, RIVER GOD, told the story of the Egyptians who buried the treasure. It’s an equally good read, but it is more historical fiction than thriller.]
ZEUS: Enough with those Egyptians. I want to talk about the villains. The main one [DR – Villain’s name omitted to preserve the plot] makes Hades look charitable. He wants and he gets. Actually, that sounds like me. Ah.
ME: Personally, I loved the setting that you mentioned earlier. Here’s one passage I found:
“Then the gorge of the Dandera River was too deep and steep to follow any longer, as sheer cliffs dropped into dark pools. So they left the river and followed the track that squirmed like a dying snake amongst eroded hills and tall red stone bluffs. […] The dangling lianas swept the surface and tree moss brushed their heads as they passed, straggling and unkempt as the beard of the old priest at [the monastery].”
ZEUS: That’s fine to like the setting. I said it was good. Normally, I like squabbling mortals, but I’ll say that the camaraderie in this book made the characters for me. They’re mostly predictable. So what, I say. It’s part of the charm.
At this point, two police officers entered needing a seat. Zeus has great respect for law enforcement, so having finished, we left. I hope you enjoyed our review of Wilbur Smith’s THE SEVENTH SCROLL as much as I enjoyed reading the book. FYI, there are a couple of R-rated scenes that keep this one from being kid friendly, which is a shame.
In closing, Wilbur Smith writes in a league of his own. His success proves that, and I think anyone that has enjoyed Clive Cussler or James Rollins will love THE SEVENTH SCROLL. Don’t forget to visit Barrie and browse the rest of the books reviewed today. Have fun!