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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Last Templar

****½ The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury. Adventure.

Huh. Boy, I definitely read a different book than the majority of the reviewers on Amazon, who largely loathed it.

The story: there's a display on exhibit from the Vatican, and on the opening night, 4 horsemen dressed as Templars come riding up, decapitate one guard with a sword, then proceed to destroy the exhibit, terrorize the guests, and steal many of the treasures.

One of the witnesses was archaeologist Tess Chaykin, who notices the leader only took one item: a sort of machine. She teams up with FBI agent Sean Ryan and they discover that the machine was a code device, and its use may uncover documents calling into question the history of the Catholic church.

Then one by one the thieves are being killed, and it's a race to find the machine and the documents with the thief on the one side and the agents of the church on the other.

It's kind of like National Treasure (which I loved). Lots of action and intrigue and the irresistible lure of secret societies and behind-the-scenes manipulation. I'm a huge sucker for this sort of story. It even has a romance. What more could I ask? Seriously, I read most of this book with a huge grin on my face, it was just so fun and exciting.

So why the difference between my reaction and the Amazon reviews? You know I had to read through a whole bunch of them to try to figure it out.
  • First objection: it's too much like The DaVinci Code. Well, only in the background premise that the Catholic church is covering up something and has agents who'll keep the secret at all costs. That's not an idea that originated with The DaVinci Code--any large and powerful organization is going to spawn stories like that. Besides, I enjoyed this one much more--The Last Templar was a more dynamic, action-packed book, more fun to read.
  • Second objection: it's not factually accurate. Well, no, it's not. It's fiction. But I do have to agree in parts here--it's unrealistic the way Dirk Pitt books are unrealistic. There's a diving scene, for example. 100 feet of water over a town flooded by a dam. No diving lights, but they can go into a submerged church building and see what they're doing. And there's a convenient piece of metal sticking out of a pillar they can use to pry up the floor... and removing it makes the entire building collapse. Very Hollywood, I agree. It's why I gave the book 4.5 stars instead of 5.
  • Third objection which only a few reviewers really outright said, but which you could read between the lines of quite a few of the reviews: the implied criticism of the Catholic church. Obviously, this didn't bother me a bit, not being a fan of organized religion. But to clarify things, I didn't think Khoury was writing about actual facts. Do I think that there's a document somewhere proving that Jesus wasn't divine? No, I don't. Even if there were, I don't think it would have as great an effect as the characters in the book feared--it's all about faith, isn't it? People have a great capacity to dismiss all kinds of facts in the face of faith, so why not that one, too. I do think there's probably quite a bit of truth in how the book describes the assembling of the Christian Bible, though possibly not in the details. And to tell you the truth, that part was surprisingly sympathetic to the church. But again, I didn't read this as nonfiction, and I don't really care whether or not it's true. It's plausible in the world of the story, which might as well be in a galaxy far, far away.
This is going on my keeper shelf, and I've put The Sanctuary in my Zooba queue.

-read more-

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I loved National Treasure too! And I'm really looking forward to Book of Secrets coming out soon--I hope it's a sequel that lives up to its predecessor!

And I wondered if this book would be similar to The Da Vinci Code...
Oh, yes--me, too. I was very happy to hear that there was a sequel... closely followed by the hope that it's not a letdown. :)

I think the biggest difference between this and The Da Vinci Code is that this one's much faster-paced.
One of the things that bothered me about Da Vinci Code (well, besides the fact that they kept it in hardback for way too long to drum up more $$) was the brevity of each chapter -- it had what, 4,278 chapters by the end? Made for choppy pacing.

I liked National Treasure too -- sort of what you'd imagine a grown-up Goonies to be. And as for the Cussler novels ... well, let's just say that aside from the too-obvious enemy-of-the-moment floundering that he went through after the collapse of the USSR, there's a spot on my shelf for each novel.
Mike, that could be part of why I wasn't as thrilled with The DaVinci Code. It's been so long since I read it, though, I don't remember.
lol. the book lies. Plain and simple. It doesn't present the real facts of the debate regarding the history of Christianity and the Church. Instead it lies flat out in your face. And this from a book that accuses the Church of lying and misrepresentation. The book rants on about how it is important for people to have the real truth. All the while shoving lies. You may not care about the Catholic church. But you won't MAKE UP stories to deliberately turn people against the church, would you?
Blogger thought this was spam, but though you don't give your name, this is exactly the sort of thing that cracks me up about the Amazon reviews.

Get this: IT'S FICTION!! It's not a treatise on the history of your church.

More than that, though--if a work of fiction threatens your faith, that faith can't be very strong, can it?
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