This was the September selection for discussion in my Shelfari Mystery & Suspense group. I've wanted to read something by James Rollins but wasn't certain that this was the first I should try. Fortunately, the friend who recommended it (who has never steered me wrong) knew better as this was an exciting experience.
The set up
The story takes place in a remote area of the Amazon jungle. A team is sent there to try to find out what happened to a science expedition four years prior. One of the members from that expedition suddenly showed up in one of the villages and died soon after. His physical transformation was inexplicable and the government organized a mission to investigate. Project Amazonia included a team of scientists, U. S. Rangers and the son of the leader of the earlier expedition.
The Amazon jungle is like no other environment, with botanical riches that can nurture, heal and destroy you if you don't know what you're doing. The normal hazards facing the team weren't the only problems this group faced as a mercenary was tracking them with evil intentions. They also had to contend with extraordinary situations as they reached and went beyond the region where the first expedition was last tracked.
What I really liked about this story
Aside from the nail-biting excitement from not knowing what new fresh hell lay around the next bend, the story was rich with cultural lore and botanical insight. I've known intellectually the value of the plant life in the Amazon but this was a fascinating education. It all was used to create a fantastical situation that rivaled any adventure film I've ever seen, laid out in a way that made it seem plausible.
The mix of characters was equally interesting, especially with two women on the team. The obstacles they confronted were beyond frightening and as no one was sacred in this story, I never knew who wasn't going to make it to the next challenge. And, there was even a little romance, which I didn't anticipate.
What I didn't like so much
Not everyone survives this exploration and at times, I felt like the bad guys were always winning or having the advantage. It started to get me down after awhile. I needed more wins for the good guys.
The bottom line
Amazonia is an incredible story that was tons more interesting and exciting than I ever imagined. I liked the writing style and the characters were well developed. Without giving away too much, this book is equal parts fantasy and adventure as it is mystery and suspense. The treasures and secrets of the Amazon are immeasurable and the story leveraged every part of it. The action started on the first page and it never let up. I'm really glad I read this book.