Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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Kataklusmos by T.M. Doran

Reviewed on: January 1, 2021


TMDoranBooks:  Self-published
2020 (pb)

More than eight years ago, I reviewed T.M. Doran’s Toward the Gleam, a beguiling tale of adventure chronicling the adventures of Oxford University philologist, John Hill, a veteran of World War I, whose discovery of an ancient manuscript hidden deep in a cave in the English countryside, plunges Hill and his family into realms of danger and mystery he can barely imagine.  His partial translation of the manuscript would hint at the existence of a highly developed civilization lost in the mists of time—some thirty to forty thousand years ago!  A cunning foe in the person of Sorbonne scholar Adler Alembert pursues Hill with ruthless energy as he hesitates at nothing to learn the secrets of the lost civilization.  Hill writes a work of fiction based on the manuscript that he hopes might protect him from Alembert’s pursuits, but while the work makes Hill famous, it does not protect him from Alembert’s megalomania.

Two years ago I reviewed The Lucifer Ego, the sequel to Toward the Gleam, which moved the action to the second decade of the 21st Century and to follow the adventures of Oxford paleo-archaeologist, Lyle Stuart, who is summoned to St. Hugh’s Charterhouse in Sussex by his uncle Henry, the Abbot of the monastery.  Henry, by the way, seems to be the only person who calls Stuart by his given name—Frodo!  Henry implores his nephew to turn his investigatory skills to finding an ancient manuscript recently stolen from the monastery’s archives—a manuscript entrusted to St. Hugh’s by Oxford philologist, the late John Hill.  While Stuart finds the proposition that the manuscript tells of an advanced civilization thirty to forty thousand years ago preposterous—his research and archaeological research in general point to the beginnings of civilization some six thousand years ago in Sumeria, Egypt and the Indus Valley—he agrees to his uncle’s wishes and sets out on a quest that is fraught with danger and intrigue that results in his nearly being killed in the bombing of a restaurant in Mainz, Germany.

The final entry in the trilogy, Kataklusmos—Greek for cataclysm, deluge, a devastation—opens as Stuart learns that his lover, psychologist Beatrice Adams, with whom he shared danger and adventure in The Lucifer Ego, was reportedly killed in a terrorist bombing in Kampala, Uganda.  Stuart now sets out on a crusade to find Beatrice’s killer, with the help of his brother Sam (Samwise), recently “retired” from the British intelligence services.  Their hunt, aided by colleagues in various international intelligence agencies, leads them on the trail of Bari Malkin, a compromised Israeli agent with legendary bomb-making skills.  But the quest inevitably leads them back to the mystery of the manuscript first discovered a hundred years earlier by John Hill—and Lyle Stuart.  Sam believes that Beatrice’s death, a break-in at the Jericho archaeology site directed by Lyle’s friend and colleague, Andrea Fitzgerald, and a failed break-in at St. Hugh’s Charterhouse all point to Lyle and the manuscript as the focal point of events.  Adding to the mystery and intrigue, a self-styled antiquarian visits Lyle and regales him with uncanny tales of Atlantis and its descendants still inhabiting the earth.  Lyle’s colleague, Cornel Popa, tells of ancient documents and even more ancient ruins discovered in Alpine Germany—all seem to hint that the manuscript  coveted by so many may not be as mythical as Lyle imagined.

Kataklusmos ties together many of the threads of character and plot from the first two entries in the trilogy and therefore an avid reader might find it most rewarding to read or re-read, as the case may be, the three volumes in order.  Regardless, the trilogy is imaginative and innovative, and certainly should be considered by any Tolkien fan.  Four trowels for Kataklusmos.

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens