Another book about Atlantis? Why am I buying this? Why do I even want to read it? That's a fairly accurate rundown of my thought process as I selected and purchased David Gibbin's novel Atlantis. I'm happy to say, however, that I made the right decision. Gibbins has crafted an original, engrossing tale that makes a wonderful addition to the body of Atlantis-themed thrillers.
Two separate discoveries, one in the Mediterranean and one in Egypt, provide clues to the true Atlantis: located in a place that no one had previously suspected. The heroes must outwit corrupt Eastern European warlords as they decipher the clues that guide them to their destination. A Cold War throwback subplot is thrown in to add tension.
I appreciated the originality of this story. It's not another "Atlantis under the Antarctic ice" story, nor are the Atlantians an alien race. There's no supernatural element. Instead, the back-story is rich in history and archaeology. If you watch enough History Channel or read up on current archaeology, the location of Gibbin's Atlantis will sound familiar, but to most readers this will be a brand new idea, and a highly plausible one. Also, I have to praise Gibbons for the fact that the Vatican plays no part whatsoever in this story. Hopefully that trend is running its course.
Gibbins is a marine archaeologist by trade, and his knowledge comes across in his writing. The story is very strong on history, and leaves no gaps unfilled. He also makes a point to be reasonably well-informed on weaponry and related technology. It's not Tom Clancy-level, but neither is it the generic treatment given by many authors. The reader believes Gibbons knows what he's talking about.
Pacing of the story is the area in which opinions will be highly divergent. The first two-thirds of the book, while not void of action, is devoted almost exclusively to discussion and analysis of the history, archaeological record and clues regarding Atlantis. The characters are in motion while this is going on, but most of the dialogue and the thoughts of the point-of-view characters are devoted to unraveling the mystery. There's a great deal of, "Dr. Jones, will you please explain to our colleague…." In fairness to Gibbins, he has a great deal of information to share, and he doles it out through dialogue and narrative voice the best he can. Fans of the fast-paced action thriller will find it tedious. Readers like me, who love the history and archaeology, will eat it up. I was never bored, as I love a well-developed back-story, particularly if it involves ancient history.
The last third of the book flies by, with the exploration angle almost entirely giving way to action sequences and a kidnapping subplot. The story wraps up with the final secret being unveiled. This is another section many will find boring, as it is pages and pages of conversational analysis. Again, I didn't mind it at all, and enjoyed the way Gibbins tied Atlantis to so many cultures, myths and religions, though it made me wonder what he has left about which to write, so thorough was the linking up of stories.
As with so many books in the genre, characterization is very thin, though perhaps more so in this book because the characters spend so much time serving as mouthpieces for the vast historical background. A couple of the characters have unique traits, but the plot isn't truly affected by their particular personalities.
Overall, I think Atlantis will be slow but entertaining to some, and highly engrossing to others. In any case it is well worth your time.