Saturday, September 22, 2007

DARK GOLD


This one is by David Angsten, published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks, copyrighted 2006 to the author.


AND WHAT A BOOK IT IS. This shipwreck-diving adventure story charts the efforts of Jack Duran to find his brother in Mexico, after their mother has a terrible premonition that something bad has happened to him in his travels. Dan, Jack’s brother, an anthropology student roaming Central and South America in search of treasure and mind-expanding drugs, has not contacted anyone in the family for about 4 months. Jack enlists the dubious help of his best friends from college, two inebriated knuckleheads named Duff and Rock, to go with him and help search.



What do they find? ADVENTURE, ADVENTURE, ADVENTURE.


I can’t find it in the book now to doublecheck, but I have the impression that the plucky travelers decided to search Punta Perdida on the basis of a dream Jack had one night. Jack, who is supposedly skeptical of his mother’s psychic visions, never even checks a map to see if there really is a Punta Perdida, and nobody really argues with his out-of-nowhere idea that they can find Dan there. He just heads down to the Puerta Vallarta waterfront and starts haggling with the locals over who’s going to take him there in a boat. The locals all refuse, saying it’s a bad place and no amount of gringo money will persuade them to go there. Hmm, interesting.



While trying to get their college-educated keesters to a destination at the far outposts of civilization, Jack also follows some of the local wildlife to a biker bar, gets blasted on some sort of mescalinish stuff made of cactus juice, finds himself roped into a surprise game of pinata with the bikers – that’s what I said -- and wakes up many hours later with "YANQUI GO HOME" carved into his back with a knife. Some fun, huh, kid.


Well, they finally get a lift to Punta Perdida. The ride comes from one of the many shameless dei ex machinae in this story, a wealthy Jamaican yacht owner with two luscious supermodels crewing for him. He is so intimidating that Duff is positive the guy is Idi Amin. Why, you may well ask, would they get on this boat, with a strange man who may or may not be Idi Amin, on the basis of a beer-addled dream? Because they saw one of the crew take off her bikini top on the beach one day to go swimming. That’s why. No other reason.


I guess you’re wondering by now why I’m giving you all this detail on the plot. It’s certainly not my usual reviewing style. But I wanted my readers to get a glimpse of the mindset of the characters in this novel, MODELLED CLOSELY ON THAT OF OUR QUARRY: real live landscum.


This is what I want you to notice: A) The supposedly high-quality intellect and education that AVAIL THEM NOTHING when it really counts. B) The dependence on will-o-th’-wisp omens and seductive visions of the things Monkey People want: money, power, and scantily-clad women who know how to balance the books of a major corporation, make superb guacamole, and operate sonar equipment. THESE ARE THE KEYS TO OUR POWER OVER THEM.


WHERE DOES THE STORY GO FROM THERE? We make landfall at Punta Perdida at last, a little shanty town without plumbing or electricity that appears almost deserted, except for a priest who’s been "prevented" rather brutally from sharing the town’s DARK SECRET.




Oh, the secret? Just unimaginable wealth from the sea, guarded by a Manta Ray the size of Central Park, and a tribe of locals who worship her as their true, living God. The rest of the story is concerned with the good townspeople’s attempts to maintain their religious freedom in the face of outsiders who JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.




This is an utterly zany story, unbelievable to any fish reader – but as the narrator points out, a lot of Monkey People have fallen for its various components in the past, and there’s no harm in slapping them all together into a single novel to see if readers will fall for ALL OF IT AT ONCE.



There are a lot of head-scratcher moments in this story, but I wanted to share my favorite one with you now, from pages 269-270:



"Its presence overwhelmed me. I watched the white beast cruise on by and peer into my eyes. It had enormous eyes itself…The great black orbs held no light and gave no hint of feeling…gazing out from languid lids creased with age and worry….and in the cavern of its mouth a crimson tongue was wagging, like…the blooming breath of a dragon."



I KNOW. THAT’S WHAT I SAID, TOO.



I had great fun with this one and recommend it.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Paul Kienitz said...

a wagging tongue!!

Sounds like somebody's manta ray fantasies are leaning a little too much in this direction.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

dear me
sometimes you frighten so.

6:23 PM  

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