I’m a fan of “secret-society-lost-continent-aliens-might-have-been-here-before” novels. They appeal to the 14 year-old sci-fan reader inside of me. As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve moved away from much of the hard sci-fi I read when I was younger. Gone are the sweeping space operas (for the most part). Instead, I like my sci-fi and/or fantasy with a healthy dose of reality mixed in; stories that have their roots in the world that we live in – but just their roots. I also like a large helping of “what if…” thrown in as well. That’s why I decided to pick up “Search” – with the tagline of “a novel of forbidden history”, it sounded like my kind of book.
“Search” follows three very different people, with very different motivations, as they search for answers to an ancient mystery. David Weir is a researcher working for the military. He has found evidence of non-human DNA in a small sample of the population – including himself. There’s only one problem. None of those people lived past the age of 27. David Weir is 26 – his genetic clock is, quite literally, ticking.
Holden Ironwood is a billionaire consumed by the idea that aliens helped jumpstart human civilization during the dawn of pre-history. Using Weir’s research, and his considerable resources, Ironwood is scouring the globe for ancient ruins that will prove his theories correct and force the government to tell the public the truth.
Jessica MacClary is a young paleogeologist working for the MacCleirigh Foundation. This foundation is home to the Family – a group of people who can trace their lineage back before recorded history. When Jessica is elevated into the inner circle of the Family after the murder of her aunt, she learns that the Family has been protecting a Secret for thousands of years. Thrown together with Weir, and racing against Ironwood, Jessica is trying to find the truth – a truth that could shatter conventional history as we know it.
“Search” has a little something for everyone in it. A dash of Indiana Jones, a flavor of Graham Hancock – even a hint of Art Bell; they all can be found swirling around these pages. It’s at times a fast paced thriller, a well thought out archeological mystery, and a compelling speculative history of mankind. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was refreshing to read a book that didn’t involve the Templars or Illuminati for a change. The Family worked well as a literary construct, and I enjoyed the way the story was peppered with references to historical figures who where members of their selected inner circle. I also enjoyed the historical framework set up to support the novel’s underlying premise. As I’ve said in other reviews – grounding the fantasy and speculative fiction elements in the reality of our world helps the reader make a connection to the story.
This is a novel that can be enjoyed on many different levels. It works very well as a straight-up adventure book – a perfect companion to pass the day away on the beach. There are exotic locations, lost treasures, and danger enough for the most demanding reader. If, however, you want to read deeper, it also works as an exploration on the nature of learning, and the place of knowledge in society.
In the story, the Family has been protecting a Secret for more than 4,000 years. Along the way, they somehow confused faith with blind obedience to tradition. They stopped asking questions whose answers didn’t fit with the template they had established. Jessica makes the connection late in the book:
That’s what David was trying to tell me…and Victoria…that this is what we’ve become, she thought […] Unquestioning slaves to tradition, suppressing knowledge that doesn’t fit. Is this how we lost the Secret?
Given some of the plot elements of the book, whether you choose to approach that question from a religious or scientific viewpoint, I will leave to you. The lesson learned by Jessica and David through the course of events is valid through either lens – blind acceptance, without the effort to inform your self of the truth, can be dangerous. Willful ignorance of the truth and the refusal to listen to those that would teach you are the stones that pave the road to ruin.
He wondered what their fate would be, the ones who denied the known facts of change and who would not prepare for it. There were some scholars, he decided, who would rather curl up and die with their of books than undertake the challenge of writing new ones.
It’s a bold statement, and one that has its place among the scientific, religious, and journalistic debates of today. Don’t accept anything on its face – ask questions, inform yourself, make your own decisions – and pass your knowledge along to others. It’s part of what makes the human experience work.
It’s not possible for anyone to see everything. […] That’s why it’s everyone’s duty to record what’s been seen, so it can be shared with others and added to. That’s how we learn.
As I mentioned, the tagline of the book is “a novel of forbidden history” – and that’s really the key to understanding the novel. Sure – there are artifacts to be found, temples to be unearthed, and danger to be escaped – but the real prize sought by everyone in the story is knowledge. David is looking for knowledge about his genetic past. Ironwood is looking for the truth about the origins of society. Jessica is looking for the truth behind the Family’s ages old Secret. Even the flashbacks to ancient times deal with the quest to preserve and pass down knowledge to those that will come later.
My only complaint with the book is the ending. There is a LOT of ground covered in this book. Multiple plots weave in and out of each other from start to finish. In the end, though, not everything gets resolved. You get closure on some of the main plot elements, while others feel like they were addressed almost as an afterthought. It’s tough to satisfy everyone with these sweeping, grand, conspiracy stories – but I was left wanting more. We are just teased with an answer to the book’s central question and it seems clear to me that a sequel should be in the works. I hope we see it sooner rather than later. I would hate for this to be the last word on the world of “Search”.
On balance, I thoroughly enjoyed “Search”. It’s a book that will both entertain you and make you think. Good for the both the casual reader or the speculative history aficionado, there is much to sink your teeth into in this story. If you like your mysteries ancient, your societies secret, and your action pulse pounding – this is the book for you.
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