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Styx by Christopher Hyde
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Intriguing and well paced adventure frustrates a bit with a slight promise of something more fantasy driven, but ultimately plays out as a subterranean survival fiction. The book communicates well the various dangers of the underground world; a place where it could be as vast as giant cathedral, to a narrow tight squeeze tunnel barely fit for a human being. Hyde exploits the terrors of being buried alive a number of times, ranging from the initial earthquake trapping the book's cast, to various near brushes with death. With a raging river, nicknamed 'Styx' by one of the team, the novel adopts many tropes of survivalist tales as one by one characters face death by drowning, falling rocks, quicksand, and worst of all a rather gruesome end at the hands of some strange poisonous centipedes. It should be no surprise that the cast of characters dwindles as the book goes on, among them only a few capture the imagination. The Zen-like geologist Izo is clearly the book's de-facto hero; not enough to be nearly flawless in character, he also harbors a strange psychic/hallucinatory connection with the former occupant of the underworld, a prehistoric man the modern day explorers name Khan. The spiritual connection Izu shares with Khan ranges from being a bit of spooky atmosphere at first but ends up being a rather ludicrous coincidence. The other character given plenty of attention is David, son of the famous archeologist leading the expedition. David seems always at the cusp of taking charge and being his own man, but simply never does. A rather disturbing turn of misogyny drains any sympathy from David's character and turns the resident asshole of the group into something far, far worse. The book's setup, with a long lost cave painting by what could be the missing link in man's ancient evolution seems to lead the reader to think something more extraordinary will take place just around the next ridge, but in the end, despite a tease with a "fresh" hand print late in the book, the novel never fulfills that intriguing promise. What is here is exciting enough and Hyde's prose carries the reader along at a pace as brisk as the currents of the underwater river that challenges the trapped team of explorers in the book. Worth a read if you're in the mood for an adventure with a twist. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
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