Deep in the jungled hell of Big Tamtung, a miraculous material is found that will unlock the secrets of life on Earth--Prima Materia, whispered about since Biblical times.
In the 19th Century, Charles Darwin discovered the last pool of Prima Materia on Big Tamtung but his discovery was suppressed by The School of Night, a powerful secret society.
Now, when a small group of scientists and fortune hunters explore the jungles of Big Tamtung, they must endure frightening tests of their ingenuity and courage, as they struggle against ancient terrors--a lost world of dinosaurs and a miracle older than time.
Lavishly illustrated by Jeff Slemons.
Cryptozoica...where the past has not stopped breathing!
"CRYPTOZOICA is a novel for those who really want to sink their teeth into something engrossing to the finish. For a modern take on pulp adventure, you would be hard-pressed to find one that delivers like this. -Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.97(d)|
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"This whole thing sounds like the plot for a lot of B movies." Thus speaks one of the main characters in Mark Ellis's dinosaur adventure, Cryptozoica, and the statement reflects what I expected going in with this novel. I had reservations based on a handful of factors. The cover was brightly colored and a tad cheesy. I knew that Mr. Ellis had been a writer for Harlequin's Gold Eagle line of macho testosterone-and-explosions books, and frankly my limited exposure to Gold Eagle books over the years hadn't impressed me (though I never read any of the ones written pseudonymously by Ellis). And from the blurb describing the book, this seemed squarely in the pulp tradition of lost worlds, dinosaurs, beautiful women, and heroes named Jack. That formula isn't necessarily a bad thing; I happen to love pulp, as anyone reading my own work knows. But I can't stand bad writing, and a good bit of pulp, both original and modern, is pretty awful. By the time I finished the prologue -- which dramatically ties the novel's background to Charles Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle -- any reservations I had were chased away and I knew I was in good hands. Ellis's writing is strong and vivid, as any good adventure writer's should be, and he has an adept sense of story. To go into much detail would be to spoil some of the book's many pleasures, but I will say that it is both pretty much what you'd expect from this sort of tale and a lot more. The characters are all interesting and layered, the setting vividly painted, and the action swift and smart and full of cliffhangers. There is science, both real and weird, and Ellis's excellent research adds interesting detail throughout. There's a Dragon Lady, Chinese gangsters, secret societies, shifting loyalties, the requisite cool (and hungry) dinosaurs, and a few ancient mysteries. There are also some ever-topical themes relating to science and faith that are very pertinent in our current culture. The book is nicely illustrated by the cover artist, Jeff Slemons, but I read it on my iPad and the images all loaded at a resolution just low enough to be annoying. It would be nice to see them more clearly (and I know it's possible, as we managed to do it with my own illustrated novel, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom). I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Get yourself to Cryptozoica for some good old fashioned adventure with modern smarts.
Mark Ellis is a prolific writer, well known for his popular Outlanders series (written as James Axler). A firm grip on the adventure aspect of storytelling is his forte, and Cryptozoica is a fine example of this. I can easily see it rolling onto the big screen as naturally as a newborn coming out of a womb, already perfect, with hardly a change necessary. Somehow, Mark has managed to marry the Hollywood approach to filmmaking (Indiana Jones crossed with Jurassic Park), that typically makes for much excitement but often falls short for the more sophisticated viewer, with the best traditions of the written genre, capable of pleasing the brainiac science fiction readership. The baby has the best of both. What's more, a lover of Dan Brown may even throw the parentage into question, claiming that the baby clearly must be a product of secret societies at work--and (s)he'd be right! The opening pages contain the portraits of the unlikely crew to brave the Island of Big Tamtung, infested with the dinosaurs that have survived well into our time. As all other illustrations in the book (including the cute dinosaurs figures next to the page numbers), drawn by Jeff Slemons. The artist has done a great job. The images are eloquent representations of the characters. "Tombstone" Jack Cavanagh, along with Augustus Crowe and a teenage Maori girl Mouzi, make the "two captains and one crew member" team of the Cryptozoica Enterprizes: two former members of the U.S. Air Force and Navy respectively, and an ex-pirate girl who doesn't shy away from cutting a man's throat. Joining them is an unlikely trio of a dwarfish scientist, Aubrey Belleau, led to the island by a suppressed portion of Charles Darwin's diary, his bodyguard Oakeshott, a black belt who fights dirty in the to-the-death arenas in Bangkok, and Honore Roxton, a woman paleontologist that is both good-looking *and* smart. As if this were not enough, the Asian organized crime gets involved, as a dashing Chinese swordswoman and an enigmatic Naga dancer Bai Suzhen, the operational leader of the White Snake triad, joins the fray. It is not the "big-monster" type of dinosaurs that cannot be killed by a machine gun, like a Majungasaurus, that are the most dangerous animals on the island. Although small and vulnerable to a sword, a pack of Deinonychus is far more deadly, not merely thanks to their sharp claws but more so because of their pack tactics; they are smart enough to figure out how to climb onto a monorail! But even more dangerous are other humans. Stranded on the island, the team is torn apart by conflicting goals and loyalties, while also being pursued by the modern-day pirates. Escaping a Majungasaurus on a personal vendetta is nothing next to that. Nor are the Deinonychus the smartest dinos on the island. Mark makes a good use of the paleontologist Dale Russell's speculation that, had they survived to our time, the Troodon species of the warm-blooded dinosaurs may have evolved into an intelligent species. The appearance of this so-called anthroposaur is one of the highlights of the story, and Mark ties it to the numerous legends about the snake-like Naga people of the Asian antiquity. A few text layout problems don't take away from the story. Cryptozoica is not to be missed, and I'm looking forward to the next book coming out of this husband-and-wife team.
If Clive Cussler novels are an appetizer, Mark Ellis's Crypozoica is the main course with interesting complex characters and non-stop action on land, sea, and air. Jeff Slemons' illustrations are wonderful and really add to the storytelling and mood. The blending of myth, religion, and science are expertly done and are woven into the story compellingly. I found it a real page turner from beginning to end. Something should also be said about the interior layout which, for a book lover like me, was very satisfying. Art Director Melissa Martin-Ellis did a terrific job with both the choice of font and incidental art that reinforced the mood of the story. The text was easy to read and the little dinos with the page numbers a nice touch. The characters and setting definitely have legs and I would be delighted to find a sequel or continuing adventure in the future.