James Rollins: Subterranean

Out of all of the various thriller/action authors, I have always found that James Rollins is one of my favorites. Naturally, when I found out I hadn’t read his first book, I had to check it out. Subterranean follows the adventure of Ashley Carter, and archaeologist hand-picked to explore beneath the ice caps at the world’s southern end. Far below the ice, a massive labyrinth has been found, bewildering research teams and proving to be incredibly dangerous to traverse. As Carter descends deep below the earth, questions long contemplated are finally given light. How was this labyrinth formed? Just how dangerous is this journey? And perhaps the most frightening question of all: are we, standing worlds apart from help, alone? Death roams the labyrinth, and Carter soon finds herself in a frantic struggle to understand and to survive.

For being his first novel, I was quite impressed with Subterranean. The premise isn’t exactly original, but it is something that is rarely done well, so I not only appreciate the effort, but I would love to see other high-profile authors tackle the labyrinth theme. The novel has a bit more horror in it than most of Rollin’s work, especially during the beginning chapters, where you have no idea what is going on. That doesn’t change the fact that the book is a thriller, though. That being said, it is still a very solid thriller with a likable cast of characters (even if, for the most part, you have seen them all before), fast-paced action, and that constant feeling that the characters are always being watched. It does what it sets out to do well. I would have loved to see this book be a straight-up horror novel, throwing some intensely disturbing scenes of being hunted, ect., but the fact that it is not a horror novel doesn’t dock the book any points in my eyes. In terms of writing, the narration certainly isn’t as refined as some of Rollins’ more recent work, but for his first foray into the world of authorship, it was impressive work. Despite its few flaws, Subterranean is a book definitely worth checking out if you like the premise, or if you like Rollins’ other work. It isn’t his best, but it can still hang with some of the bigger titles in the genre.

Source: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor