By Douglas Preston and Lincoln
Something in the New York Museum of Natural
History is murdering people. Weíre talking savage killings here.
Disembowelments. Beheadings. Eating brains. It seems to be connected with
a new exhibition about to open, Superstition, in which the museum
has invested millions. Thousands are expected to attend, including
celebrities, even the mayor.
A Tor Book, 468 pp, 1995
Such is the intriguing premise of Relic,
one of the Horror Writerís Associationís Top 40 Horror Books of all
Time. Itís well-paced but not terribly frightening until the latter
third, when it really takes off and doesnít let up until the end. The
characters are likeable if not terribly memorable, but the book isnít
character-driven. They are mainly pulled along in the tide of events,
against their will. The monster is the star attraction, yet oddly isnít
around much until the latter third, and even then the authors do not
describe it much. The paperback version I bought (used, by the way, from
the local library, for fifty cents) contains a picture of it, so the
authors evidently felt they didnít need to tell us much about its
appearance. However, we do learn more about it in a clever twist at the
very end, which sets up an inevitable sequel (Reliquary,
Many of the blurbs compare the book to
other quasi-scientific thrillers like Jurassic Park and Jaws,
yet Relic doesnít go overboard with the biological jargon. That
is a good thing.
But on to the storyline. Years ago, a
museum-funded expedition to the remote jungles of the Amazon went
disastrously wrong Ė nobody made it back alive. However, some crates
full of artifacts did make it to the museum, along with a figurine from a
local tribe thought extinct. This statue represented some evil god they
believed in and worshiped. It is an exact likeness of the murderous,
As the body count adds up, museum
researcher Margo Green and hired journalist Bill Smithback try to track
down the killer. They are aided by a local cop and FBI agent from New
Orleans, who investigated similar murders a few years prior.
Just before the grand opening of
Superstition, Margo and her mentor Dr. Frock discover the true nature of
the creature. Fearing the beast will embark on a killing spree, they try
to warn Ian Cuthbert, the Deputy Director of the Museum, to close the
exhibition, but naturally he refuses. In due course, a body is found,
power goes out, mass panic ensues, and, well, it all hits the fan. Itís
where the novel really gets good.
Overall, Relic is an enjoyable
read. The first two-thirds could have been a bit more eventful, but the
quick pacing prevents boredom from setting in. I recommend it.