Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Author: Gary Williams
ISBN: 0741419165

Having barely recovered from their previous adventure with an ancient, deadly fish, Curt Lockes and Scott Seymour are hurled into another chilling escapade. They must locate and disable the Staff of Moses, which unwittingly has been transformed into a heinous Serpent. Their task is confounded by the fact that there are others who seek the Staff for their own evil ends, thugs who will not hesitate to kill all who stand between them and the Staff. Moreover, the Serpent itself has selected Curt and Scott to be its victims. Thus, Scott and Curt are both the hunters and the hunted in this gripping sequel to Fish of Souls.

The action begins when a stream of blood flows from a fresh water spring in a small Florida town. The drama continues with a tragic bridge accident in which Curt and Scott heroically save several people from drowning. As you read about the accident and rescue you may find yourself looking for a towel and a change of clothes: Williams’s description of this scene is so riveting that you’ll feel like you’ve been submerged in the river alongside of Curt and Scott.

From this point the book oscillates between past and present as Williams sows the various seeds of his story. This sowing process takes several chapters (there are lots of seeds to sow), with the result that the book’s forward momentum sometimes falters. Once all of the seeds are sown, though, the story hurtles through rivers, caves, alligators, a tornado and pyramids and the reader is captivated until the story’s climactic resolution, which binds all of the seeds into a coherent entity.

Williams’s recipe for this book is similar to that of his previous one: premonitory dreams, an old document, biblical lore and history, archaeology, all sprinkled with historical and geographical flavorings from Florida. Plus lots of destruction and death: death by gunfire, death by drowning, death by burning, death by ingestion. . . . This time around, Scott’s family becomes more integral to the story as his young son, Cody, is attacked – twice – by the Serpent. Moreover, the book ends with Cody’s warning that “it’s not over.” This is a fitting conclusion to a story in which the mission – disabling the Serpent – was accomplished, only to have the object of the pursuit vanish mysteriously. One can’t help speculating that the Serpent may reappear in the next episode.

You may want to keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of all the characters in this complex plot. It’s not “a cast of thousands,” but sometimes the novel seems to be populated by enough people to occupy a small country. By the time you reach the book’s conclusion, you will understand the roles played by most of the characters. Nevertheless, some of those roles really are just bit parts that could have been deleted without harming the story. Even though I enjoy Williams’s ability to weave several strands into a satisfying, complex whole, I do not enjoy complexity for its own sake. In this case, the additional complexity slowed the book down instead of driving it forward.

This book, which suffers from the same editorial weakness that plagued the first book of the series, is generally a satisfying read. Gary Williams has a vivid imagination and a knack for descriptive detail. His characters are enjoyable, but I hope to see some deeper character development in the next book. The beauty of doing a series is that characters can evolve. The pitfall of doing a series is that, in order for it to be satisfying over the long run, the characters must evolve. If you liked Fish of Souls, you will also enjoy this sequel.

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