Amazonia is a wild-ride suspense novel. Author James Rollins cares about the details but knows how to present them in a way that keeps the narrative lively and fast-paced. Though I had not heard of Rollins ptior to this novel, I am well aware of him now. This medical/action/adventure thriller is unsurpassable when compared to renowned masters like Michael Crichton and Robin Cook.
When a man stumbles out of the thicket of the Amazon jungle into the boundaries of a small tribal village, the villagers know that only bad things will come of it. The mysterious man is delirious with fever and marked for death with paints of a phantom tribe on his flesh.
When the man dies, instead of burning the body and being rid of the threat, contacts are made. Authorities soon realize that the man is from a team on a research expedition thought to have perished in the jungle more than four years ago. The U.S. military is pulled in on the case, not because the man suddenly and without explanation emerged from the Amazon, but because when he joined the expedition he only had one arm. When his body was sent to the States for identification, the remains possessed two arms.
Nathan Rand, committed to research in the Amazon, is asked to join the newest team set to retrace the dead man's path. Hopes are that they will be able to uncover the truth behind what happened to the team once thought to be lost in the thicket of a vast and unexplored jungle. Rand cannot say no to this once-in-a-lifetime offer, especially since it was his father who led the first trek and vanished.
As a carefully compiled team of experts and military personnel venture into the Amazon, the body that was returned to the States is tainted, releasing a deadly virus that quickly sickens the old and the young. Without a cure, death — once the virus is contracted — is certain.
In a deadly race against terrifyingly real and surreal jungle enemies, Rand uses his wits and knowledge to keep as many members of his team alive as possible. In addition to the dangerous natural elements of the jungle, there are other forces at work destined to stop him from finding out what happened to his father -- and from figuring out a cure to the disease shutting down cities back in America.
Amazonia is the kind of book where, once you start reading it, it is impossible to put down. With a setting like the Amazon, Rollins has plenty of exciting and challenging things to include in the book, and he manages to pack solid the pages of his novel. The characters are perfectly defined and engaging. The narrative is wild, full of facts about the jungle that leave a reader shuddering. The suspense builds and builds to a truly explosive and nerve-shattering climax. In a word: intense.