Friday, 4 December 2009

‘Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead’ – Steve Perry (Del Rey)

You all know the score by now, if there’s a book or film with zombies in it then the odds are that I’m either reading/watching it or will be very soon. The only noticeable exception was E. Van Lowe’s ‘Never Slow Dance with a Zombie’; I liked the title but even the presence of zombies was not enough to get me to read another tale of high school girls learning to accept themselves for who they are. Sorry but it’s just not going to happen, not on this blog!
In order to try and keep things a little fresh (I don’t want to read the same thing over and over again, even if it’s about zombies!) I try and look for zombie fiction that’s a little different; something that stands out from the rest of the herd. When I saw that Steve Perry had Indiana Jones going up against zombies I just knew that I had to give it a go. Indiana Jones is cool, so are zombies. What could possibly go wrong? As it turned out, ‘The Army of the Dead’ wasn’t all it could have been...

It’s World War Two and the attention of both German and Japanese intelligence agencies are focused on a small island just off Haiti. It’s here where the fabled ‘Heart of Darkness’ can be found, a black pearl reputed to give strange powers to those who hold it. Such an artefact could prove very useful to the war effort and must be captured at all costs. However, some people believe that the best place for the Black Pearl is in a museum where everyone can see it; this is where Indiana Jones comes in...
Along with his friend ‘Mac’ McHale, Indy must penetrate the Island of the Dead and reach the Black Pearl before the Germans or the Japanese. However, they are not alone on the island. A powerful Voodoo priest also has his eye on the pearl and will stop at nothing to claim it. The army of zombies at his command tips the balance in his favour, how can Indy kill something that is already dead...?

‘Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead’ is a fun read, no doubt about it. Perry totally captures the spirit of the first three films (I haven’t seen the fourth so can’t really say what that one was like), bottles it and then transfers it to the written page in a blaze of gunfights, beautiful women, hair raising escapades... and the supernatural. Perry doesn’t overdose, and burn out, on it either. The pacing is well maintained throughout and there is always an ominous threat in the background (whether it’s the Nazis, Japanese or zombies) to keep things nice and tense. This is definitely a book that grabs the attention with a deft blend of pulp fiction and magic. You would have thought that Indy had seen it all already but there are still a few surprises left in store for him! If you’re a fan of the films then you are sure to find something that you will enjoy here.

As far as zombies go, I’ve never really read much about the Voodoo undead (the ‘Simon Garth’ tales are good, ‘Way of the Barefoot Zombie’... less so) so it was refreshing to finally give it a go. By way of preference, I’ll still stick with post apocalyptic corpses shambling through deserted streets but there is definitely something to be said for the zombies of Voodoo lore. Perry gives his reader a close encounter with the undead where the only thing scarier is the priest who controls them. When this is set against a backdrop of a bleak rain drenched island the result is an atmospheric piece that holds your attention and plays games with your nerves.

Perry has written a winner of a book so it’s a real shame then that his hands are tied by the limitations of the franchise that he is writing for. The bottom line is that we all know how this story has to end, especially seeing as it’s placed in between certain of the films. While we may not know the exact specifics of the conclusion we do that Indy will make it through alive, he has to. It would have been cool to see Perry able to really go for it and take some risks with the character. ‘Zombie Indiana Jones’ anyone?
This isn’t the case though and what we get as a result is an admittedly exciting tale that has the shine taken off by a foregone conclusion.

‘Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead’ is a great addition to the canon that is ultimately hobbled by the sheer iconic success of the lead character. ‘If it ain’t broke then don’t try and fix it’ seems to be the rule here. Despite this though, it’s a fun read and a great way to spend a lazy afternoon...

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

1 comment:

Time4u Book Review said...

Indiana Jones is a total legend, film or book. great stuff.