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Fossil Hunter

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"Fossil Hunter" is an Indiana Jones-style thriller that explores the Intelligent Design controversy from the points of view of two field scientists working in the strife-torn countries of Iran and Pakistan. When paleontologist Dr. Katie James leads an expedition to search for an ancient whale fossil rumored to be in the Iraqi desert, she has no idea her archrival, Nick Murad, will be searching for the same fossil. But then Katie makes a ground-breaking discovery and is forced to collaborate with Nick to analyze the find before it's destroyed by a fundamentalist government faction. Nick and Katie's initial results fly in the face of current scientific theory, and it seems the whole world turns against them, including those they thought they could trust. Then the fossil disappears, sending Nick and Katie on a chase that could cost them their reputations, their careers—even their lives.

358 pages, Paperback

First published January 5, 2008

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About the author

John B. Olson

9 books56 followers
John B. Olson is a novelist who lives with his wife Amy and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area. John earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and did postdoctoral research at the University of California at San Francisco. His books have won several awards, including a Christy Award, a Christy finalist, a Silver Angel award, and placement on the New York Public Librarys Books for the Teen Age.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 28 of 28 reviews
Profile Image for Lindsey.
39 reviews35 followers
July 24, 2009
(From back cover) In the desolate Iraqi desert, a lone shepherd stumbles across a whale fossil. Initial analysis indicates that it could be a new species—a discovery that could shed light on the evolution debate.

Paleontologist Dr. Katie James is asked to lead an expedition to recover the rest of the fossil before her archrival, Nick Murad, can find it first.

But while she’s there, Katie also uncovers the unexpected—a human fossil so controversial she’s forced to collaborate with Nick to analyze the find before it can be destroyed by a fundamentalist faction of the Iraqi government. Their initial results fly in the face of current scientific theory, and it seems the whole world turns against them, including those they thought they could trust most.

Then the fossil disappears, sending Nick and Katie on a chase that could cost them their reputations, their careers—even their lives.
My Thoughts:

Wow. I. Loved. This. Book. It had everything that makes a story great - a gripping plot, characters I cared about, just enough humor and wit, and plenty of I-can't-put-it-down suspense. For me, it was more "Don't interrupt me while I'm reading this or I might bite your head off." lol

My favorite excerpt from the book:

(Katie is trying to focus on searching the desert surroundings for signs of the "50-million-year-old whale". She's annoyed and distracted by a gun-toting Iraqi guard that she's secretly nicknamed "Blackbeard" who is following her.)

Katie climbed down into the gulley and followed its meandering course for several minutes before turning to look back. Hassan and Wayne were gone. Only Blackbeard remained. Rifle cradled in his arms, he followed along the edge of the gulley about a hundred feet behind her. Great, just what she needed - an armed guard to protect her from the desert. If a giant heatstroke happened to wander her way, maybe he'd scare it away with his big gun.

For as long as I can remember, I've had a fascination with archeology/paleontology, so Fossil Hunter was right up my alley. The author does an excellent job of showing us what a visit to Iraq would be like, from the miserable fiery hot weather to the political and social side. Needless to say, I don't think I would enjoy a trip to that area very much. But if I did somehow find myself there, I might have an idea of how to survive for a few days out in the hot desert if I happened to be robbed and left to die of heat and starvation by mercenary Iraqi guards. ;-)

One of the most interesting aspects of this book was seeing what the Christian paleontologist might face when it comes to religious prejudice in this field. Despite being told not to discuss her religion with anyone unless she wants to risk losing her job, and being accused of sabotaging a dig for a religious cause, Katie has an admirable attitude. Oh, she's nervous and afraid to speak up for herself and her faith at times, as we all would be, but her character is strong and spirited and definitely up for the challenge. She was an inspiration to me.

Fossil Hunter has been compared to Indiana Jones because it is chock full of adventure and intrigue. I completely agree and recommend this as an excellent read to both men and women.

I didn't realize this before, but John B Olson is one of the co-authors of Oxygen and its sequel, The Fifth Man! These books are much loved and highly recommended by me, as well - I re-read them regularly! Now I definitely have to go get all the rest of this author's books!

Profile Image for Ruth.
568 reviews38 followers
February 2, 2009
I initially balked at the opportunity to review Fossil Hunter because on the back of the book there's an advertisement proclaiming the book is part of the "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed campaign." Oh no...the dreaded threat of agenda-driven fiction! Thankfully, my concern has proven utterly unfounded. Fossil Hunter is a thoroughly absorbing thrill ride that takes readers from the halls of academia to the deserts of Iraq. Katie James is a renowned paleontologist who suffers from demophobia - a debilitating fear of crowds. That, plus her Christian faith, has caused her academic creditionls to come under fire. Believing her work and her faith can go hand-in-hand, Katie is desperate to prove herself and secure the funding her university needs in order to continue her research. She's sent into Iraq with the task of finding a potential new species of whale which could prove to be a new link in evolutionary theory. She finds herself in a race opposite her arch-rival Dr. Nick Murad. However, when a new fossil is discovered, Katie and Nick are forced to collaborate in order to survive warring factions in the Iraqi government and agenda-driven academics only interested in fossil finds that support popular (and evolutionary) scientific theories.

The action is briskly-paced and the characterizations are wonderfully rich and well-drawn. Olson puts his scientific background to good use (he has a background in biochemistry), but he never drowns the novel in incomprehensible lingo - all of the science is presented in such a way as to be fascinating and comprehensible by even the uninitiated reader. The inclusion of the present geo-political realities Katie and Nick face add tension and credibility to the storyline. Fossil Hunter packed with enough action and humor (and just a dash of romance!) to be worthy of a chapter in the adventures of another famous academic adventurer - Indiana Jones. What sets this novel apart is its intelligent, thoughtful, engaging discussion of the intersection of faith and science. Fossil Hunter is a action-packed thrill ride that begs for a sequel - I'd love to see the further adventures of Katie & Nick. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jill Williamson.
Author 55 books1,419 followers
February 11, 2009
Review by Jill Williamson

Katie James is a paleontologist sent to Iraq to recover a fossil before her rival, Nick Murad, can. But when Katie meets her competition, she can’t help but like him. Nick is handsome and nice, but he’s not a Christian, and therefore, not even a consideration to Katie. Katie’s boss doesn’t trust Nick and is certain Nick wants to take credit for the find. But when Katie finds a different fossil, one that’s so controversial it calls evolution into question, she needs Nick’s help to analyze it before the fundamentalist faction destroys it.

Nick discovers Katie is a Christian. Rumors fly back in the US that she planted the fossil with the intention of giving Creationism or Intelligent Design more credibility. Nick can’t believe that Katie would do such a thing. But he’s never met anyone who gets under his skin more. Katie is headstrong, tough, and bossy. Before he can decide what to think about her, the fossil gets stolen, the bad guys start chasing them, and Katie and Nick have to flee for their lives. Can Katie and Nick find the fossil before the bad guys find them?

Fossil Hunter is an action packed adventure that’s been compared to Indiana Jones, and rightly so. Rare fossils, over-reacting governments in foreign countries, a hint of romance…one can’t help but make the comparison. John B. Olson does a fantastic job of thrilling the reader from start to finish. My favorite kinds of books are those you can’t put down, and this is one of them. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 38 books401 followers
June 14, 2008

About the book:

In the desolate Iraqi desert, a lone shepherd stumbles across a whale fossil. Initial analysis indicates that it could be a new species-a discovery that could shed light on the evolution debate. Paleontologist Dr. Katie James is asked to lead an expedition to recover the rest of the fossil before her archrival, Nick Murad, can find it first.

My review:

Fossil Hunter is one of those books that not only entertains (and believe me, it does!) but it also educates. This is not a mindless story laden with drivel and rhetoric, but is an intelligent work of art, and it's full of depth and intrigue. I was impressed with how well the author developed the setting. I felt like I was on the run and hiding in the hot desert right along with Nick and Katie. And all that dust! Oy!

I'd heard the author was an expert at writing from a woman's point of view. That is definitely the case. The main character, Katie, was very believable and strong, yet enticingly vulnerable at the same time. The tension between Katie and Nick was exhilarating, too. I loved that. And unlike many high intensity novels these days, this one had a spiritual element that was subtle, yet genuine and clear.

In short, Fossil Hunter is a must-read. If you love action and adventure with subtle romantic elements you will love this story.

Fossil Hunter was published by Tyndale and released in May 2008.
Profile Image for Dan Rowling.
35 reviews2 followers
August 14, 2011
This was an excellent story. If there is anything with the story that might have made it difficult, that there were too many villains coming at her from all angles. The author really turned this into a strength because there were more twists and turns than a mountain road. One thing that I was disappointed in was that the author had Katie, the heroine pretty much reject the literal 7 day creation. I'm not sure why Answers in Genesis endorsed this in their magazines, as any speaker or other information that I have seen from AiG does not hold to the whole Creation/Evolution compromise. They in fact, have always taken a hard stance against it. If I missed something there, let me know so I can go back and read the change that she may have made somewhere in the latter part of the book, because early on she states that she believed that God created the earth and everything in it, then left everything else up to evolution, thus taking in the "old earth" stance. Overall, like I said, I loved the book. Hopefully the author makes this a series and corrects the compromise that he had put in this one and builds on her references to the Gospel.
689 reviews5 followers
November 13, 2019
Could have been so much better. Too much running around the 120 desert without dying of heat stroke/exhaustion. Not a believeable storyline at all. The science vs creationism debate was interesting but not enough info about it.
Profile Image for Caryl.
1,343 reviews26 followers
September 29, 2018
I enjoyed this story. The archaeological aspect is fascinating. The twists and turns kept me turning the pages.
Profile Image for Carl.
197 reviews47 followers
February 7, 2009
OK, I actually finished this a few months ago and never got around to finishing this review. The previous parts of my review can be found below. Like I said, a good Clive Cussler type novel (my mom loves those types of books, and she liked Fossil Hunter too), Indiana Jones style protagonist, but not all rough-and-tumble only, like, say, Laura Croft, she's also a very sweet girl who is constantly troubled by what many perceive as a conflict between her faith and her career. My main complaint is that it occasionally is a bit preachy, but I know at least some of that is from John trying to fit the directions given him by the publishing house and the media company that commissioned the work in the first place. John does the tightly-woven action-thriller plot quite well, and there are plenty of threads in this book which all come together in the end. I don't know if there is still the possibility of this becoming a movie (they were considering that if the related bits of the media blitz went well), but it would probably do pretty well as one-- but the fact that it's an "issue" story (ID, faith and science, and the way that comes out a bit blatantly sometimes) might make it a bit awkward-- I have trouble imagining actors being able to realistically portray some of the "issue" conversations in the book. But that might be the fault of my own imagination, and the issue might not be so much whether these bits were "realistic" in terms of what a real-life conversation might look like, but rather what a "realistic" Hollywood movie-conversation would look like.

Have finally been able to sit down for an extended period with something other than the draft he e-mailed me. Enjoying it, though I will warn you that it's not meant to be earth-shaking literary meat here-- just a thriller which touches on a current topic. I would put it at Clive Cussler level, probably better, with an engaging main character-- but John doesn't like writing series, so you miss out on a bit of that "oh, I've followed this character for years, or have to option of doing so, and that gets me even more engaged". The previous part of my review is below:

Another of John's upcoming books. Very entertaining as an adventure-thriller with an academic protagonist ala Indiana Jones, but also interesting for its critique of the evolution-ID-creationism debate. Not that you would treat this as a textbook, but I think that John's perspective (as a PhD in biochemistry as well as a Christian) is stimulating-- though it could end up with all the different camps getting angry at him. I've had the impression that John's views match up fairly well with Francis Collins', if you've read his stuff or listened to him (though I shouldn't speak for John here-- especially when you can find him on my friends list)-- you can see the Collins Berkeley talk here: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/event_det...
Being but a humble Norse mythologist, I don't enter into this debate much myself.
But in the drafts I've read there wasn't any proselytizing for his view and the science took a back seat to the adventure-- the controversy was there primarily to drive said adventure/conflict, both on the grander scale and in terms of interpersonal relationships.
Profile Image for Kara.
598 reviews67 followers
March 29, 2016
Wow. What an incredible story! This book is so far from what I normally read, and I have no idea what made me pick it up in the first place. But again, wow! If you want a first hand look at the life of archaeologists and scientists that go to remote places, working with troublesome governments, and all that comes with that kind of life, then here you go. Mr. Olson definitely seems to know his stuff when it comes to science. And writing a story about the controversy of evolution and creation had to pretty tough. But I thought he handled it very well. Switching back and forth between Katie's and Nick's points of view, this is a thrill ride that never stops until you hit the last page! Battling the prejudices of her co-workers, the harshness of the Pakistan desert, and worry for her father back home, Katie is still determined to get answers to her questions. She's a creationist but also a scientist and trying to balance the two is hard work. Especially when most of the scientific world around her thinks she's cuckoo. Nick, a scientist through and through, is the man who got the job she wanted and they've been rivals ever since. Always trying to outdo one another, even if they haven't even met in real life. Until they do meet, and suddenly have to trust one another in a confusing situation. Trust doesn't come easily for either one though, and the attraction they both feel doesn't help. Or well....it doesn't help Katie. Nick doesn't deny it nearly as long as Katie does. Their interactions are fun! The romance is definitely there, but very subtly and absolutely takes a backseat when their lives are on the line. Which happens basically all the time! Because they jump from one bad situation to another to another and another. Wandering in the desert with barely any food or water, being chased by bad guys, fossils being stolen and blamed wrongly on them. Yeah, life is crazy for these two! It's a pulse-pounding story that refuses to let up. As soon as you think things may calm down, it only lasts for about a page or two and then the bad guys find them again. It simply never stops, but it's so much fun!

Like Indiana Jones and those types of movies, this is fast paced and entertaining. The good guys against the bad guys. But figuring out who the good guys and bad guys are is part of the adventure! You get thrown into the action from the first page and it never lets up. Simply put, I couldn't put this story down once I started it. So be sure to allow plenty of time to read it because you won't be able to either. :D A few hours later, and I'm still thinking about it. All I can end with is, wow what a ride!
Profile Image for Nora St Laurent.
1,373 reviews74 followers
September 14, 2008
Reader Beware this is one breathtaking ride. Better buckle up get ready for some wild adventures. Author John B. Olson’s book is filled with suspense, action and drama. Watch out Indiana Jones fans; Dr. Katie James will capture your heart! She is working at University of Mexico and is a legend in her own time. Katie James is a woman who really knows her stuff, works harder than most in the male dominated field she is in; and is being blackmailed by the head of her dept. to go to Iraq to make the biggest find in history which will allow the University to keep it’s grant money.

Dietrich her Dept. head had given her strict orders not to share her faith with anyone anywhere. Can Katie take on this new assignment and not talk about how she feels regarding God? She soon will find out. “This was concerning her career which happened to be her only means of supporting her father. After what happened in Peru this was also Katie’s only avenue in which she would be able to clear her name. She didn’t have a choice.” Or did she?

Katie James races to Iraq ahead of schedule. She is desperate to make the find of the century when she bumps into Dr. Nick Muard. What was he doing here? Wasn’t he in Pakistan? How did he get to Iraq and why? It was her job – her discovery! It had to be that way – she needed the money. The competition was on. She had to find this fossil first so she could keep her grant. Katie was not afraid to go out and get what she wanted. She would follow her instincts and find that fossil – so much depended on her. Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes. Katie James was terrified of one thing and that was crowds. She feared lots of new people in the same location – shouting questions at her. The thought was frightening. She’d gladly take on a room full of snakes than a room full of people.

Nick and Katie are about the start the biggest challenge of their lives when the minister yells a warning , “Remember…you are in Iraq now. Nothing is ever easy, and nothing is ever what it seems!!”

Nick and Katie will keep you up late reading about their amazing fossil search; as they try to stay alive in such awful conditions. I totally enjoyed their adventures and think this book would make a GREAT movie. A female Indiana Jones I can see that and you will too after you read this exhilarating book.

Nora St. Laurent - Book Club Servant Leader
Profile Image for Sheryl Rogener.
17 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2008
Fossil Hunter
by John B. Olson
Tyndale House Publishers
Release date: May 2008

Sometimes you want to read a book that challenges you; sometimes you want a book that educates you; and sometimes you want a book that acts like the proverbial Calgon slogan and "takes you away".

Fossil Hunter takes you to new places, (unless you're a paleontologist or middle east expert), and brings you into the world of paleontologist Dr. Katie James. Katie's job and reputation are on the line. Her father is very ill. To make matters even more difficult, those that have sent her on this mission of finding a whale fossil that would close one of the gaps in evolution, are far from supportive. When it seems things can't get worse, she finds that her greatest competitor, is also looking for this same fossil. In the midst of it all, she has to keep and defend her faith in a world that not only refuses to embrace faith but sneers at faith openly and rejects the view points of those who do embrace faith. As if those challenges aren't enough, she has to be careful to walk the tightrope of all the politics and prejudices of the middle eastern world.

While some portions of this book tests the boundaries of believability, the book overall is an
interesting, enjoyable, and at times even educational read.

526 reviews7 followers
May 10, 2016
Fossil Hunter is an excellent book! The plot was strong, the characters real, the action kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Phillip E. Johnson stated: “Fossil Hunter is a delightful romantic thriller about a female Indiana Jones off on a scientific treasure hunt.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the book!

Just the story itself would have made it a great book, but the underlying premise tucked into the story brings the book to a even higher level for me personally.

The premise of the book as I saw it: Science is a tool. A tool that is not allowed to see God. Science is about data and evidence and therefore can not answer questions such as origin. However, just because science is about the natural world and can’t see the super-natural doesn’t mean that there is no God. Scientists should have the freedom to HONESTLY follow the scientific data wherever it leads, even if it doesn’t fit into a pre-conceived model, like evolution.

If you like a good story and you like to think through issues intellegently, then I would highly recommend that you read Fossil Hunter.

See my profile for my star rating system.
Profile Image for Paul.
26 reviews3 followers
April 1, 2009
I'm not a regular fiction reader, but I found this read fun and captivating as I followed the famous Fossil Hunter, Katie James, through the Iraqi Desert on an fossil dig site that had many 'Indiana Jones' moments. I enjoy the ongoing global debate over evolution and creation and this fictional story gave an interesting insight to a type of real life outcome of those in the actual examination of science. My young-earth-creationist bias enjoyed the interaction between the many camps of creation. The book leave many things open in the age of the earth issues that leave me cringing but I enjoyed the authors story all the way to the end.

If you're looking for a good adventure story with good action and solid story line, consider "Fossil Hunter". It's clean, funny, sharp, active, and a smart read. enjoy
Profile Image for Paula.
520 reviews4 followers
March 9, 2013
This one took a little while to capture my interest and I found myself skim-reading it until about halfway through. But once I got interested, it was good.

In my experience with Christian novels, the main characters tend towards being a bit syrupy and perfect, but apart from Katie's mad Lara Croft skills, I found that her and Nick were both refreshingly human. They were also pretty well written and for some reason I found myself being surprised when it finally clicked (I can be a bit slow) that the author is a male.

I was a little nervous as to where this story was going with the evolution vs intelligent design subject matter, but as I progressed, it really just gave me more to think about. If you're hard-core one way or the other, then you may not be open-minded enough to appreciate the author's approach, but in my opinion, it was well done. Definitely worth a read.

Profile Image for Karol.
622 reviews28 followers
August 29, 2010
I bought Fossil Hunter as soon as I saw it, having read books that John Olson authored with Randall Ingermanson and really liking those.

This was a fascinating and fast-paced story about an archeologist whom none of the established scientists want to listen to because (1) her mind is open to possibilities outside the theory of evolution and (2) she has discovered something that those same people don't want to recognize.

Set in Iraq, with bodyguards, ministers, and others whom you're never sure what side they are on, the book is suspenseful and intriguing. The heroine of the story, Katie James, is such fun - Indiana Jones has nothing on her! And Nick, her competitor-turned-collaborator (and potentially more) is pretty darned sharp, too.

I absolutely loved this book!
71 reviews
July 30, 2009
I really loved this book – Highly recommended. Like others noted you can not help but compare this book to a female version of Indiana Jones. It has adventure, politics, and a hint of romance. Olson does a wonderful job of writing this book from a female (Dr. Katie James) perspective with her strengths and vulnerabilities. This book educated me about paleontology, fossil hunting competition, Middle East politics and the never-ending debate about evolution. I especially liked the “fights/discussions” that James has with others that yes you can be a Christian and a scientist – they are not mutually exclusive.
Profile Image for Meadow Frisbie.
679 reviews21 followers
September 11, 2010
Katie James is a christian evelutionist. (if that's possible) and is constantly ridiculed due to her belif.
She is sent on one last mercy trip to discover a missing link in whales, but what she finds is something that will shake her belif in evelution forever.

This was amazing!! It was written well and had a great plot. At the end, I couldn't decide who was good or bad! It was such secrecy, very good. I loved how in exposes what scientists do to other's who find evidence to Intelegent Design. Firing, and makeing a bad name for them.

I wonder how much Creation evidence Evelutionists have destroyed?
Profile Image for Joseph.
41 reviews
November 23, 2014
This was a very enjoyable read. While I was expecting more paleontological content related to whales (from reading the book's description), I was let down on that front. The whale evolution references are generic and used very sparingly as a sub-context for the real subject, which is the question of scientific integrity in paleontology, as challenged by politics, religion, and money. It made me aware of issues that I hadn't thought of before, so I would say it was an enjoyable and worthwhile read, even if not what I was looking for.
Profile Image for Evangeline.
Author 7 books137 followers
August 19, 2008
This book has everything, action, suspense, romance. I loved the main character, Katie, and thought her demophobia added depth to her Indiana Jones-type character.
At first the science aspect of it scared my puny little brain, but John does a fantastic job of making it accesible for people like me.
This book is set mostly in Iraq, so make sure you have a fan on hand while you're reading because John's descriptions will have you sweating as well as gripping your seat.
Profile Image for Jim.
4 reviews
August 25, 2008
Interesting twist with action, evolution and politics. It has the elements I enjoy talking about even though the plot is a bit far fetched.
24 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2010
I enjoyed it. Surprisingly clean. :)
Profile Image for Susan.
667 reviews
August 6, 2010
This is a great, fast paced book with just enough romance in it. Not too preachy or scientific either. Fun read and I'll definately be looking for more from this author.
Profile Image for Leah.
4 reviews
April 19, 2012
good read but a bit to technical for those of us who aren't geologists/palentologists. also a bit confusing to follow.
354 reviews
November 13, 2014
indiana jones character is a christian woman
ok plot. ok characters. mostly a rant against scientists who refuse to admit the possibility of the existence of God
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