Paul Bennett's Reviews > The Pharaoh Key

The Pharaoh Key by Douglas Preston
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did not like it
Read 5 times. Last read June 16, 2018 to June 17, 2018.

I've loved Preston & Child since Relic came out and read many of their works over the years. To me they were trailblazers of the scientific/supernatural suspense thriller and many other authors have taken what they did and riffed on it (Dan Brown, James Rollins, Steve Berry, etc) to great success. So when I found this novel at my local Costco I had to pick it up and return to the wonder these two authors seem to effortlessly create in their books.

I'm sad to say, that wonder is completely lacking in this book. In fact, the book was not just poorly written and paced, but it vacillates from plodding and boring to forced and frantic without any real need to do either. I'll try to steer clear of spoilers and just deal with the overall problems with the book itself.

Firstly, there is no connection with any of the characters in the book. Gideon's ailment while one would assume it would lend itself towards creating a bond with the reader, is largely absent except as a device to drive the pace of the book. It never feels real, mostly because Gideon is completely devoid of any kind of nuance that would cause us to care that he has the medical condition. This just complicates the entire story as it is used in certain chapters to create tension and move the story when there is a pause for whatever reason.

Garza is completely unlikable and unrealistic, while many characters of this kind exist in books of this type, his stature in the book is highly problematic. At once another driving force for speeding up the pace of the book he also slows things down with complaints, backwards attitudes, a seeming lack of ability to function in a foreign land, and a complete lack of common sense and street smarts. This proves more than problematic because he's so unbelievable as a character that survived one adventure, let alone all of those he's been written into. His presence in the story, let alone Gideon's life is not just strange but created a huge disconnect for this reader.

Imogen Blackburn's appearance out of thin air, and everything following her appearance further drags the book from boredom into an area of complete apathy. The authors lack the desire to attempt some kind of tension between her and Gideon, though it should have been there and it's even referenced at the end of the book. As smart as Gideon is, he's completely flummoxed by her, but at the same time completely impotent despite the danger that immediately escalates at her appearance. Regardless, she does everything the other two can't seem to do and at the same time does absolutely nothing except keep them alive to push the plot that continues to fray away to nothing.

The book has a list of issues that only increase with each passing chapter. The first 5 chapters are merely boring, with little or nothing to truly pull the reader in, they aren't terrible just slow. Chapter 6 marks the completely unnecessary return to their former employers "lair", and it is unnecessary because as smart as he is, he doesn't need their reappearance to find out they've hoodwinked him and stolen something. As paranoid as he is he would have numerous means of knowing they copied the information, and just as easily they could have copied all of the necessary information when they were booted from the company. These "extra" chapters of don't do anything except add words and pages to the book.

This book feels like the authors' attempt to complete a book deal and get out of the Gideon Crew contract. It lacks any real suspense as every instance of action or possible character death is rushed and never "feels" real. Gideon and Garza should be more than equipped for this type of mission, but many times get taken completely off guard or unprepared for the next round of problems. Their skills only show up when nothing else can get them out of a bind, but are rarely present to keep them from getting out of the bind in the first place. Given their backgrounds and prior experiences this only makes for a completely incongruous plot. Similarly Blackburn is ALWAYS in a position to "save" them, mostly through unexplained knowledge or just dumb luck. Again causing great difficulty in communicating any sense of reality in the story.

There is also the issue of the Phaistos Disk itself. It drives the entirety of the plot, but is largely absent. There aren't puzzles to solve, no tricks or twists that the Disk could possibly hold. It's just a treasure map that is miraculously deciphered and that's it.

I finished the book and felt completely let down. Upon looking back the plot feels like Dan Brown Lite or even Preston & Child Fanfic. The supernatural/spiritual is never really there until the end, and then it's left shrouded in another unbelievable "decision". Blackburn has no reason to keep that "surprise" from Gideon. His ailment has him on a clock that is close to running out of ticks, and Gideon after losing everything else doesn't even try to get on nugget of wisdom from the entire event. The multi-chapter epilogue is two and a half chapters too many, and lacks the only one worth writing. Preston & Child use terrible writing in an attempt at "closure" and rather than leaving the reader with as many "possibilities" as they can they cut them off essentially cauterizing different plotlines in a way that makes it unlikely there will be a return to any of the characters outside of Blackburn.

If I could give this fewer stars I would. I'm the type of reader that doesn't leave a book unfinished even if it's terrible. This book is just that. Boring, slow, painfully written, and a chore to read. Preston & Child always had the ability to make to take unreal, supernatural elements of suspense and create a realistic tale that was creepy, driving, and well written. They fail at every turn in The Pharaoh Key to accomplish that task, they don't even get close.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Audiobook Edition)
Finished Reading (Audiobook Edition)
Finished Reading
June 16, 2018 – Started Reading
June 16, 2018 – Started Reading (Audiobook Edition)
June 17, 2018 – Shelved (Audiobook Edition)
June 17, 2018 – Shelved
June 17, 2018 – Finished Reading
June 17, 2018 – Finished Reading (Audiobook Edition)

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy I agree that it was rushed, and I never felt the 'can't put it down' feeling.

Carol Ross I agree with every single point. I found the 'surprise' very frustrating.
And agree that only Imogen
can continue into another book where perhaps more will be revealed. A total letdown and disappointment.

Terrie You've said it all.

Colleen Perfect review. Felt very canned and unbelievable. Almost laughably bad at parts.

Galen G. I agree with your assessment. Gideon and Garza, despite their intelligence and skill, appeared to have no clue about mounting an expedition into a hostile environment. They had no supplies, no real plan, and between Garza's complaints and sulking and Gideon's lack of any helpful ideas, one would think they had never been involved in other, equally dangerous, missions. This was a disappointing read.

message 6: by David (new)

David King I saw everything coming and I don’t like books that make me do that. The ending was a farce.

message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy I'm about 3/4's of the way through the book and still SMH at how ill-prepared Gideon and Garza were to take this trip and how unbelievable Imogen is as their saviour time and time again. The pace is both fast and boring at the same time.

Deena Scintilla It was a very disappointing read. Good review!

Brett Agreed, this felt like a contractual obligation book. I really only liked the Ice Limit books in this series and I'm glad it's over.

Nikita Johnston Agree completely, and Imogen not telling Gideon felt like a complete cop out by the authors who couldnt be bothered to come up with even a halfway decent final “treasure”. This entire series has been frustrating to read with poorly developed characters, who never seem like real people, and relationships that never seem organic or solidly founded on realistic expectations or emotions.

Elektrohase Oh another Mary Sue in the bucket of recent Mary Sue stories... I'm not sure if I want to finish that story. I alse preferred the old books of the authors, the new ones are just... Bad?

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