Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: "God's Lions: House of Acerbi" by John Lyman

Two years after the release of John Lyman's debut novel, "God's Lions: The Secret Chapel," Lyman is back with its sequel, "God's Lions: House of Acerbi."

This time, Lev, Leo and the rest of the Bible Code Team are working around the clock to identify, and put a stop to, the forces behind a lethal virus devastating cities around the globe. With the world on lockdown and clues pointing to the role of the Devil's Bible in the current catastrophe, the group's investigation takes them across Europe and, eventually, to Mexico.

It all starts with the discovery of a warning on the secret chapel discovered below the Vatican:
The others let out a collective gasp, for right before their eyes was the faded outline of a trefoil - a small central circle that served to join three larger ones that had their outward portions erased, like three sets of horns joined together by a center ring and pointing outward. It was the universal symbol used throughout the modern world to indicate a biological hazard, and it had been painted on a wall that had been hidden from view for over two-thousand years.
Lyman's writing is noticeably smoother this time around. "The Secret Chapel" suffered from clumsy exposition, and the Christian aspect was a bit over the top at times. (Well, what did I expect from a novel categorized as a religious thriller, after all?) "House of Acerbi," though not free of those flaws, shows improvement. It helps that the majority of the characters have already been introduced.

However, many of the things that were so neat about "The Secret Chapel" have a diminished presence here. The code doesn't play a pivotal role in the story - aside from setting up the twist at the end - and that's odd, because it was presented as such a game-changer in the first book. True, Daniel phones in at a couple points with new facts gleaned from the Bible, but they're not instrumental to the resolution. And, ah, the villain. To go from fighting Satan himself and his hand-picked demonic henchmen to fighting ... genetic manipulation and a megalomaniac. It's just not the same.
Highlight for a spoiler-ish aside: How on earth does the Bible Code Team allow three months to pass without doing anything while Rene Acerbi is the de facto ruler of the world? And then, they're not even the ones who finally take him out. Anti-climactic is a good way to describe it.

Lyman's books could be more tightly plotted, and they would benefit from a more streamlined cast of characters. His ideas are intriguing, though. Lyman sets up the premise for the sequel to the "House of Acerbi" at the end of this book, and it looks like he'll be returning to more of what I enjoyed about "The Secret Chapel." Here's hoping.