Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Feb 062015

Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildOf all the books I’ve read for my Readings in the Genre (RIG) classes, one of my favorites was Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I loved its sinister atmosphere, enjoyable characters, and fun inclusion of science. I couldn’t wait to read the sequel, Reliquary.

Much to my disappointment, Reliquary didn’t live up to the original. It wasn’t a bad book, but it just wasn’t very good.

For starters, the first half of the book painstakingly leads toward a “twist” that was revealed at the very end of Relic. If you started with the sequel or don’t remember that final cliffhanger, it works fine, and it’s still a well-written moment, but something many of the readers would be familiar with–which may have even led them to buy the book–shouldn’t have been treated as such a huge revelation.

Most of the science ties to that revelation, as well, which was another disappointment for me. I enjoyed the way Relic used science to unravel the mystery… not so much when it’s a mystery the audience already knows the answer to.

Next, the book devotes a considerable chunk of pages to a subplot that could be removed entirely without much damage to the plot. At most, it would lose some societal commentary it better illustrated through characters like Mephisto and Sergeant Hayward, anyway.

XenomorphThird, while the overall plot is interesting, it just doesn’t carry the same tension and mystery as the first one. The creatures in Reliquary are dangerous and cause gruesome deaths, but somehow aren’t as menacing as Mbwun. Maybe it’s similar to Alien, where the terror created by one solitary monster diminishes in effect when spread to a mob. Even at this book’s most dangerous moments, it didn’t live up to the heart-pounding moments of Relic.

Finally, for the second book in what eventually became known as the Special Agent Pendergast series, Pendergast is barely in it at all. He has a couple of cool moments, but most of the attention is on Margo, Smithback, and D’Agosta. They drive most of the plot, and Pendergast feels almost like an afterthought–added in because of positive reception to the character and not because the story needed him.

I did enjoy some moments–and the final twist took me completely by surprise. Just moments after I thought, “No, it can’t be going there,” it went there. (A little more foreshadowing might have helped, however.) Although I’ve criticized the book a lot here, I wanted to know what happened next and it wasn’t hard to keep reading.

Should you read Reliquary? If you really want to go in order, it’s a decent read with some good moments. But most fans agree this is the weakest of the Pendergast novels, and I don’t think you’d miss anything by jumping from Relic straight to The Cabinet of Curiosities.

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