TLC Book Tour Review of “12-21” by Dustin Thomason

This thriller begins ten days before the purported apocalypse of 12/21/2012 predicted by interpretations of the Ancient Mayan calendar.

Gabriel (“Gabe”) Stanton, is the director of a center in L.A. for research on prions – proteins in the brain responsible for some rare and currently incurable diseases, including Mad Cow Disease and Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI). He gets an urgent call from Michaela Thane, a resident at East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital. She believes she is seeing a case of FFI, which causes total insomnia, leading to hallucinations, panic, and seizures. Nearly all of the afflicted die after a few weeks. Thane’s patient doesn’t speak English however, and when someone finally guesses he may be speaking Qu’iche, a branch of the Mayan language spoken by many Guatemalans, Stanton and Thane call upon Chel Manu, a local language expert, to help them translate.

Dr. Manu, curator of Maya antiguities for the Getty Museum, specializes in epigraphy, the study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions. Coincidentally with being summoned by Stanton, she has come into an incredibly valuable ancient Mayan codex, or written history, which was painted in glyphs (hieroglyphic-like symbols) by a royal scribe of a king.

Example of Mayan glyphs

Chel discovers that the patient, Volcy, is the one who found the codex, and he sold it to the collector who gave it to Chel for safekeeping. Volcy dies before he can tell them where he got the book, which is presumably where he contracted this virulently lethal disease. It is imperative for Chel to translate the codex as soon as possible, in the hope that she can figure out where it came from. Stanton needs to get to the source of the infection in order to figure out a cure, because somehow the FFI is spreading, at a rate suggesting that the rumored apocalypse could actually be happening.

As Chel translates, she learns about the fascinating world of Paktul, the scribe of the codex; what happened to cause the collapse of his city; and the reason that Volcy would get sick and die almost 1100 years after Paktul himself succumbed.

Discussion: Some aspects of the story were not plausible to me, such as Chel’s speed at translating broken fragments of a document that was moreover written in ancient glyphs no longer readily understandable.

© 2008 henry toromoreno

It also appeared that everyone was quite susceptible to the disease except the characters the author needed to keep around.

The persona of Victor, Chel’s mentor, seemed a bit inconsistent to me, and the villain was a little too cardboardy. As for the two main protagonists, I really never felt like I “knew” either Gabe or Chel. But I found the medical part and the explication of Mayan culture quite interesting, and I enjoyed the sections of the book that told Paktul’s story.

Evaluation: I had a mixed reaction to this book. Much of it moved along at a “thriller” pace, but I considered some aspects to be better written than others. The ending also disappointed me; in addition to an abrupt denouement, the theme of coincidence or fate, so prevalent throughout most of the book, just sort of got dropped.

Nevertheless, it is an entertaining book, and certainly recommended for those with an interest in the prophecies about a possible apocalypse on 12/21/2012.

Rating: 3/5

Published by The Dial Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc, 2012

Note: This book is reviewed as part of TLC Tours.


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13 Responses to TLC Book Tour Review of “12-21” by Dustin Thomason

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    The thriller pace sounds good but the rest of it really doesn’t appeal to me.

  2. Sandy says:

    No, I have to agree with Kathy. I am always intrigued with the end-of-the-world theme, but often it is just a hook and the delivery ends up being underwhelming. It does remind me that I need to make sure I’m living it up on December 21st this year though.

  3. zibilee says:

    I am pretty sure this is not the book for me. The implausibility just kills it for me, and I’m not all that enthralled with the 2012 end of the world theories. I do love the variety of books that you read though, and this one intrigues, but I feel like it would disappoint.

  4. Jenners says:

    I’m just glad to know when the date is. I thought it was in May actually. Got some time left. : 0

  5. stacybuckeye says:

    I don’t have time to read this before 12-21 and after that it won’t matter.

  6. Beth F says:

    Thanks for the warning. I was going to read this because several of my former academic colleagues are Maya experts. On the other hand, I might get a laugh or two.

  7. Stepping Out of the Page says:

    Oh this looks very different and quite intriguing. Thank you for the honest review! 😉

    Steph @

  8. Ti says:

    I didn’t enjoy the diary/letter entries.

  9. I passed on reviewing this one because the whole “giving a date for the apocalypse” is so utterly ridiculous. Granted it’s a fiction book, but I’m afraid I know I’d have a bad attitude going into it so I figured why bother. 🙂

  10. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    Mixed reaction has me moving on!

  11. Belle Wong says:

    I have this on hold at the library. I love a thriller pace, but I’m not fond of abrupt endings. Hmmmm ….

  12. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one for the tour.

  13. bookingmama says:

    Thanks so much for your honest review. This is a book that I’ve been wondering about.

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