Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
by James Rollins
Published by Del Rey
Adrick's Rating: 3 out of 4
He’s back. Everyone’s favorite glove-trotting, treasure-hunting, wisecracking archaeologist is finally at it again—hurtling head first into high adventure and relying on his wits, his fists, and his trusty bullwhip to get him out of deep trouble. But the man in the jaunty brown fedora and battered leather jacket is no ordinary digger in the dirt. From the fabled lost Ark of the Covenant to the legendary Holy Grail, he’s salvaged the world’s most amazing artifacts while beating the baddest and defying the most breathtaking odds.
Now it’s 1957, the atomic age is in full swing, and McCarthy-era paranoia has the nation on edge. But for Indiana Jones, the Cold War really heats up when his latest expedition is crashed by a ruthless squad of Russian soldiers. Commanded by a sword-wielding colonel who’s as sinister as she is stunning, the menacing Reds drag an unwilling Indy along as they brazenly invade American soil, massacre U.S. soldiers, and plunder a top-secret government warehouse. Their objective: a relic even more precious—and powerful—than the mythic Ark, capable of unlocking secrets beyond human comprehension.
Fast thinking and some high-speed maneuvers help Jones turn the tables, and a one-in-a-million escape narrowly saves him from certain death. But when he’s tarred as a suspected spy and fired by his university, Indy thinks it may be time to hang up his hat.
Fate, however, has other plans. Suddenly the road to retirement takes a sharp detour when a colleague’s kidnapping leads Jones into the depths of the Amazon jungle on a desperate mission. With a hot-headed teenage biker as his unlikely wingman and his vengeful new Russian nemesis waiting for a rematch, Indy’s back in the game—playing for a prize all the wonders of the world could never rival.
Indiana Jones films are well known for their thrilling chases and gargantuan set pieces, for two-fisted action sequences and dry one-liners, for heebie jeebie inducing creepy crawlies and fantastic supernatural treasures. Not so much for character development.
Nevertheless, over the years Indiana Jones has grown past his beginnings as a mere embodiment of the serial heroes of yesteryear. For many fans, Indy is more than a mystery-solving, whip-toting action hero. Thanks largely to Last Crusade and the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Indy has become a developed character with a long and interesting life story. Appropriate though it may be for his larger-than-life persona, Indy’s life doesn’t end as he rides on horseback into the sunset.
While the final version of the movie Kingdom of the Crystal Skull addresses how Indy has dealt with the passage of time since Last Crusade, the novel really does it justice. There are many scenes cut from the movie that show Indy coming to grips with his changing world—he even almost abandons the whip and fedora at one point.
Although he probably didn’t realize he was picking up important scenes of Indy’s story from the cutting room floor, Rollins has adapted these moments very well indeed. He also fleshes out some of the subplots that weren’t fully explored in the film. We get into heads of both Indy and Marion, and find out what happened to their relationship over the years, and why it seems like it will work—for good—this time.
But while Rollins brings more character and romance to the story, he doesn’t let it bog down the adventure. Nearly every chapter has an exciting cliff-hanger ending and I found myself reading on just to see what happened next—even though I’d already seen the film twice.
Like the Attack of the Clones and Phantom Menace novels, there are several chapters of additional story before the film’s opening scenes. Orellana’s fate and Indy’s abduction
by Russian agents are shown here. If you’ve seen the movie multiple times and still can’t get enough Indy, these are definitely worth checking out.
It’s also nice to see that Rollins worked with the young adult novelization author, James Luceno, to ensure that their books would have two unique points of view. For example, the opening scenes of the film are seen through the teenage daredevils’ eyes in Luceno’s version, while here we see them witnessed by the unfortunate soldiers guarding Hanger 51. I’ll admit, I was disappointed when I learned that Luceno wouldn’t be writing the adult novelization, but Rollins has done an excellent job of adapting Kingdom to the page.
I hate to nitpick, but one thing that bugged me about Rollins’s style is that he uses all caps almost every time any character raises his or her voice, whether they’re scared, angry, or even just yelling over the sound of a departing vehicle. Usually just something along the lines of “he shouted” works for me.
Another minor issue is that a lot of the background between Indy and Marion doesn’t jive too well with earlier stories. For example, here it’s implied that Marion met Indy when she was his graduate student, whereas it’s suggested in Raiders of the Lost Ark (and much more heavily implied in the Raiders novel) that she was a teenager during their first affair. Of course, Indy continuity outside of the films and television show has always been incredibly spotty, but this seems as though it’s a deliberate attempt to make Indy seem less of a heel.
In the movie, Indy and company happen upon a large collection of artifacts from around the world in one scene. In the novel, this scene is much more gruesome, but eye’d hate to spoil it for you.