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The Mayan Destiny by Steve Alten

Please note this is novel is a direct sequel to The Mayan Resurrection and third in an on-going series. This review may contain potential spoilers for those who have not read books one and two. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fate comes full circle…

It is 2047: fourteen years since Jacob Gabriel descended into the Mayan netherworld, while his twin brother turned from their chosen path, opting to remain behind.  

Immanuel Gabriel – still running from the forces that hunt his bloodline – believes his actions proved his role in the Mayan prophecy to be nothing but an ancient myth. Now, though, he will realize his mistake. 

As the prophecy begins to repeat itself and mankind once again faces annihilation, Immanuel learns there was only ever one person with the power to end the cycle of destruction: himself.

Three successive generations of the Gabriel family have now been involved in the race to save the Earth from itself. This novel finally brings them all together, no mean feat when at least one of them has been dead for decades. The action moves from 2047 back to 1990 and then forward again to the eve of the apocalyptic event the Mayans predicted in 2012.

Immanuel ‘Manny’ Gabriel is the focus for much of this novel, this is a nice touch as he spent much of The Mayan Resurrection (book two) overshadowed by his sibling, Jacob. There are some good moments where Manny gets the opportunity to revisit some key scenes from the previous novels, but the author has subtly tweaked them to give a slightly differing perspective than before.

Time travel has always struck me as a tricky story element to get right, there is always the possibility that you are going to lose your audience if you make things overly complex when you are write about it. Time loops, past lives, parallel time lines, temporal paradoxes and the like seem to exist just to trip an author up. Alten manages to handle this all quite well and I was able to follow the various cross-dimensional action without any degree of difficulty.

The same criticism I leveled at book two is still true in book three. At times there is a distinct over indulgence of fact that interrupts the flow of the fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a certain amount of exposition is required but there does seem to be an awful lot of it. Like its predecessor, this novel is very nearly six hundred pages long and I think it could have been trimmed down a bit. Losing some of the more detailed explanations would not have done any harm.

That small gripe aside I did actually enjoy the story. The series has successfully morphed from a thriller with science fiction elements (book one) into full-on galaxy spanning sci-fi (book three). Alten has written the literary equivalent of a shell game and the reader has to pay close attention or risk losing sight of the cup that contains the pea under it.

Looking around at reviews elsewhere I think that Alten is a bit of a marmite author, you either connect with his work and enjoy the ride or don’t.  I can appreciate that this series is not for everyone, there is lots of back and forth that some readers may find confusing, personally I enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep up. The best advice I can give is that, if you enjoyed the first two books then you will enjoy this one as well. Conversely I should also stress that the book will be utterly confusing if you haven’t read books one and two.

There is also a short epilogue at the novel’s end that suggests there may be more of this story still to tell. I’m not sure if another novel is entirely necessary? Though I am open to the prospect of being convinced however.  Honestly I would much prefer that there was a re-issue of Alten’s bonkers prehistoric shark magnum opus Meg.

The Mayan Destiny was originally published under the title Phobos: Mayan Fear in the United States back in 2011. The Mayan Destiny is published by Quercus in the UK and is available now.

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