Walt Becker

Avon / 432 pages / Reprint edition (February 8, 2000)

ISBN: 0380731614

How many theories have been formulated to explain the existence of life on Earth? What better way to start a shouting match than to get creationists and Darwinists in the same room? Where did man come from? And, where is that pesky missing link? A new, well-documented hypothesis on the origins of man would certainly stir things up. Unfortunately, Link isn’t going to provide that catalyst.

If you’ve read Chariots of the Gods and the thousand or so rehashing of those ideas, you’ve pretty much got it.

That’s forgivable, though; anyone looking for theories and proof should be reading scientific journals and Popular Science, not novels. If we rely on fiction to solve all of life’s puzzles for us, we’re going to be waiting a looooonnggg time. Even if it never hurts to learn something along the way, the point here is storytelling.

In that Link succeeds. And it fails.

Becker’s story starts out with promise. Paleoanthropology is an interesting field. Africa is an exotic and intriguing location. The discovery of a major scientific find is exciting. Add to that a cast of characters worthy of our attention, a race against time, and a last-minute escape, and it is a promising beginning for a novel.

Jack and Samantha, once engaged, are forced to work together in a decidedly uncomfortable situation. Ricardo, a brilliant scientist and long-time friend, is placed in the role of peacekeeper. Dorn, ex-arms smuggler and continuing bad guy, wants Jack out of Samantha’s life, but, even more, he wants the wealth and power the discovery will place in the hands of whoever controls it. The CIA even works its way in, determined to obtain whatever the scientists uncover.

There is action, emotion, and danger. Things keep hopping with explosions, gunfire, natural disasters — plenty of violence. Some of the gore is portrayed in such wincing detail that it is surprising that the consummation of two characters’ passion is covered in a one-sentence euphemism. Savagery is acceptable, apparently, but not sensuality. Not a new attitude, unfortunately.

As long as the action is rolling, Link moves along at an acceptable pace. It is in the exposition where things grind to a halt. True, there is a lot of scientific and pseudo-scientific material to cover, but there are more subtle ways to blend it into the narrative. The “Yes, Miss Johnson, I believe that could be the **** principle, the one that postulates…” approach belongs to B-movies of the 50s and 60s. One long-winded recitation of Jack’s sociological and religious beliefs is a good reminder to keep those door-to-door evangelists out of your house. And, to never, ever date a scientist.

Link has its good points and its bad points.

The thing is:  it could have been so much better.