Book Review: Atlantis by David Gibbins

As the title suggests, this book deals with the legend of Atlantis and the chain of events that lead up to its fictional discovery by Jack Howard and his colleagues from IMU.  Jack Howard and IMU are both fictional and play a role in quite a few of David Gibbins’ books, all dealing with archaeology and the discovery of lost secrets and treasures.  The first ‘Jack Howard’ book I read was called The Last Gospel, which dealt with a possible alternative history of the Catholic church (a pretty popular theme over the last decade).

By itself, Atlantis was a fairly good book, especially if you have an interest in history.  The reason I say that is because Gibbins weaves fiction and fact together to create these stories, conveniently leaving a section at the end pointing out what was fictional and created for the purpose of telling the story.  So, you can learn something and be entertained at the same time.

That’s also where it fails.  The story is so heavily reliant on the reader knowing details about actual events that there always seems to be a multiple page character discussion, or a monologue, where certain elements of history are spelled out in great detail to the reader.  This also applies to every tool or piece of equipment that’s being used.  They’re described in excessive detail, from what the control panel looks like to how it works, to the theories behind why it works.  For a while that’s great, but after seeing devices and ideas consistently spelled out like this throughout the book it starts to get a bit tiresome.  Some things should be left to the reader’s imagination, or for the reader to infer from the story.

This is really noticeable at the end of the book.  There are actually two endings.  There’s the point where it should’ve ended, and the part where the text actually stops.  I won’t spoil it by saying exactly where it should’ve stopped, because for anyone interested in an alternative history type novel, this is certainly worth the time it takes to read, but Gibbins went overboard and filled the last few pages with another ‘explain everything’ character discussion.  Instead of leaving the reader to use the grey stuff between their ears and realize what was really going on with Atlantis, Gibbins spends multiple pages spelling it out to you, just in case you’re too stupid to figure it out on your own.

Despite that, I still enjoyed the book because I do have an interest in history and archaeology and I enjoyed being able to learn about those two topics in story form, rather than as a straight-up text book.

So, don’t go out and spend a bunch of money on this book, but if you see it on the bargain rack go for it.