Napoleon's Pyramids


William Dietrich




Date Reviewed:

December 12, 2013

apoleon's Pyramids is clearly meant to be a movie script. It tells the story of Nathan Gage, an 18th century version of Indiana Jones, except with less plausability. Nathan Gage is an American frontiersman living in Paris who happens to win a mysterious medallion in a card game. From the moment Gage wins ownership of the medallion, his life becomes a series of improbable adventures - dashing from one exciting scene to the next. Most the action takes place in Egypt, where Gage accompanies Napoleon and his army on the conquest of Egypt.

In the movies, stunning visuals can sometimes overcome weakness in plot. You often see a movie where millions are spent on special effects, but apparently much less attention was spent on the story line. If filmed, Napoleon's Pyramids would be exactly that type of movie - dramatic chase scenes and stunning backgrounds (The pyramids! Secret temples entrances! Gun battles! Sailing ships! Storms! Booby-traps!), but little time spent on developing characters or a believable story line.

Nathan Gage unfortunately is just an action figure that Dietrich moves from dramatic scene to scene. He is an expert shot with his long rifle (unless of course he is shooting directly at one of the arch villains, in which case Gage will miss so that the bad guy can reappear in the next chapter for another cinematic encounter.) Does Gage need a love interest? How about giving him a gorgeous genius Egyptian priestess who happens to speak English? Does Gage need an Egyptian scholar who can explain the strange medallion secrets? Why, my English-speaking brother just happens to study ancient Egyptian history, he is exactly the man you need to visit! Does Gage need a clue to advance him to the next scene? How about a dying man gasping out a cryptic hint, and then expiring before he can explain what he meant.

The entire novel is simply moving from one unlikely coincidence to the next. Although Gage is obviously modeled after Doctor Jones, he fails to demonstrate the least intellectual prowess. At least Indiana Jones could solve a puzzle or decrypt an ancient language. Gage merely blunders from once scene to the next, unable to figure out anything on his own. At no point does Gage formulate a plan of action, he just runs around wildly as Dietrich throws in one unlikely event after another. The improbable events both help and hinder Gage. Suddenly he will be beset by an army of villains, but then just as suddenly an ally will come to his rescue just in the nick of time. This pattern is repeated many times throughout the story. Despite bullets and cannon balls flying everywhere, Gage is never even scratched. Desperate warfare rages all around, with hand to hand combat, epic scale battles and a plethora of ambushes. But Gage is never hurt, and the reader knows that he won't be. I don't enjoy this type of novel - it is impossible cheer the exploits of Gage, or fear for his fate, when clearly he will always triumph, no matter how unlikely his success seems to be.

My overall conclusion is that I liked this novel enough to finish it, but I didn't like it enough to read the next book in the series. The coincidences are too overwhelming; the suspension of my disbelief was strained beyond the breaking point by the plot.