Sunday, June 29, 2008

Voynich News reviews PHILOSOPHER'S STONE

Here's one of the more surprising reviews I've come across. It was posted last month in the geeky Voynich News blog, a sort of pop culture monitor of things related to the mysterious manuscript. If you don't know what Voynich is, then nevermind. You wouldn't get it anyway.

Review of Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone...

No, not the
2008 film (though that too has a crystal skull-based storyline): I'm talking about the 1995 book by Max McCoy, which Bantam have just (May 2008) reissued apropos of nothing (apart from perhaps trying to surf the wave of the film's gigantic marketing spend?)

The Voynich Manuscript makes its appearance very early on (p.27, actually the first page of Chapter 1): McCoy manages to present its history very lightly and not bog the reader down in too many details. But as the book is set in 1933, there wasn't a whole UFO angle to cover (or other such modern confections). Instead, you get a little bit of Newbold, Bacon, alchemy, Major John M. Manly (!!!), John Dee, Kelly, the Shew Stone, and even a quick reference to Wilfrid Voynich in New York: basically, everything moves briskly along in the kind of proper screenplay-like way you'd hope from an Indy novel. Yes, there's even the occasional snake (for readers playing Indy buzzword bingo, I guess).

I'll admit it: I was charmed by the book. It's small (293 pocket-size pages), no larger than you'd imagine a Japanese commuter squeezing into a pocket, and reads so quickly that at some points (most notably in the end sequence past the oasis) I deliberately closed my eyes to slow the pace down so that I could properly picture the scene in my mind.

Historically, the book has a deliciously light touch throughout, in particular when Indy and his companion are improbably rescued by an elderly French couple called Nicholas and Peronelle (p.200) - and if you can't work out who they are by that stage in the story, you very possibly deserve to be shot.

Thanks, Voynich News, for noticing. And sorry for calling you geeky.