#Adventure Review: Testament by David Gibbins (@GibbinsDavid)

With my second Jack Howard adventure behind me, I can honestly say that David Gibbins is everything I always wanted Clive Cussler to be. That's not to say I don't enjoy the adventures of Dirk Pitt or Sam and Remi Fargo, because I do (immensely at times), but I find the narrative balance in the Jack Howard adventures far more to my liking. Where Cussler often feels more like a James Bond adventure with a little underwater treasure-hunting, Gibbins is more of an underwater Indiana Jones, offering up underwater archaeology, detailed history, and action-packed thrills in equal measure, and all with the kind of detail that makes it come alive.

That brings me to Testament, the 9th adventure for Jack Howard, in which the team goes in search of nothing less than the Ark itself . . . yes, that Ark, the same one Indy fought the Nazis for. Actually, while the Ark is at the core of the novel, the MacGuffin if you will, it's just one small part of the story. Of far more interest is the ancient history of Phoenician explorers from the 6th century BC (and the question of whether they could have circumnavigated the coast of Africa or reached the shores of Europe) and the more recent history of WWII code-breakers (and what tragic role they may have played in diverting Nazi treasures and Japanese uranium shipments).

I have seen other reviewers complain that the book is too wordy, with too much elaboration, reading like an archaeology report or a history book, but that is precisely what drew me in. Yes, it's odd to have the book completely sidetracked by diversions into history, but that's what I find fascinating. Yes, there are some very long, very detailed how-to passages about diving and archaeological digs, but that's what excites me. And, yes, there is genuine character building for both the protagonists and the supporting cast, but that's what makes the story so engaging.

Minor spoiler here, but what I like best about the novel was the fact that finding - or not finding - the Ark is of no consequence to the story. The story of the Ark, and the possible journey it may have taken following the Babylonian conquest, is what connects the Phoenician shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall, the British WWII-era shipwreck in the Atlantic ocean, and the lost Nazi submarine in Somalia, but it's not what defines the book. It's the history, the drive to explore, and the sacrifices we make that bring it all together. I almost hate to say it, but for all its genre coincidences and conveniences, Testament is a novel that's perhaps too smart for some readers. It demands patience, consideration, understanding, and even empathy. There are plenty of popcorn thrills, whether they be chases, explosions, or narrow escapes, but they're balanced by the history, the archaeology, and the human element.

While the mass-market paperback release of Inquisition seems so far away, that does give me plenty of time to work my way backward, filling in the gaps between Pharaoh (my first Jack Howard adventure) and Testament with Pyramid, before going back to the start with Atlantis.

Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by St. Martin's Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.