For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.
In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a young Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a black duffel bag into her hands. By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every sympton confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artificact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact; a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors.
This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life's work and to one of history's great riddles; why the Maya kingdoms vanished seemingly overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate. And only days remain until 12.21.
The characters are absolutely captivating and haunting. Each has so much of a personal reality that it really adds to the necessary components to make this one of the most fascinating reads of the year. Going back and forth between the ancient Maya and our current situation creates two different worlds that are equally frightening and realistic. Though I expected to have some issues going back and forth, it was set up so that while you're in one world, you're not sitting there wondering about the other. At the point that you switch, you don't feel as if you've been pulled from one place to the other, but rather happily excited to continue the next.
Actually, I personally found this book to be pure genius. We have a surprise strain of what is basically mad cow disease and they have no clue where it came from or how to stop it. In the past, we have an unheard of codex that is explaining the critical steps to the fall of the ancient Mayans. People are dieing left and right in both places and we have no hope in sight for fixing any of it.
The best part for me was that this could actually be a reality. The way which the story, both past and present, is presented to us leads us to believe that this could very well be what's to come in our near future. There are some pretty gorey scenes, but they added to the story instead of just being gratuitous. The faint of heart may want to skip a few chapters here and there, but the rest of you will gobble it up hungrily.
For anyone who loves a good scare, this is definitely the book to pick up between now and December. I'm not saying don't read it next year if you don't get around to it this year, but given the release date of the book and the time we currently live in, it just seriously adds so much more to the drama.