Book Review: Amazonia by James Rollins: A Snake Flaw in Chapter 1!

Amazonia by James Rollins, is really quite a good adventure novel with the enthralling story that reveals the truth behind the numerous disappearances of individuals and expeditions in the Central Amazon Jungles bordering Peru, Brazil and Ecuador.

This portion of Amazonia is the home of the Yanomamo tribe, a fierce people who have found that the best way to guard their way of life is to deal with intruders in various unpleasant ways. Their brutality dates all the way back into the times of Francisco Pizarro who had one of his underlings overseeing the extraction of gold along a tributary of the Amazon.  When the overseer got to vociferous with his greed for gold the Yanamomo warriors simply captured him, staked him out of the ground, forced open his mouth and filled it and his throat with molten gold!

So yes, James Rollins has done his research on the area and has written a really great jungle adventure.  I enjoyed reading it and rate it a 4 and 1/2 on stars. Read it, you’ll like it!

Here’s the rub!

it seems that we all carry in our bones an instinctive fear of snakes.  The larger the better and of course getting the best of one of the big buggers is a great tale to tell.  But in order to do so, we have to not drift into complete fantasy about the relative strength of a thirty or more foot python or anaconda and what they can do to a person who is trapped within the coils of a constrictor of that size.

Let’s take a small sized boa, python or anaconda, say four feet long, who has just had a nice live chicken placed in his cage. The chicken runs around a bit pecking the ground and then stops and freezes as it recognizes an ancient enemy, the snake.

Both creatures freeze and you can see the tension in their muscles build as the snake prepares for it’s strike and the chicken readies itself to jump, fly or run in an attempt to escape. When the strike comes, it is faster than the wink of an eye and the chicken never has a chance to even move before the mouth fastens onto the head or neck and the coils swirl around enveloping the entire chicken in a matter of a second. 

At this point, as you are shaking your head in disbelief at the speed of the snake, you begin to see it’s body going through a kneading motion that flows along the coils. As the coils tighten, the bones within the chicken’s chest can be heard popping like little breaking sticks and in a matter of thirty seconds the chicken is essentially dead and only needs to be held until the reflexes of the snake tell it that it is time to take the head in it’s mouth and slowly and rhythmically work it’s way up over the body, ultimately ingesting the entire chicken. At this point only a lump in the snake’s body remains to indicate that there was once a chicken present.

So let’s now look at Rollin’s description step by step:1. Our protagonist, Nathan, hears the screams of a child.  (Ok, probable at the moment of the strike and the enfolding of the small Indian girl within the coils.)  2. Nathan pushes through the foliage and sees the girl enfolded within the coils of the 40ft anaconda. (A bit improbable as a snake this size would do to a small human what it does to a capybara or wild pig or deer and that is, completely enfold it within it’s coils so perhaps an arm might still stick out.) 3. As he approaches, the snake pulls the girl under the water and our hero goes in and finally spotting the outstretched hand of the girl grasps it and it squeezes back. (Oops! The snake has now had this young thing enveloped for at least thirty seconds and has probably already exerted enough pressure to break her ribs, collar bone and pop the blood vessels in her eyeballs and brain. 4. Suddenly the snake lets go of the girl with its mouth, rears up, and snaps like a vice on his arm and before he can hit it with his machete, he is twisted and dragged under the water himself and he feels the squeeze of 400 pounds of flesh around his chest. (Ok, I’ll give you this that for some reason the snake knew it was about to be attacked, let go of the girls and tried to go after the attacker who is now in deep do-do because he is being crushed by those same coils.) 5. Our hero shoves the anaconda’s bulk off his legs and gasps one breath as he comes to the surface. (No way at this point in the game guys, any air you let out will never be taken back in because those coils are just going to keep contracting, so this is where the ribs on our hero go snake, crackle and pop!) 6. Still forcibly fighting back, Nathan manages a choke hold on the snake, squeezing enough to get the beast to release him and throw him out of the water onto the beach. (Have you every had a size sixteen inch neck in your hands? How long can do you think you can maintain your grip on this monster while you are dying? My own experience with the neck of an eight foot black mamba was that once he got his coils around my arm and started pulling, it was touch and go as to whether i would be able to hang on and not let the sucker pull out and bite me!) 7. Our hero is free and goes to the rescue of the young girl …..

Ok, Enough Rick, it’s a novel, it’s fiction and adventure, and the guy has got to triumph over this evil so he can go on and take on bigger things. And face it, it’s a jolly good novel and I’ll read more of James Rollins’ books so keep them coming!

Just do your snake research guys! If you want a bit more realistic description of what happens when a full grown man runs into a giant python in the depths of the Okavango Swamp, read pp. 158 – 160 in my book Kalahari. Meditate on it for a while and it should give you nightmares!

Oh! Lay off, Rick, You know it’s only adventure fiction….



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