THE MAYAN GLYPH
Larry Baxter

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Amber Quill Press, June 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Archaeologists opening a kingís grave in the Yucatan unwittingly resurrect a deadly virus, which has been dormant for 1200 years. The archaeology team, the occupants of the plane on which they returned to Austin, Texas, and then Austin itself: the numbers of the dead are growing fast. This could easily be the end of the human race.

The storyís focus settles quickly on the problem-solvers. At first Gary Spender is trying only to protect his own family from the increasing outbreaks. He is just as dedicated when his assigned "family" becomes the whole quarantined population of Texas. Edward Teppin, compensating for his severe crippling with his quick understanding of the latest high tech equipment, coordinates the search for a cure from Boston University. Teppin recruits his departmental Renaissance man, Robert Asher, whose many restless ideas keep him from staying with one project for long. Dr. Asher invented the microscope which gives the most useful picture of the virus to date. To everyoneís amazement, the newly revealed image of the virus matches a Mayan picture with Mayan writing glyphs next to it, offering hope that the Maya knew a cure.

While the virus spreads unchecked through Texas, Asher and Theresa Welles, expert in the Mayan language, jet to the Yucatan, home of the Maya. There they find themselves blocked by a drug lord who sees the Yucatan virus as a business opportunity. How can they unravel the puzzle when they are busy exchanging bullets with Ernesto?

THE MAYAN GLYPH works on two levels. It is a lively, exciting adventure story with a nice romance between Robert and Theresa; and it is a knowledgeable, inventive scientific puzzler. It is arranged so readers can skip over the technical details if they like without hurting the story, or they can enjoy the reasoning and mental leaps that lead to a solution. When I visited the authorís website I was not at all surprised to learn that he is an inventor. Also, the planning that goes into the handling of the outbreak seems completely authentic, as if the author used ideas he got from participating in a think tank on the subject.

THE MAYAN GLYPH compares favorably with another disaster novel I read recently. That one was by a civil engineer, written like a planning paper, and makes the colorful humanity of THE MAYAN GLYPH look even better from the comparison. Author Larry Baxterís multiple talents clearly extend beyond the realm of science. I found it a pleasure to watch Robert Asher, the authorís alter ego, in action. His outside-the-box thinking and unexpected approaches to problems kept me agreeably surprised.

I started THE MAYAN GLYPH with a set conviction: I hate thrillers about epidemics. A tongue-in-cheek comment on the first page made me realize I had better think again. There isnít a lot of room for humor in a book on this subject, but when there is, Baxter uses it. To my great relief THE MAYAN GLYPH does not revel in panic and anguish, it does not focus on the degradation of humanity expecting the end of days, and it is not out to terrorize readers for the fun of it. That kind of writing is for people who have not experienced real disaster. When the chips are down, individuals pull together to beat the threat, and recognizing this is what gives THE MAYAN GLYPH its quality.

June 2003 Review Originally Published on WOR

 

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