Released on 06.24.2002
The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world's most inhospitable rainforest: a former Special Forces soldier - scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death - who went in with one arm missing...and came out with both intact.
Unable to comprehend this inexplicable event, the government sends Nathan Rand into this impenetrable secret world of undreamed - of perils to follow the trail of his vanished father...toward mysteries that must be solved at any cost. But the nightmare that is awaiting Nate and his team of scientists and seasoned U.S. Army Rangers dwarfs any danger they anticipated...an ancient, unspoken terror - a power beyond human imagining-that can forever alter the world beyond the dark, lethal confines of the Amazon rainforest for better... and for worse.
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August 6, 10:11 A.M.
Amazon Jungle, Brazil
The anaconda held the small Indian girl wrapped in its heavy coils, dragging her toward the river.
Nathan Rand was on his way back to the Yanomamo village after an early morning of gathering medicinal plants when he heard her screams. He dropped his specimen bag and ran to her aid. As he sprinted, he shrugged his short-barreled shotgun from his shoulder. When alone in the jungle, one always carried a weapon.
He pushed through a fringe of dense foliage and spotted the snake and girl. The anaconda, one of the largest he had ever seen, at least forty feet in length, lay half in the water and half stretched out on the muddy beach. Its black scales shone wetly. It must have been lurking under the surface when the girl had come to collect water from the river. It was not unusual for the giant snakes to prey upon animals who came to the river to drink: wild peccary, capybara rodents, forest deer. But the great snakes seldom attacked humans.
Still, during the past decade of working as a ethnobotanist in the jungles of the Amazon basin, Nathan had learned one important rule: if a beast were hungry enough, all rules were broken. It was an eat-or-be-eaten world under the endless green bower.
Nathan squinted through his gun #039;s sight. He recognized the girl. "Oh, God, Tama! She was the chieftain's nine-year-old niece, a smiling, happy child who had given him a bouquet of jungle flowers as a gift upon his arrival in the village a month ago. Afterward she kept pulling at the hairs on his arm, a rarity among the smooth-skinned Yanomamo, and nicknamed him Jako Basho, "Brother Monkey."
Biting his lip, he searched through his weapons sight. He had no clean shot, not with the child wrapped in the muscular coils of the predator.
"Damn it!" He tossed his shotgun aside and reached to the machete at his belt. Unhitching the weapon, Nathan lunged forward - but as he neared, the snake rolled and pulled the girl under the black waters of the river. Her screams ended and bubbles followed her course.
Without thinking, Nathan dove in after her.
Of all the environments of the Amazon, none were more dangerous than its waterways. Under its placid surfaces lay countless hazards. Schools of bone-scouring piranhas hunted its depths, while stingrays lay buried in the mud and electric eels roosted amid roots and sunken logs. But worst of all were the river' ;s true man-killers, the black caimans - giant crocodilian reptiles. With all its dangers, the Indians of the Amazon knew better than to venture into unknown waters.
But Nathan Rand was no Indian.
Holding his breath, he searched through the muddy waters and spotted the surge of coils ahead. A pale limb waved. With a kick of his legs, he reached out to the small hand, snatching it up in his large grip. Small fingers clutched his in desperation.
Tama was still conscious!
He used her arm to pull himself closer to the snake. In his other hand, he drew the machete back, kicking to hold his place, squeezing Tama's hand.
Then the dark waters swirled, and he found himself staring into the red eyes of the giant snake. It had sensed the challenge to its meal. Its black maw opened and struck at him.
Nate ducked aside, fighting to maintain his grip on the girl.
The anaconda's jaws snapped like a vice onto his arm. Though its bite was nonpoisonous, the pressure threatened to crush Nate's wrist. Ignoring the pain and his own mounting panic, he brought his other arm around, aiming for the snake's eyes with his machete.
At the last moment, the giant anaconda rolled in the water, throwing Nate to the silty bottom and pinning him. Nate felt the air squeezed from his lungs as four hundred pounds of scaled muscle trapped him. He struggled and fought, but he found no purchase in the slick river mud.
The girl's fingers were torn from his grip as the coils churned her away from him.
He abandoned his machete and pushed with his hands against the weight of the snake's bulk. His shoulders sank into the soft muck of the riverbed, but still he pushed. For every coil he shoved aside, another would take its place. His arms weakened, and his lungs screamed for air.
Nathan Rand knew in this moment that he was doomed - and he was not particularly surprised. He knew it would happen one day. It was his destiny, the curse of his family. During the past twenty years, both his parents had been consumed by the Amazon forest. When he was eleven, his mother had succumbed to an unknown jungle fever, dying in a small missionary hospital. Then, four years ago, his father had simply vanished into the rain forest, disappearing without witnesses.
As Nate remembered the heartbreak of losing his father, rage flamed through his chest. Cursed or not, he refused to follow in his father's footsteps. He would not allow himself simply to be swallowed by the jungle. But more important, he would not lose Tama!
Screaming out the last of the trapped air in his chest, Nathan shoved the anaconda's bulk off his legs. Freed for a moment, he swung his feet under him, sinking into the mud up to his ankles, and shoved straight up.
His head burst from the river, and he gulped a breath of fresh air, then was dragged by his arm back under the dark water.
This time, Nathan did not fight the strength of the snake. Holding the clamped wrist to his chest, he twisted into the coils, managing to get a choke hold around the neck of the snake with his other arm. With the beast trapped---
The foregoing is excerpted from Amazonia by James Rollins. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
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From Publishers Weekly
The use of mass market originals as a farm team for hardcovers has lost popularity, but still works occasionally, as with Rollins, whose three mass markets (Deep Fathom, Excavation and Subterranean) displayed a flair for brawny adventure within an exotic locale a flair put to good use in his hardcover debut. A U.S. Special Forces agent walks out of the Amazon jungle and quickly dies of rampant tumors; what's especially bizarre is that this man has two arms, but when he entered the jungle five years before as part of a biopharmaceutical exploratory expedition, which has been lost track of, he had only one. The rest of the novel follows a group of scientists and U.S. military guardians as they trek deep into the jungle in search of the missing expedition and, hopefully, the secret to the regrown arm - a secret that takes on vast importance when the dead agent's body, shipped to the States, spreads a disease that threatens to wipe out the American population. Meanwhile, a second, predatory expedition, led by a French psychopath, surreptitiously follows the first, aiming to steal whatever cure the searchers uncover; both expeditions wind up at the isolated home of a legendary tribe and the malignant, giant tree that sustains it. Rollins won't win awards for his prose or characters, though both function smoothly in this boldly drawn entertainment, and there's little here that isn't a variation of some classic adventure trope. His p acing is forceful, however, and his atmospherics rich, with giant caimans and jaguars, mutant amphibians and hungry locusts adding to the mayhem, a high body count and a congenial sense of the ridiculous although Rollins plays it deadpan. This is old-fashioned, rugged adventure in the tradition of Haggard and Crichton, told with energy, excitement and a sense of fun. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Scientists and U.S. Rangers journey into the Brazilian jungle to uncover the mystery behind a lost scientific expedition. Their mission involves both unusual natural dangers - such as piranhas with legs and giant crocodiles - and saboteurs out to steal their potentially valuable findings. For Nathan Rand, the quest is personal; his father led the lost mission. For the world, it could provide a cure for a mysterious plague. Ruben Santiago-Hudson brings this tale of strange perils and brilliant escapes alive. He builds tension skillfully and even brings a bit of emotional depth to the comic-book adventure. Some listeners may object to the bloodiness of the tangles with natural and other enemies. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine - Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine - This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.