In Review: Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx

Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx by Max McCoy

Published by Bantam Books, February 1999. Paperback of 291 pages retailing at 6.99.

Why read this old book? I’ve had my hopes slightly raised by Disney acquiring Lucasfilm. Besides all the hype that’s been given to Star Wars, Indiana Jones was also obtained, so my fingers are crossed that there will be some sort of new material put out: novels, comics, or even a film. I’ve been jonesing for Jones, so I found this book and dove in.

The cover: A gorgeous shot of Indy with Marcus Brody, Sallah, a cobra-headed staff and the mighty Sphinx. Turning to the back, the image continues with a figure on a camel, and a digging scene taken from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The illustrator is Drew Struzan, famed artist of many Lucasfilm posters. All the Indiana books published up through this novel have original artwork by him. These covers are reason enough for collectors to scoop them up. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the back cover: “It is the most coveted of all ancient artifacts. In it is written the history–and the fate–of every human being. And he who owns it writes his own destiny. Now Indiana Jones follows a trail of danger, magic, and archaeological mystery through the war-torn Orient, secret underground hiding place of the all-powerful Omega Book. But with a beautiful woman seeking her missing magician husband, and a vengeance-crazed Japanese spymaster hot on his heels, Indy is running out of time. If the Omega Book falls into the wrong hands, not only his own fate but the fate of the world may be at the mercy of a madman bent on writing humanity’s final chapter!” Indiana Jones? War-torn Orient? Egypt? That’s enough for me to pick up this book. Overall grade: A

The characters: If you don’t know who Indiana Jones is you’ve got some serious homework to do, my friends. The following characters are described in detail: Indy, Faye Maskelyne, and Master Sokai. Sallah is also along as one of the major players and his presence adds some nice familarity to the book, and he provides a nice sounding board for Indy. I wanted to see Sokai get more play in the book. He was a perfect villain and after Chapter 2 we really didn’t see him again until the end. This baddie deserved more play. Overall grade: A-

The settings: The year is 1934 and with our intrepid archeologist we go to a hidden tomb in China, a frightening prison cell, the sea of Jordan, a leper colony, Iraq, Egypt, and forgotten catacombs. I’m so stunned that more is not done with Indy in the Orient and I was overjoyed for the opening of this book. I was also happy with the boat trip, and the journey to Egypt. My three favorite settings for Indy adventures. Overall grade: A+

The action: The last Indiana Jones books was Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead. The flaw of that book was the lack of action. That’s the touch of death for an Indiana Jones adventure. If the action’s not happening fast and furiously, to the degree that Indy’s over his head in trouble, the book is a failure. This book is exploding with action sequences. A jail break, a ship attack, a typhoon, cobras attacking, assassins, and a vengeful Japanese spymaster make this one of the most unrelenting books. If for three pages you become bored while reading, something new will happen which perfectly fits into what’s plausible. Outstanding job by McCoy! Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: The adventure wraps up well, with the bad guys going out violently and the new characters returning to their lives, though with the possibility of a return. Chapter 13 wraps a storyline, I believe, was begun in an earlier novel by McCoy. It involves the Crystal Skull (Yeah, you read that right!) and it made absolutely no sense to me, having not read the earlier McCoy novels. There is also an epilogue where Indy consults a leading unnamed scientist of the time, and this, too, seems unnecessary and comes off like a forced cameo more suited for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. This book would have received an A for this category had it not been for the last 25 pages. Overall grade: B

The final line: Forgetting the final 25 pages, this book was fantastic! Action-packed, globe-trotting, ancient mysteries, evil pursuers, and familiar friends make this the best original Indiana Jones novel written, which is great and sad, for this was the twelveth and final original novel until the underwhelming Army of Dead from 2009. With Disney now the owner of Indy, I hope it’s not long before new tales are recounted. Overall grade: A

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