Pocket (April 6, 2010)
Well, yesterday I was about ready to drop this book like a hot stone because it was moving so slowly. I still think the presentation format could have been better thought out. The first 70 pages were merely a journal excerpt by a Stanford Marine Biology Professor who was privy to information regarding artifacts of historical significance as well as cultural significance to Asian Americans at the turn of the century. The items were already aged well over 4 centuries by that time. Unfortunately Dr Gilbert was never entrusted with the details of the final assignation of these treasures during his lifetime. Few people even knew of their existence and fewer still were entrusted with the location of their disposition. Once I’d waded through Dr Gilbert’s tediously loquacious narration of his own part in the events of the early 20th century accidental unearthing of these historical Asian pieces in our western world the story picked up speed quite abruptly. Following the Dr’s alleged recitation of the facts he was aware of regarding these valuable pieces, readers are treated to more insight into the events that led to the “loss” of these artifacts purportedly for posterity from an omniscient narrator revealing the “other side of the story”, that of the local Chinese leaders who couldn’t fathom handing over their “lucky charms” to the Asian American “overseers” who wielded a much higher level of influence than the local Godfathers who were entrusted with the pieces initially by the accidental discoverer. The treasures or “toys” as they became called in coded communications much later were buried at sea after their inadvertent disclosure courtesy of earthquakes that dislodged their aged and sturdy guardian. When the aforementioned journal and accompanying documentation of the treasure’s existence were “buried” in obscurity by Dr Gilbert himself, any communication regarding the pieces was obscured as well. Nearly another century passed before the existence of these items was once again discovered. By then technology and curiousity were aroused and capable of determining the alleged loss of these artifacts to Davey Jones’ locker as well as locating the whereabouts for unearthing the actual pieces. The mystery not only deepens but the story truly starts “flying”. Can modern technology outsmart the masters of both obscuring and discovering mysteries to once again bring this historical mystery to resolution? You’ll just have to work your way through the tedium of backstory as I did for the first quarter of the book but once that is achieved the remainder of Steinbeck’s narrative and the closing of this mystery once again along with the inevitable twists and turns of logic in arriving at a conclusion for the story are well worth the initial slogging. Steinbeck did redeem himself in my eyes though I will likely still be reticent about his future work if the choice of presenting backstory follows the pattern of this book. (ISBN#9781439168257, 256pp, $25.00)
Visit the author’s webpage. Use the bookcover for more info or to purchase a copy. Thanks to Pocket for a review copy.