Deep in the African rain forest, near the legendary ruins of the Lost City of Zinj, an expedition of eight American geologists are mysteriously and brutally killed in a matter of minutes.
Ten thousand miles away, Karen Ross, the Congo Project Supervisor, watches a gruesome video transmission of the aftermath: a camp destroyed, tents crushed and torn, equipment scattered in the mud alongside dead bodies – all motionless except for one moving image – a grainy, dark, man-shaped blur.
In San Francisco, primatologist Peter Elliot works with Amy, a gorilla with an extraordinary vocabulary of 620 “signs,” the most ever learned by a primate, and she likes to finger paint. But recently her behavior has been erratic and her drawings match, with stunning accuracy, the brittle pages of a Portuguese print dating back to 1642…a drawing of an ancient lost city. A new expedition – along with Amy – is sent into the Congo, where they enter a secret world, and the only way out may be through a horrifying death…..
Author: Michael Crichton
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Audio Release Date: 06/10/2015
Running Time: 10hrs 16mins
My Rating of ‘Congo’: 4 out of 5
Having worked my way, rather slowly, through Michael Crichton’s works, Congo was one I’ve been eyeing up as a potential ‘home run’. With that in mind, I put myself off reading it for a while and am wishing I’d gotten to it sooner.
Congo is utterly charming as a novel. The level of connection the reader gets with Amy, the gorilla capable of speech (through American Sign Language), and the bond she shares with the human (Peter) responsible for her training is a wonderful one. Crichton does an excellent job of getting across just how intelligent not only Amy is, but how intelligent all apes are and can aspire to be.
The plot itself features a trek through the African Congo to discover the reason behind the brutal deaths of a previous research team for the first part, and for a yearning to get their hands on ‘blue diamonds’ for the most part. Aided by native guides and other experts in various fields, Amy and Peter are along for the ride and, as both Amy and Peter soon learn, it is not a ride they will enjoy.
The novel is a good look into how an animal raised in captivity amongst humans and all of their modern conveniences we enjoy (tv, fast food, make-up etc …) deals when it is led back into the wild. A wild with which it has next to no memory of.
The storytelling is done at an excellent pace and the characters are built in such a way that they are all very believable and easy to assimilate into the story. Nobody feels forced or shoe-horned in and they all have their own little quirks that go the extra mile towards making them feel ‘real’.
I can’t comment on how the book lines up with the movie as, not being a huge film fan, I have never watched it. It’s certainly one I would look to in the future as the book was enjoyable from start to finish and I can only hope the movie does it justice.
My only real negative about Congo is that Crichton has a habit of running off on lengthy anecdotal tangents that last so long that I often forget what part of the novel I’m up to. For instance, a character could make an off-hand comment about blue diamonds and Crichton takes that opportunity to impart every shred of knowledge he has managed to research on the subject. The information is always pretty cool and I love the stuff I learn from it, but it takes me away from the story for far too long and sometimes it feels a bit jarring rather than seamless.
On the whole, Congo was a wonderful novel and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. Sometimes a stand alone is just what you need in this world of ten-book series and Congo was a great palette cleanser.
Julia Whelan’s narration is great and she brings each character to life in just the right way. It’s always tricky when one narrator has to cater for both male and female characters, but she did this remarkably well. Top marks as far as narration is concerned.