3 out of 4 stars
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The Chronicles of Teng, by Anthony Kee, describes the adventures of archaeologist Edgar Blake and his team as they journey through Tibet. The trip was the result of a package left on his door step, sent by a lama named Teng. It contained two objects, one of which was a magical letter. The note summoned Blake to Tibet to “find him” (Teng) because “it is time to tell the world.” The letter’s properties include words that reappeared after being erased. It can also be crumpled into a ball like tin foil but then will return to its original shape.
After a long road trip from Kathmandu to Lhasa they finally meet Teng, an old man on the verge of death. He convinces Blake and the others to follow two young monks on a new trek. This journey is to find evidence of an alien race that visited Earth in ancient times, leaving an important message behind which must now be revealed to everyone on the planet. Ngu and Mingyu lead the three Americans to a remote mountain. Here they eventually come across the information that Teng sent them to find. When they return home, they endeavor to communicate this message to the world. Along the way, they have dangerous encounters with Chinese police officials as well as American and Russian intelligence agents.
I liked two of the major characters as well as the description of the Tibetan landscape. Blake is a dedicated professional, willing to sacrifice much to prove his theory of a lost alien race of ancient builders. Susan Carter is a linguist, with a particular talent for translating documents written in an ancient language that is a hybrid of two other languages. The third member of the team is Leo Porter, a museum curator. He is a curmudgeon, whose constant griping makes one wonder about Blake’s judgment in bringing him along. I just did not like Leo, even when the author gives him a bit more maturity as the novel progresses.
My favorite scenes in the novel take place when Edgar, Susan and Leo are deep in the mountain, separated from Ngu and Mingyu. The alien technology they find is intriguing but I don’t want to give away anything. I also enjoyed that the three explorers bonded together as a result of their shared experiences.
I would recommend this novel to readers who are looking for a fantasy adventure set in an exotic location. The book has the feel of the Indiana Jones stories although it does not reach the level of those classic adventures. However, some hard core Science Fiction/Fantasy fans may not find the level of character development or world building especially satisfying. The novel might also appeal to those who have an interest in the political climate of Tibet. The author dedicates the book to the people of Tibet and makes a number of references about how they are treated by China, which has ruled the region since the 1950’s.
I rate The Chronicles of Teng 3 out of 4 stars. There are two reasons why I felt it did not reach the level of four stars. The author’s description of the alien race (their appearance, demeanor and interactions with humans) was bland. The message they came to deliver also fell flat for me. Since I don’t want to create a spoiler by revealing it, I will just categorize the message as generic and without a wow factor. The first half of the novel has a long, slow buildup that makes you eager to know who the aliens are and the content of their message. So, it was disappointing that neither turned out to be memorable. Despite this, the book is a good first time effort by a new author.
The Chronicles of Teng
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