In Review: Fury From the Tomb

A great premise for a novel that's slowed by a narrator overly loquacious in his thoughts and speech.

Fury From the Tomb by S.A. Sidor

Published by Angry Robot on May 1, 2018. Paperback of 448 pages at $8.99. 

The cover: Reanimated Odji-Kek raises a hand and utters a wail in warning as distant birds fly about. Evangeline Waterston holds a pistol upright and Romulus Hardy holds a torch as he peers forward into the unknown. The title sprawls in red below the pair. Below this is a snake whose mouth is open to strike and a giant worm. A train runs from right to left under the pair of beasts with three riders trying to catch the conveyance. This cover by Daniel Strange is what prompted me to pick this book up, combining elements from Indiana Jones and classic pulps. I love this cover. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the back cover, “Saqqara, Egypt, 1888, and in the booby-trapped tomb of an ancient sorcerer, Rom, a young Egyptologist, makes the discovery of a lifetime: five coffins and an eerie, oversized sarcophagus. But the expedition seems cursed, for after unearthing the mummies, death strikes. Rom faithfully returns to America with his disturbing cargo, continuing by train to Los Angeles, home of his reclusive sponsor. In the Arizona desert, however, the train is hijacked by murderous banditos, who steal the mummies and flee over the border. Rom — along with his benefactor’s rebellious daughter, an orphaned Chinese busboy, and a cold-blooded gunslinger — must ride into Mexico to bring the malevolent mummies back. If only living dead mummies were their biggest problem…” This is completely in my wheelhouse: mummies, the era, bandits, gunslingers, the supernatural. Oh, yeah. I’m looking forward to this. Overall grade: A+

The characters: Romulus Hardy is the book’s protagonist and narrator with the story told from his point of view. He’s exactly what you would expect in a young archaeologist, book learned but a novice in the field. His speech is elevated, bordering on stereotypical English, as he’s often not understood by those who aren’t as well educated. The desire to make a discovery is strong in him, overwhelming him to not see obvious dangers before him, and that makes him very fun. When his goal becomes one of rescue, he’s very proper, though very outclassed. He doesn’t use a gun to defend himself, as there are others for that, but he will engage in hand to hand combat. I loved Rom from the get-go, but soon wished he would get to the point with his tale; his voice became one of the book’s biggest drags. Montague P. Waterston is the mysterious benefactor of Hardy’s expedition to get the mummies to bring back to America. If one is familiar with any type of pulp adventures, what is revealed of him isn’t surprising. Hakim is Hardy’s hired liaison in Egypt. He’s in the opening Egypt segments and has some good dialogue. Yong Wu is a Chinese youth who joins in Hardy’s trip transporting the mummies across the United States. He’s mysterious and what’s revealed about him was too much for me. My disbelief couldn’t be suspended for him or his family members. A much stronger character is Evangeline Waterston, daughter of Montague, who arrives on the scene to help with the transportation. She is much more directly involved in the story with Rom and has much to add to any situation. I enjoyed her immensely and was always happy to find her on the page. The last major addition to the cast is hired gunslinger McTory. He joins Rom and Evangeline to track down the mummies. His shooting ability is necessary for what’s encountered. Besides this, he gives every possible reaction and comment one would expect of a crusty cowboy. There are no surprises with him, though his contributions in moving the heroes forward are appreciated. The villain of the book is Odji-Kek, the mummy who is unearthed and wants to become flesh. He has supernatural abilities, but not at the god level of Imhotep of the Universal film from 1999. His motivations are clear and easy to understand. There are also six minions of the mummy who have no names, but do his bidding. There is also a group of ghouls who have a limited role in the novel, though one appears several times. This group of undead provides nothing to the novel but poor humor; the book would have had a quicker pace without them. The majority of the characters are fun, though many don’t grow beyond their initial appearances or stereotypical natures. Overall grade: B-

The settings: Egypt and the southwestern desert, shared by America and Mexico, are the primary settings of the book. There are occasional appearances of Manhattan in New York City when the narrative turns to the present, but they are very brief. Egypt is described exceptionally well. I enjoyed the locales before entering the pyramid of the mummies and the iconic structures are fantastic. These pyramids are mazes and full of many dreadful death traps, with the worst being an organic foe. Back in the Americas, the West becomes the main setting and it’s not enjoyable. Think of someplace in the classic West and it’s here. Where the mummies go was engaging in the beginning, but became nothing more than a hole in the dark. I sadly desired an exit from the West as soon as possible. It did not come soon enough. Overall grade: C

The action: The narrator’s voice slows the pace down considerably with his elaborate turn of a phrase. Egypt contains the most thrilling moments and America dragged terribly. An editor could/should have taken out much of the narration to kept the momentum and suspense going. I was on fire to read this book and found the goings tedious. I was disappointed. Overall grade: C-

The conclusion: The showdown between the villains is sadly humorous and what happens to the chief antagonist is anticlimactic. The door is left open for more adventures involving the Institute of Singular Antiquities, but I’m not as excited to read another. Overall grade: C-

The final line: A great premise for a novel and series that’s slowed down by a narrator overly loquacious in his thoughts and speech. I wanted something close to the pulp adventures of Indiana Jones and got a painfully slow moving supernatural story. I don’t know if I would read the sequel, which is available, especially if it’s just as long. Perhaps my hopes were too high. Overall grade: C

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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