Book: The Forbidden Temple/ The Cloud Maker, by Patrick Woodhead
Indiana Jones meets DaVinci Code with a touch of Into Thin Air thrown in for good measure–that’s the scenario for the adventure thriller The Cloud Maker, which also goes by the name The Forbidden Temple (A secret for which men will die, says the subtitle, menacingly.)
Author Patrick Woodhead follows the lead of British explorers of ages past when there were uncharted mountains, oceans, and the whole continent of Africa open to explore.
I interviewed Patrick on line when I was writing an article about luxury adventure tours. A mountain climber who had spent time exploring in Antartica, he wanted to make it possible for more than scientists and professional explorers to see the beauty of that land. So he started an Antartic safari company, White Desert, and each year re-builds the most luxurious digs available on that continent for the three-month window of visitation, so that ordinary (wealthy) folks can travel to Antartica.
That leaves him with a lot of time back home in England or South Africa–when he is not scaling another mountain, one step at a time–and so he started writing. The Forbidden Temple came about as a result of his own trek through the Himalyas in 2004. And the Amazon link I gave you in the first paragraph goes to the Kindle version, The Cloud Maker. That was the original name of the book in hard cover. For once my readers in Great Britain have an advantage over American readers, because Amazon.uk has more copies.
Whitehead previously wrote some non-fiction pieces about his adventures, but this is his first novel. The opening has two buddies on a mountain, one of them a family man who, while adventurous, wants to be just a little cautious, and the other a throw-caution-to-the-wind type for whom reaching the goal is worth risking everything. They are drawn back to a mysterious mountain formation that hides a Buddhist temple. There they mix it up with evil Chinese troops trying to kidnap the boy Lama protected by a saintly Buddhist order. (There are few grays in drawing characters here). A rebellion among the Buddhists led by a militant blind man and a typical law-ignoring, hard drinking expat “fixer” as well as a token female–strong, intelligent and beautiful, of course–provide some minor subplots.
The mountain climbing scenes benefit from the technical knowledge of the author.You can see the beauty of the surroundings, feel the icy wind, and the pain of missteps. These scenes are the best writing in the book. The plot rushes on breathlessly, throwing the protaganists into constantly mounting danger, just as a good action thriller should, but words are not the best achievement of this action-oriented author.
Simply choosing more descriptive nouns and verbs would have elevated the novel above the run of the mill adventure. For example, I thought if I ran into one more person whose hair was pulled back in a pony tail, I would scream. Descriptions of the interior of the mysterious Temple, locked in a circle of mountains, seemed downright muddy compared to the crystalline detail lavished on the mountains themselves.
Hard core adventurers and to addicts of political thrillers will want this book in their travel library. The novel sheds some light on the current political situation in Tibet and the character and problems of its people. Patrick’s notes bring us up to date on what is currently happening in the Chinese effort to control Tibet. The Chinese have installed a Panchen Lama, just as they are trying to do in the book, and no one is sure the fate of the real Panchen Lama.
My hiking days are over and I never, ever had the slightest desire to challenge a mountain, anyhow. But my hat is off to those adventurous souls who are still looking for unclimbed mountains. And I love to read about Tibet. Explorer Patrick Whitehead’s latest adventure is to conquer the writing of fiction. I hope he keeps at it, because he has enough adventures under his belt that he could write a whole series of adventure novels. One verb at a time.
You might also like:
So You Want to Be A Mountain Climber
The author gave me a paperback copy of this book to review. The photo at the top is from a magnificent German photographer, H. Kopp-Delaney. I urge you to click on the picture and see his photos on Flickr, or visit his website and blog. The 2nd photo has absolutely nothing to do with Tibet, but it tickled me. Taken in Glacier National Park, by “wildphotons” and you can learn more about the photographer by clicking on the picture.
Your turn, now. Would you like to trek in Tibet? What is the number one reason for your answer?