Ah, Atlantis. For fans of the treasure hunt adventure thriller genre, Atlantis stories are like crack cocaine. I’ve heard that more books have been written about Napoleon Bonaparte than any other historical figure. Well, I think it quite possible that more books have been written about Atlantis than any other place, real or imaginary, which is an important consideration since the jury is still out on which category Atlantis falls into.
There are several different flavors of literary Atlantis. First, you’ve got books which purport to reveal the “truth” about Atlantis—ostensibly non-fiction. Plato’s references in Timaeus and Critias probably fall into this category, but works of this sort continue to appear, most espousing the idea that the island nation Plato described was based on a real place and that they have found physical proof to back it up.
Then there are books which treat Atlantis as a spiritual or occult phenomenon, and these have some crossover with the “real” histories since they are rooted in the premise that Atlantis was (is?) a real place, and that its inhabitants were (are?) possessed of extraordinary abilities and/or technology. Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis books fall into this category, as do about half the books published by Adventures Unlimited Press.
A lot of the books found in the non-fiction, speculative history and New Age section of the bookstore feature suppositions and tend to play fast and loose with the particulars of the legend (to say nothing of the facts of history), but for a thriller novelist, they’re grist for the mill. I’m not going to say much more about those right now because…well, there’s a much more entertaining way to learn all that stuff: Atlantis novels!
These also fall into different genres. You’ve got Atlantis in a historical context—stories set in the era when—or just before—the island sank into the sea. One of the more famous names associated with this genre is pulp writer Robert E. Howard (best known for the Conan the Barbarian stories).Then you’ve got what I call Extant Atlantis. These stories usually follow the premise that Atlantis sank beneath the waves, exactly as Plato reported, but through some marvel of Atlantean technology, the city lives on, protected beneath a bubble dome, a magical energy field, or somehow safe and dry in a submerged cavern. A good example of Extant Atlantis is Disney’s 2001 animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Extant Atlantis also features into the backstory for comic book characters like Aquaman (in the modern reboot of the character) and Namor the Sub-Mariner.
My Atlantis addiction started with Extant Atlantis. I can’t quite remember which I encountered first, but it was either Lester Del Rey’s classic sci-fi novel Attack from Atlantis, or the short-lived television series Man from Atlantis starring Patrick Duffy. When I discovered Atlantis, it was like…well, discovering a lost city. I enjoyed those stories for a while, but as my tastes turned more to action-thrillers, the idea of Atlantis as a living undersea Empire lost some of its appeal. Thankfully, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Atlantis as the subject of contemporary treasure hunt action-thrillers.
Actually, my decision to write adventure novels is the direct result of an Atlantis-themed novel. On a family camping trip in 1984, I came across a book at a grocery store called simply The Takers, by prolific Men’s Fiction author Jerry Ahern (Ahern, who is best known for his series The Survivalist, passed away last year). What lured me to this book was the tagline that compared it to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but what hooked me and reeled me in was the fact that the protagonists of the series were a pair of writers—a best-selling Men’s Fiction author (natch), and his girlfriend who writes “scholarly” non-fiction books about the occult and subjects like…you guessed it, Atlantis. The Atlantis connection actually dominates the plot of The Takers, and the novel remains, to this day, one of my favorites.
Here’s a quick list of some other Atlantis treasure-hunt thrillers that have inspired me over the years:
Thomas Greanias—The Atlantis Trilogy (Raising Atlantis, The Atlantis Prophecy, and The Atlantis Revelation). The word “trilogy” should be used loosely to describe this series of novels (numbering three so far) featuring archaeologist Conrad Yeats and Vatican linguist Serena Serghetti. The stories don’t exactly follow a linear interpretation of the Atlantis mythology, but are more like self-contained thrillers that have been “branded” with the Atlantis label to create product awareness. That’s not to say that they aren’t a lot of fun. Greanias is first on this list for a reason.
You should also know: The first two books of the trilogy have been published together under the title The Atlantis Legacy. It’s a great way to pick up two books for the price of one, but don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s a fourth Atlantis novel. The Alignment, an all new series featuring Conrad and Serena, will be out later this year.
Andy McDermott—The Wilde/Chase novels. Andy McDermott’s series featuring archaeologist Nina Wilde and her bodyguard/boyfriend/fiancé (I’ll stop there…no spoilers) veteran SAS commando Eddie Chase, begin and end (sort of) with Atlantis. The action—and there’s plenty of it—starts with The Hunt for Atlantis, wherein our heroes visit so many different locales on the road to Atlantis, it’s a wonder there are any places left for them to destroy…err…visit in subsequent novels. The eighth novel in the series (which according to McDermott’s website is NOT the last) brings the intrepid duo back to the beginning with another Atlantean adventure—Return to Atlantis—McDermott’s books are popcorn movies turned into prose; pure escapist fun.
You should also know: Two of McDermott’s books were originally published with different titles in the UK, so read carefully before buying. The Pyramid of Doom (US) was originally released as The Cult of Osiris (UK). Return to Atlantis (US) is also Temple of the Gods (UK).
Clive Cussler—Atlantis Found. It’s ironic really that Clive Cussler’s unstoppable nautical action hero Dirk Pitt, didn’t get around to finding Atlantis sooner. It seems like a no-brainer really. Actually, Cussler did flirt with the idea in his novel, Pacific Vortex, which dealt with a variation on the Atlantis theme—an ancient unknown civilization lost beneath the Pacific Ocean—but it’s worth remembering that Cussler’s early Pitt novels were more in the vein of Robert Ludlum than Indiana Jones. Atlantis Found is obviously a must for Cussler fans (I think of it as the last “pure” Pitt novel, but that’s a discussion for another day), but it also has what I think might be my favorite scene in any book ever…period. (Hint: It involves the disposition of Adolf Hitler’s ashes).
Stel Pavlou—Decipher. This is one that may not be on your radar, but it’s worth a look, especially if you like your Atlantis with a bit of apocalyptic sci-fi (specifically, the Mayan apocalypse…I know, I know…just pretend this is the reason WHY the world didn’t end). Pavlou has announced that a sequel is on the horizon; more on this as it develops.
David L. Golemon—Ancients. The third novel in the long running Event group series puts the super-secret team of military paranormal investigators in the middle of a power struggle involving members of an ancient society who have been ruling the world in secret for thousands of years, and who are bent on finding an ancient Atlantean weapon…you know, the one that destroyed their island and caused a global flood? I’m sure nothing bad will come of that. A great entry in a great series.
Bob Mayer (originally writing as Greg Donegan)—Atlantis series. Back when I used to have money to burn, I came across a book simply titled Atlantis, by a guy named Greg Donegan. The back matter description hooked me in—some kind of modern thriller with some military and science fiction thrown in for good measure. I grabbed it and kept browsing. A little while later, I found a series by an author named Robert Doherty, improbably titled Area 51, but again, the description sounded interesting (in fact, it sounded an awful lot like the Donegan book) so it went into the basket as well. Somewhere down the line, I figured out that Donegan and Doherty were the same person, and that his name was actually Bob Mayer. The Atlantis series revolves around a conflict between extra-dimensional beings who are able to come and go in our world through “fixed” gates connecting parallel universes. Full disclosure time: I haven’t read all the books in this series. I absolutely loved the first book, but as with the Area 51 novels, they seemed to get a little bit further out (you know, as in “far out”) with each release. That’s not a criticism per se, just a matter of personal preference, and one of these days, I’ll get back to them.You should also know: Both the Area 51 and Atlantis books have been republished under the name Bob Mayer, but if you’re a used book shopper, remember those other names Robert Doherty and Greg Donegan.
Charles Brokaw—The Atlantis Code. This was the most recent “trip” in my ongoing exploration of Atlantis, and as Atlantis stories go, this one is pretty mild. It follows the exploits of language professor Thomas Lourds—a character cast from the Robert Langdon mold—as he decodes and romances his way from the Holy Land to Russia to Africa, and finally to Atlantis. In this story, Atlantis has been “discovered” in the sense that archaeologists claim to have found the ruins of the site that inspired the legend, and that discovery portends ominous new developments for the Church and everything we think we know about human history. If you haven’t figured it out already, this is the Atlantis quest as it might have been imagined by Dan Brown.
You should also know: The Atlantis Code is the first of a series featuring Thomas Lourds. Other books so far are: The Lucifer Code, The Temple Mount Code, and The Oracle Code, which will be released March 5 (tomorrow).
David Gibbins—Atlantis & Atlantis God—The same day that I picked up Ancients and The Hunt for Atlantis, I also found a novel simply titled Atlantis by British archaeologist turned author, David Gibbins. Gibbins’ Atlantis is the first of a series featuring Jack Howard, and much like McDermott, his series is currently (though we must assume only temporarily) bookended by another Atlantis novel, this one titled Atlantis God (in the UK, it’s Gods of Atlantis). I’ve only read the first of Gibbins’ novels, and it was a bit of a slog. But in all fairness, I felt the same way about Steve Berry’s The Templar Legacy the first time I tried to read it, and now he’s one of my favorite authors. I’m definitely planning to give Gibbins and Jack Howard another try.
You should also know: Like McDermott, Gibbons books sometimes have different titles in the UK. Atlantis God (US) is The Gods of Atlantis (UK) and the third book in the series goes by The Last Gospel (UK) and The Lost Tomb (US). Is it just me, or are the UK titles a little snappier?
And speaking of Steve Berry…
Steve Berry—The Charlemagne Pursuit—This isn’t an Atlantis novel in the strictest sense—I don’t think the word “Atlantis” even appears in the novel—but it is thematically very similar to Atlantis quest novels, notably Cussler’s Atlantis Found, in that it involves the search for the last vestiges of a prehistoric but very advanced civilization that set up shop at the South Pole. Atlantis or not, this one definitely belongs on the list.
Last but not least (maybe least…this is the shameless plug portion of tonight’s presentation) I dipped my toe in the Atlantean waters with my novel (first in a proposed trilogy) Dark Trinity: Ascendant. For the uninitiated, it’s the story of a former CIA operative who happens to be mildly precognitive (think Spidey-sense) who uses her gifts to locate the ruins of an Atlantean outpost, and unwittingly discovers a relic of extraordinary power…yeah, that’s just in the prologue. I hope you give it a look. (And if you pester me enough, I’ll actually finish the trilogy).
My list is by no means comprehensive. I’ve left out a few of my favorite Atlantis stories from other media, and I’m sure that I’ve also missed a few. What’s your favorite Atlantis-themed thriller? Share in the comments below!
For more information on the books and authors mentioned in the list, visit:
David L. Golemon--http://www.eventgroupfiles.com/