In the present (2007) Stella O’Connor and her new husband Kit are engaged in searching for a crystal skull believed hidden four hundred years earlier by Cedric Owen, the founder of a Cambridge college. Stella finds the skull, one of thirteen believed to relate to a Mayan prophecy concerning the world’s destruction in 2012. Stella races against time, conscious that at least some of her friends and colleagues are working to destroy the skull. A parallel narrative, set in the sixteenth century, gives Owen’s story, and the secrets of the skull’s hiding place.
The Crystal Skull is in many ways the antithesis of the Roland Emmerich movie 2012. Where Emmerich was concerned (again) with finding inventive CG ways to wreak widescreen Armageddon, this is a surprisingly intimate, human story. There’s plenty of end-of-the-world material here (Mayan prophecies, astrology, ley lines) but these are used to tell of two relationships rather than concentrating on the more obvious big-budget excitements. The writing is fine throughout, and there’s an especially good and well-sustained opening caving sequence. The modern-day and Elizabethan narratives overlap well and the historical and scientific aspects are plausibly handled in the context of the wider story events. Crucially, this isn’t a novel which seeks to convince the reader of its ideas; what it does do though is convince you that its characters have their beliefs/experiences and are acting upon them accordingly.
Scott, Manda. 2008. The Crystal Skull (London: Bantam Books), 539 pages, 978-0553817669