The Compostela Cube
By Paul Cavilla
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, with an exasperated sigh and an eye-roll, I’ll be giving this a negative review. I take no pleasure in it.
The Compostela Cube by Paul Cavilla involves relic hunter Gabriel Parker and artifact historian Natasha Rossi traveling the globe to find the … wait for it … Compostela Cube. They need to find this artifact to avoid a 2012-style global apocalypse. In the role of villain is Christian Antov, an evil billionaire baddie now in control of the Vanderhoff Group. When I first read the back cover blurb and watched the compelling book trailer, I was hooked. The book had doorstopper heft, weighing in at over 700 pages. The premise had just enough crazy to give me hope that someone had dared to transcend the premise of The Da Vinci Code. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’ve only managed to get through the first chapter of Angels and Demons, not on account of the premise or the genre, but because the writing was pretty bad.
Like Dan Brown’s works, this fits snugly into the genre I like to call the Artifact Conspiracy genre. Our intrepid heroes need to find a (possibly magical) Artifact in order to save the world. Heck, I read UK role-playing game tie-in novels about giant genetically modified Space Marines fighting demons, orks, and tyranids, so I’m not one to judge a book’s crazy premise. And I can be forgiving about the occasional typo or misspelling, especially if the author is self-published. That leniency has its limits. First, I’ll tackle the plot issues and then discuss the typos.
The plot gets more and more convoluted as the novel progresses. This isn’t a bad thing. Having read The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Oliver Stone’s JFK, I enjoy a good conspiracy. The key to a good conspiracy is its plausibility. It has to seem like a possibility. In The Compostela Cube we get David Icke-style conspiracy married to climate change denialist pseudo-science. According to the novel’s mythos, the Vanderhoff Group has been around for ages, doing all sorts of bad stuff. Things like creating the Federal Reserve and the United Nations. Due to their evilness, they caused the recent economic collapse. Because of the economic collapse, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are creating a single currency called the Amero. Wait … what? Then we learn about how climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the mainstream media. Switch some names around and this reads like a David Icke excretion about the world being controlled by Rothschild Zionist puppets beholden to Tony Blair.
The catastrophe Gabriel and Natasha need to avert is the Earth passing through the galactic rift, a flattened black hole that caused all sorts of unpleasantness in the past like the Permian Extinction. Add reincarnation, sacred sex, RFID implants, and Pope Peter the Roman as the prophesied last pope, the entire edifice threatens to collapse in on itself. Not helping the situation are cardboard characters, unconvincing action scenes, and conversations that read like topical essays.
Then there’s the typos and misspellings. Examples include, “Bare with me here,” “his brow furled,” and “he knotted his brow.” Not misspelled, but incorrect usage. I kept wanting to say, “No! The other one!” Now errors seep through self-published works and I didn’t expect perfection. When there are multiple misspellings on each page, along with random errors like citing author “T.S. Elliot,” it goes from being an petty annoyance to an infuriating distraction.
But Cavilla can write a compelling enough yarn. For all those faults, I read this to the bitter end. In the terminology of Nathan Rabin’s “My Year of Flops,” was this a failure, fiasco, or secret success, I’d call this a fiasco. It fails, but it does so in a totally idiosyncratic and spectacular fashion. I’m just not sure if this is comparable to Plan 9 From Outer Space or Manos: Hands of Fate? On a similar note, the folks over at Red Letter Media lovingly eviscerate terrible movies in their series “Best of the Worst.” If one could do the same thing for books, The Compostela Cube might be a viable contender for discussion. Excellent premise, bungled execution, heroic misguided effort, yet perversely compelling if one refuses to take it seriously.
Out of 10/5.0 and 6.1 for the morbidly curious and those fascinated by unintentional hilarity.