Replacement Cell
by Forrest Glenn
Page Publishing

"He heard a hissing sound and turned his head. His eyes fell upon the end of his life. A huge caiman was finishing its final advance, mouth wide-open…"

Clarence Dalen is raised on his grandfather’s Norwegian tales of their ancestry. Admittedly, he isn’t particularly interested in them as a teen but does enjoy the outdoor adventures he and his grandfather go on together. His above-average intellect, athleticism, and good looks help him fit in well while studying at UCLA. When the draft takes him to Vietnam, it proves he has the abilities and instincts of a warrior, but it also makes him distrustful of power and those who hold it.

Returning to California, Clarence becomes a researcher working on alternative energies and part of a radical group against big oil. When a protest on an oil rig goes wrong, Clarence kills the son of a former US President while defending his friends. He flees the country, hounded by law enforcement and ruthless mercenaries funded by the considerable wealth of former president and big oil executive Jedidiah Bertrand. A chance encounter with a hidden tribe in the Amazon saves Clarence’s life. Slowly, he begins to gain the trust of the tribe and the love of the chieftain’s daughter. However, Clarence’s passion for developing an alternative to big oil never wanes, nor does Jedidiah’s hatred and desire for vengeance.

Many books use dual narratives to tell the story, as well as those whose narratives span different time frames. For example, The Light Over London by Julia Kelly and The Alice Network by Kate Quinn come to mind. Glenn’s novel is like those in its setup. Where Glenn differs is that one narrative clearly overshadows the other, and the older narrative concerning a group of Vikings and Endar the Raven, in particular, is mainly used as narrative support for the main story. Glenn’s historical sections are primarily developed to give credibility to and lay the groundwork for important and incredible plot turns.

It is interesting to see the author take a myth claiming a lesser-known Amazonian tribe, the Chachapoyas, are descendants of Vikings who created a settlement in South America and turn that into support for his modern-day novel. He is an author who has clearly done his research for this book and has interwoven that research creatively within it without overwhelming the reader with data. The setup and execution of these elements are handled adeptly and display Glenn’s control over his work.

Another thing Glenn does well is bringing to life an adventure story in an exotic location. Clarence’s escape to the Amazon jungle is thrilling, and the reader is shown a beautiful and dangerous jungle through Glenn’s descriptions. Also, the native community is presented as self-sufficient, noble, and fulfilling, even if it is different from the outside world. What hampers the novel a little is that although it reads quicker than its length, it seems a bit too long, with some parts that drag and some of the major plot points relying on what could be called either convenience or outrageously good fortune. However, most readers will look past this and find an intriguing adventure based in the world they know yet located in a relatively unknown part of that world that is brought vividly to life.

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