Indiana Jones and the Mystery of Mount Sinai
by J.W. Rinzler
Published by Scholastic
Adrick's Rating: 1 out of 4
After finding a long-lost inscription in a Mayan pyramid, Indiana Jones is hot on the trail of the world’s most dangerous weapon—something so important that it could decide the fate of World War II.
Not surprisingly, a horde of Nazis are after the very same thing!
The chase will take Indy from the Yucatán jungles to Rome, Italy; all the way to Egypt, where the heart of the mystery lies. But to discover the fantastic secret, Indy will have to survive battles with one of the most lethal enemies he’s ever met!
This book certainly has the look of a promising Indy adventure. The author, J.W. Rinzler, also wrote The Complete Making of Indiana Jones, so he definitely knows the character. Also, I don’t think I’ve seen a more exciting scene on an Indy book cover than Indiana facing off against a Nazi cyborg. That concept, as dedicated fans are well aware, dates back to Raiders, when it was rejected as a character design for the black-clad Nazi Toht. I was concerned at first that Rinzler wouldn’t be able to do justice in a young adult book to this bizarre almost-character, but I enjoyed the result. Helmut Von Mephisto is a mentally unstable master of dubious mystic powers affiliated with the Ahnenerbe—an actual Nazi society that studied, among other things, archeology and the occult. He’s definitely one of the most colorful villains to be added to Indy’s Expanded Adventures, and I look forward to seeing him in future volumes.
There are a few elements of the story that I can’t decide whether I like or not. Rinzler clearly put a lot of thought into the action sequences, one of which has an extremely funny ending, but some of them—such as a chase through an Italian street involving propane canisters and ice blocks—border on the unlikely even for Indy. Another involves a telephone argument between Mussolini and Hitler descends into near-slapstick chaos upon the arrival of the Pope. I just can’t figure out if the scene is too strange and comedic even for Indiana Jones, or if Rinzler is a genius for working such a scene into a young adult book. I’m leaning towards the latter.
My overall impression of this book is that it’s a bit of a mess. The opening scenes overlap with the previous book, Pyramid of the Sorcerer in a confusing set of three paragraphs that conflict with Windham’s story. Indy is given an almost ridiculously vague assignment that doesn’t suit the franchise: he’s simply told that the Nazis may be after some ancient weapons. What are the ancient weapons? Where on the planet are the Nazis looking for them? Nobody knows. The best Indy adventures—and certainly the four films—involve McGuffins that have some deeper significance to the overall story than just loot, and this helps to set the story in motion. But this is impossible when the object in question is so ill-defined.
Still, it is supposed to be a mystery, right? Nothing’s more mysterious than the absolutely unknown, right? So Indy immediately sets off in the Yucatan, and randomly wishes that T.E. Lawrence were still around to help him out. Now I’m no historian, but how Lawrence of Arabia could help Indiana Jones find a clue to solving an ill-defined mystery in South America is absolutely beyond me. The whole book is like this. Indy makes wild leaps in logic, and we’re left on our own to collect the random facts presented to us in order to make sense of what is going on.
Finally, even those of us who love all of the Indy films know that the two most hated elements from the series are generally considered to be the kid sidekicks and the aliens. So what does Rinzler take care to include? That’s right; kid sidekicks and aliens. I apologize for spoiling the mystery of Mount Sinai, but yeah, it’s aliens. What do aliens have to do with Mount Sinai? Who knows. I’d like to think that Rinzler had originally intended to write about Moses, but the Staff of Kings videogame forced him to do a hasty re-write using his original title. Aside from the introduction of Helmut, this book isn’t worth a look.
Helmut's mommy issues.