In this, the year of our Ford 115, limitless entertainment can be summoned for us at the push of a button. We live in an era where shows, films, games, and musical performances surround us constantly. If that’s still not enough, advanced computer technology will soon allow us to create our own customized artistic experiences on a whim. Want to see photos of Star Wars as a Spaghetti Western? It’s not quite ready to produce the full film version yet, but that day will come…
Yet, for everything we have in entertainment, we lack in imagination. Indeed, there is a very clear trade-off of imaginary power being made here. When you ask the A.I. to show you a new interpretation of Star Wars, you are literally outsourcing your imagination to a machine. Isn’t that a little scary?
‘Twas not always thus. It used to be that people relied on these things called “books” for entertainment. With a book, your task is to use your imagination to complete the ideas suggested by the author’s words. It’s similar to a computer program compiling, actually. In a sense, every book is a collaboration; the author gives us the basic furnishings, but it’s up to us as readers to finish it.
Which is not to minimize the importance of the author. Quite the contrary. Whereas, say, the director of a film has the power to manage every frame, every line, every sound, to inspire a specific reaction in the audience, (and we all know the stereotype of the tyrannical micromanaging film director) an author’s job is much tougher. What is not written is as important as what is. An author has to know what to state baldly, and what to only imply. An author has to know exactly what to tell the reader.
Which brings me at last to the subject of today’s review: Gold of the Jaguar, the third installment in Peter Martuneac’s Ethan Chase series.
Gold of the Jaguar takes us on an adventure in the jungles of South America, far away from the ease of modern life. It invites us to imagine lost treasure, ancient temples, and mysterious islands guarded by eerie predators that keep watch from the trees.
And Martuneac, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, knows what details to give to immerse you in the adventure. The combat scenes feel vivid and immediate, the equipment, ancient and modern, is so real you feel like you can touch it, and the occasional flashbacks to earlier epochs give the setting a sense of history.
Beyond that, though, this book also deals with themes of recovering from addiction, abuse, reconciliation and healing. In that respect, it feels closer to Martuneac’s zombie apocalypse series, His Name Was Zach. While this is still a light adventure compared with the ultra-dark tone of those books, this one has some emotional weight to it.
Bringing all this back around to the point I made at the beginning: why, in 2023, should you read the Ethan Chase series, out of all the various forms of fiction competing for your attention? Well, I say the answer is because it’s sincere. I don’t care if it makes me sound like Linus in the pumpkin patch; there’s nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see. It’s an adventure story, with heroes and villains and a lot of heart.
It is not the product of a focus group at some multinational entertainment megacorp, or a famous brand-name author who long since farmed the actual writing out to nameless drudges, or an A.I. piecing together bland assemblages of words to produce simulacra of stories.
No, it’s just a tale that one man wanted to tell, and he did it, and reading it is like coming along with him on a great adventure. Let his imagination team up with yours, and be swept away in a rollicking yarn of lost treasure, danger, and exploration.