57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
I really liked Khoury's first novel, "The Last Templar", and gave it a rave review last year when it first hit the shelves. I was eagerly awaiting his next book.
What a disappointment. Most writers improve upon the skills they exhibit in their first published work; sadly, Khoury hasn't pulled this off. I didn't think it was possible for a writer to become formulaic with only two published works, but sadly that's what's happened here.
Whereas I found "Templar" to be original, fast paced, and with richly drawn characters, "Sanctuary" was simply a "Templar" knock-off without the upside. The characterizations were flat and - in some cases - confusing. Characters suddenly changed actions and apparent motivations mid-stream simply as a device to create surprise twists in a mundane and linear plot. The "McGuffin" of the story (I won't reveal it so as not to spoil it for others) was unbelievable, and again lacked clarity. Whereas in "Templar" the flashback scenes almost stole the whole book, in "Sanctuary" they were - again - muddled and disjointed.
Further, Khoury wrote this whole thing in the breathless style of pulp fiction, with non-stop chases and gunfights, and cliché damsels-in-distress. Frankly, that's pretty boring. Look at some of Tom Clancy's best work; the scenes of actual violence are few and far between, used to great effect as highlights to the plot, not as the only point to the story. As Hitchcock said, it's not the violence that's terrifying, it's the anticipation of the violence. Khoury needs to learn that lesson.
One last thing. Whoever edited this book needs to take another crack before the paperback version comes out. There are a lot of misusages of American English, unforgivable for a book in which the central characters are all Americans. For example, many times in the book, when writing about a gun being pointed at another character, Khoury refers to the end of the gun barrel as the gun's "nozzle". I don't know what Khoury's native language is, but fire hoses have "nozzles". Guns have "muzzles".
Sorry, can't recommend this one at all.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Good read. Mr. Khoury tackles an interesting subject: What if you could live 3 times longer than the average person? Would this bring you happiness? Or, would it bring problems that the average person does not have to deal with? In this interesting "time" thriller Mr. Khoury endeavors to answer this. Using flashbacks to prior centuries and a race between ancient antagonists and their offspring, The Sanctuary alternates between the old and modern day to analyze a quest for an age altering elixir of life. It's real, it works, but does it bring happiness? That seems to be the premise that Mr. Khoury tries to answer.
The problem with books of this type is they usually become bloated with several plot lines running simultaneously. Not so with The Sanctuary. Mr. Khoury keeps the past in perspective and keeps the reader engaged with the present. Hard to do but The Sanctuary pulls it off. Also, when dealing with elixirs and immortality the tendency is to pontificate but in The Sanctuary Mr. Khoury allows the story to carry the action. The ending is reasonable and not too far fetched. Mr. Khoury does a good job with a difficult subject and keeps the reader involved.
No gratuitous sex or language. Some violence but necessary for plot development. The wolves scene toward the end is well done.
Recommended. Not quite as good as The Last Templar but a good solid read that tackles a difficult subject. Will make the reader think.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2008
For those who pressed on, I hope the book gets better. Never before have I quit a book in the middle. The Sanctuary forced me to do it.
Ladies, please don't take this next section the wrong way. Tess, the heroine of Khoury's The Last Templar, I could handle. As an encore, Khoury drums up a grandmotherly archaeologist and her daughter. The characters didn't have much substance, whether on the side of good or evil, they were character props more than well drawn characters. They simply couldn't hold my attention.
A struggling author friend of mine read one time that, "the road to hell is paved with adverbs". Now, I may be exaggerating here because I no longer have the text in front of me, but - in the first section, taking place in Naples of the past, Khoury uses "menacingly" four times in as many paragraphs. Amateurish.
Skip over this one.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2008
This fantastical thriller is a riveting thriller with some interesting curves thrown in for the first 80 percent of the novel. The last 20 percent, however, is a disappointment. Much of it seems like filler, and the ends that need to be tied up are done so in a hurried and a little too pat manner. It seems strange that he seemed to waste so many pages on unnecessary scenes and then hurried at the very end. Still, it is a cut above much of the other thriller genre.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2007
I found the book a fast read, faster and more riveting than The Last Templar. The scenes read like a movie script for a Matt Damon movie. However, the last part of the book became very convoluted as characters switched from good guy to bad guy and bad guy to good guy. Plot twists are fine, but Indiana Jones would never step out of character.
It seemed that Khoury reached a point in his writing where he didn't know how to end the book.
I felt the secret society connection should have been explained more and had a bigger role in the overall plot.
Yes, I enjoyed the book. I was just hoping for a little bit more.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2011
I heard of Raymond Khoury from the first Templar novel, plus the cover was cool, the premise promising, and the first chapter tempting. It was all downhill after that.
I was looking for a DaVinci Code kinda thing...ancient artifacts, modern archeologists, a mysterious secret the world is not ready for. And it was that. But for all Khoury's intellectual promise, he just writes so danged poorly. His love affair with multiple adverbs, inappropriate adjectives, and long, multisyllablic words (like that one) in inappropriate places, which he obviously uses to impress the reader and make us reach for a dictionary, all just makes the prose hokey. I know grammar and sentence structure may not be critical to the masses, but the verbal hiccups were so obvious I repeatedly had to stop reading and wonder out loud if he even had an editor at all. Maybe being represented by the William Morris agency gave him some slack.
It's obvious his background is in screenwriting. During all the action scenes and most of the dialog I kept expecting the director to yell "Cut".
I usually close a book after 50 pages when the writing is this bad, but honestly, it was pretty good at first...but as the pages turned it just kept getting sloppier. At the halfway point I so wanted to close the book and pick another one off the shelf, but I hated to quit that far along and I had hopes it would get better. It didn't.
It was apparent he was in as much a rush to write the thing as I was to get to the end. I can't really blame him, though, as much as his editors. What were you thinking?!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2007
It's hard to believe that Raymond Khoury's debut novel, THE LAST TEMPLAR, was released only a year ago. Primarily known as a screenwriter for film and television, Khoury immediately established himself as a successful thriller novelist. He further secures his position with his sophomore effort, which may well be the most ambitious fictional work of 2007.
THE SANCTUARY is broad in scope and bold in premise. Spanning time from 1750 to the present, and the world from Italy to the Middle East, the book concerns a quest for that most elusive of treasures: the elixir of, if not immortality, then a greatly increased lifespan. Chief among those engaged in the pursuit is the hakeem, a medical genius whose brilliance is exceeded only by the single-minded barbarism of his experiments. A legendary text --- a mysterious, ancient volume bearing the image of the Ouroboros, a dragon-like snake swallowing its own tail --- once thought to be lost forever and rumored to contain the lost secret of prolonged life suddenly surfaces.
The mere possibility of its authenticity sets off a violent chain reaction of hot pursuit involving the hakeem and a number of enigmatic individuals, including Evelyn Bishop, an archeologist who finds herself at the center of the hunt and whose brief affair with a mysterious stranger some three decades previously may have indirectly set the current events in motion.
Each of the players has an agenda of some kind, but it quickly becomes evident that the hakeem will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. This includes kidnapping Bishop, with the result that her daughter, Mia, is brought dramatically into the proceedings along with two strangers, one of whom has an odd and significant tie not only to Bishop but to the very secret that everyone wishes to possess. The action is almost non-stop, and on those rare occasions when things do slow down a bit, it is tacitly understood that the respite will be temporary.
Khoury's research here is incredibly thorough, so much so that one can only marvel at his ability to keep the story on track, given the multitude of ancillary stories that easily could have been pursued by the historical issues raised. Perhaps one or more of them will be the topic of another work --- I'm hoping for something involving the Phoenicians --- but THE SANCTUARY has enough adventure, excitement and speculation to fill three books.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2007
This book was a very pleasant shock after reading the last Templar. There are similarities in the way the story weaves between the past and present, but the interwoven details of Beirut, the surrounding country, as well as extreme south eastern Turkey and extreme northern Iraq, the people, the sites, delights and hazards were a real treat.
The location of the end of the book is fascinating - and entirely believable, an interesting thing too is it is not far from the part of the old USSR where people in a remote isolated village were said to possess just such a secret. Documentation of it all was impossible because the people were too old for what were considered "reliable records" to have been kept. All that could be verified about these people was they were very very old and in exceptionally good physical condition.
Another thing which is great about this book is the note at the end from the author - with a further discussion of the big secret and bringing it into the context of what is verifiably real, along with links to further information.
The story moved from one shock to another - with twists and subtleties that drew me in and kept me hooked. It was far better, far more believable than DaVinci Code. I was thrown by the mention of Hyenas - but have learned that detail as well as the threat of wolves is very real in those mountains. I am perplexed by some of the other reviews - I had to read them to learn why this book wasn't rated a solid 5 stars. It's still a mystery. Because I quite simply can't recommend this book too highly.
I have little patience for most novels, but I'll read anything I can get from this exceptional author.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed Khoury's first novel, "The Last Templar." Khoury's considerable screenwriting talents drove the plot, making the story play like a movie inside my head as I read it. As he has mentioned in numerous interviews, Khoury originally created "The Last Templar" as a screenplay, and the book was accordingly cinematic from beginning to end.
Good as "Templar" is, Khoury's second novel, "The Sanctuary," is far richer. In "Sanctuary" we find Khoury maturing as a true novelist, rather than a screenwriter. The characters in "Sanctuary" are not created for the screen, but for the page. They are deeper, more nuanced, and most interestingly, more flawed than the ones in "Templar." The "Sanctuary" characters are as multifaceted, and at times as unpredictable, as Beirut, the fascinating city in which much of the story occurs. Beirut itself, a city where what one feels is often incongruent with what one sees, is as much a character as the people Khoury propels through the enthralling action in "Sanctuary." The city mirrors the characters' individual struggles to balance hope and despair, joy and terror, survival and destruction.
The most compelling aspect of the novel is its theme, urging us to assess not only the benefits, but the consequences and responsibilities of living lives much longer than those afforded us by current actuarial tables. The novel wisely suggests our instinctive desire for materially extended lifespans be contemplated with as much focus on the qualitative as on the quantitative. It may not be so axiomatic whoever breathes longest, breathes best.
"The Sanctuary" is a very entertaining novel, by a very astute novelist. It's the best novel I've read this year. I recommend it highly.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Humans have long dreamed of immortality, in some cases devoting their lives to the quest. Raymond Khoury makes that dream the focus of his latest historical thriller, The Sanctuary. Built around two interwoven stories, one from the 18th century and one present day, most of the action takes place in Lebanon. When an unknown pack of thugs abducts archaeologist Evelyn Bishop, her daughter Mia, a geneticist, mounts a desperate search to retrieve her. Unbeknownst to Mia, there are others on the trail, people willing to kill to acquire what they believe Evelyn possesses. The arch villain is a diabolic doctor who, apparently supported by several governments, conducts ghastly experiments on human subjects. As the story progresses, it becomes a game of "who do you trust?", with plenty of car chases, shoot-outs, and other perils. It also provides an interesting view of the culture/political shock experienced by Westerners when they work in the Middle East. If you're up for another novel about secret societies guarding ancient mysteries, the Sanctuary should do the trick.