Review: 12.21 by Dustin Thomason

16 Aug

Cover: 12.21 by Dustin ThomasonMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary via

For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end.

In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a duffel bag into her hands.

By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every symptom confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artifact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact: a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors. This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life’s work and to one of history’s great riddles: why the Maya kingdoms vanished overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate.
With only days remaining until December 21, 2012, Stanton and Chel must join forces before time runs out.

When I saw the description, I thought cool– two genres I enjoy– medical thriller and crazy religious/apocolyptic adventure (yes, I really enjoyed The DaVinci Code).

Later I stopped to wonder if combining them was really bad idea. I started getting a bit worried. That worrying was needless. Those two aspects of the book both work very well together.

The medical drama of the book probably worked the best for me. The science seemed plausible, as did the response, both from those in the know and society in general. In actuality, I know very little about prions, and I don’t know whether the method of transmission in the book is at all plausible, but I was happy to suspend disbelief. I have no trouble at all with believing the ups and downs of societies response.  Overall, people don’t respond well, which make the moments of sanity and good sense shine.  Make no mistake, this disaster is of a scale to destroy civilization as we know it.

And what do you know– civilization is scheduled to come to an end soon.  No one believes this of course.  Except some crackpots… The multiple layers of ties to 12/21/12 and the next age of the Mayan people were intriguing, with a wealth of details about the history, as well as a plot carrying  Within the world of the book, in the end, I’m not sure which aspects were human designed, which were deliberate acts of Mayan Fates, and which were pure coincidence. Perhaps it is better that way, with so many pieces put into play, all leading to an eventful, but not completely explained away conclusion.

I enjoyed the primary characters, particularly Chel Manu, a young woman who has become an expert in Mayan studies to fill in the gaps that her mother won’t. She’s got just enough internal conflict to be interesting. Gabriel Stanton is the world’s foremost expert on prion disease, and just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Character development isn’t the strength of this book, but they are presented well enough to allow the plot to succeed.

And the plot does succeed as crazy as it is. The author mixed medical research and Mayan knowledge and made them work together in a frightening, thought provoking adventure.

I read 12:21 as part of a TLC book tour.  Thank you to Lisa and The Dial Press for providing me with a copy of the book for review and allowing me to take part in this tour.

TLC Book Tours
For other opinions on the book, check out the other tour stops:


Posted by on August 16, 2012 in books, reviews, tour


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “Review: 12.21 by Dustin Thomason

  1. Heather J. @ TLC

    August 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. Leslie

    August 25, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I think I’m one of the few people on the planet that hasn’t read The DaVinci Code even though I own two copies and do like apocolyptic adventures. I like medical thrillers too (ala Crichton) so this one might work for me.


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