Altar Stone Hardcover – Jun 2001
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"Dark currents swirl through this compelling story." -- Florine Gingerich, author of The Day the Music Died
"Intelligent and scary with an intensely satisfying ending." -- Ed Radcliffe, author of Yellow Finch
About the Author
Robert Hackman worked and lived in Africa for several years, enjoying the country and cultures he encountered there. While exploring South America, he observed that on both continents people find their own ways of embracing or resisting the dark side of the human psyche. These observations gave rise to THE ALTAR STONE. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington where he participates in writing conferences and teaches fiction techniques.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Arthur looks forward to an upcoming expedition led by the renowned Dr. Lansing to the Peruvian Amazon rain forest. Also going on the trip to the Rio Perra location is Arthur�s lover, Dr. Millie Holtz. However, Arthur is going to find more than just a few broken pieces of pottery and some skeletal remains. He is going to confront his own unknown childhood through creatures who once ruled and plan to do so again by possessing humans in THE ALTAR STONE.
Robert Hackman is no hack when it comes to writing a frightening yet entertaining horror novel. THE ALTAR STONE is filled with action, intrigue, and a powerful supernatural cast that exploits humans as host bodies to regain what they lost. Arthur is a strong hero, but has too many diverse adventures on his Amazon trek. Still, in spite of the unnecessary sidebars, Mr. Hackman gains possession of the minds of his readers who will enjoy this powerful one sitting tale.
The premise of the book sounds quite interesting. A young boy, Wart, is playing in a rarities store and happens on a set of shrunken heads from Peru. On a dare, he picks one up and triggers a series of events that leaves him under the control of a being that lives parasitically in the human host. Called Phaqutl, it had been imprisoned for several hundred years in the head and is now determined to return to the home of the tribe he had ruled. Unfortunately for Phaqutl, finding himself in the U.S., he has no idea where that is.
The story skips forward some twenty years to find Arthur Tomas (the thinly disguised Wart) now a professor of archeology. He remembers nothing of his childhood. Phaqutl, sensing that a 7 year old child was useless for his quest, abandoned him for a more able host and erased much of his memory in the process. Now Arthur is part of an expedition into Peru to investigate several finds. Unfortunately, their intended site has been destroyed by robbers and the expedition has to return. By one of those coincidences out of which novels are built, Arthur discovers another set of ruins, but is unable to assemble proof of his discovery. He must return to the States and seek further help.
In the meantime, Phaqutl has inadvertently hopped to a criminal in mid action and winds up in prison. He uses his time carefully, so that when he accidentally discovers that Arthur has found Phaqutl's original home, he makes his escape. Posing as a rich benefactor, Phaqutl convinces Arthur to take him back into Peru, and the inevitable plot details ensue. There are the obligatory beautiful women as well. Millie is Arthur's smart, beautiful fellow academician, to whom he is almost engaged. In Peru Arthur finds Beba, an equally smart and beautiful Peruvian villager who also happens to be the host for Coquitla, Phaqutl's mate.
I think the reader can imagine the rest of the novel from these details. Despite what should be the basis for an interesting if not downright exciting novel, the tale as told is lackluster. The characters are stiff and unsympathetic to the point where it is hard to tell the difference between the monsters and the victims. The most exciting part of the novel other than the last few pages is when Dr. Tomas is slugged by someone who is making a pass at Millie. I am reluctant to give the novel a 2 star rating because it is never really bad, just mildly boring. But truthfully, it's not quite a 3 star book either. Only recommended for Aztec horror story addicts.
Marc Ruby - for The Mystery Reader