Description (from Goodreads):
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.
With the countdown to 12/21/12 in full effect, it seems like perfect timing for 12.21. I think most people know that nothing is going to happen when we reach the (questionable) end of the Mayan long count calendar, but there’s still an inkling in the backs of our minds of “what if!?”, kind of like when Y2K happened. 12.21 takes that uneasiness about the impending date of doom and creates a potential pandemic scenario that involves both airborne madcow related prions and a mysterious Mayan codex that spells out the downfall of a kingdom. This book combines biblio- and medical-thrillers into one large end-times threat.
12.21 races along, moving the plot forward at a quick pace. While this can be good, I felt at times like the tempo of the story served to cover up holes in the plot. This was one of those books that I think could have stood to have taken its time a little more, to make more connections between ideas and plot points, and to meander a little longer with characters in order to flesh them out. There were a few times when I had to think about whether I’d somehow skipped some pages, because the flow of the story just didn’t feel like it was entirely there. Along the same lines, the ending felt rushed and abrupt, and I’d have liked to have had more of an explanation for the resolution.
What I did enjoy about 12.21 was the medical description. I’m a sucker for a good disease that makes people go crazy, so a prion disease with no cure that makes people into psychotic insomniacs was a lot of fun to read about. My final verdict: there’s enough fun medical and apocalyptic thriller in this novel to keep you entertained if you’re into that stuff, so it’s worth overlooking some of the flaws in writing and storytelling to read it.