A Nightmare at the Museum: A Review of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Relic

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Relic is a thriller novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child that centers around the New York City’s American Museum of Natural History as some sort of monster begins murdering people in the museum. While there is a large cast of characters that range from museum workers to journalists as well as policemen and FBI agents, the story mainly follows Margo Green, a graduate student and researcher at the museum. While I found this novel enjoyable, I had issues with the plot and the overall depiction of the monster.

Before diving into some of the weaknesses of the novel, I would like to first examine its many strengths. While there is a nearly overwhelmingly large cast of characters in the story, I thought Preston and Child made sure these characters were only highlighted when their role directly affected the plot and developed each of these characters enough for me to empathize with them. Furthermore, while I did have some issues with how they depicted the monster, I thought the way that this mystery of the monster unraveled was really well done. The idea that this monster is intelligent, nearly indestructible, and needs to eat this plant to survive enabled me to understand how lethal the monster was and its motives. Likewise, the subsequent twist that the monster was, in fact, Whittlesey came as a surprise, but it was subtly set up with clues throughout the story. These elements, coupled with the inner workings of a museum, made this novel a very enjoyable read.

That being said, I struggled with the believability factor of this novel. The fact that the new exhibit would open, despite the killings, wasn’t believable to me. Similarly, the fact that they closed off other areas of the museum, effectively trapping everyone at the opening was so stupid that other characters in the novel actually point this out. However, they go along with it anyway, which took me out of the story because it just didn’t seem like something that would happen in real life. I also had issues with the monster. While, as I already pointed out, the monster is developed and its motivations are clear, I felt like it rarely appears in the book. Furthermore, each time it does appear, it is in and out of the scene so fast that before I can really feel the character’s fear, the monster has either killed or disappeared again. Since so much of the story focuses on understanding and learning more about this monster, I don’t think we got enough time with the monster, particularly at the end of the novel. Overall, these issues didn’t make this a bad novel, but it disappointed me because so many other aspects of the novel were so effective.

Relic might not be a perfect monster story, but, ultimately, it was effective in that the characters and monster were well-developed. While I had a few believability issues and I wanted more of the monster in the story, Relic is an effective monster story that I enjoyed because, despite these shortcomings, there are characters to empathize with and a formidable monster.

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2 thoughts on “A Nightmare at the Museum: A Review of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Relic

  1. I also felt cheated of the monster’s presence. Even at the end, when they are defeating it, I wondered if we could have seen a bit more of it. The fact that the museum stayed open despite the killings made me wonder as well. I thought that this was just a convenient way to make Cuthbert look more and more guilty, so that we would think that he was pulling the strings for all of this. There were many decent attempts to mislead the reader, forcing the novel to take up a whodunit-type style.

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  2. Yeah, I also felt immensely cheated by the monster! The novel was more of a mystery/thriller than horror and it had a few gory scenes but I wanted more of the monster. We didn’t meet him until the end and that part was so short. I interned in a museum and there’s no way it would’ve remained open. Maybe after the two boys died but as more deaths kept happening. No way. And it never would’ve been open to the public.

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