'Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone' by Max McCoy (1995)

Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone - Max McCoy

Max McCoy, Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone (New York: Bantam Books, 2008), 293pp


An enjoyable piece of pulp. It's not on the same level as the films but it is still entertaining, and more importantly, it feels like Indiana Jones. There is some good dialogue from Indy and it contains moments of humour. The action is also well-presented and the MacGuffin interesting, although the Crystal Skull curse turned out to be a bit of a red herring. There are a number of plot contrivances, but I think perhaps I only noticed these because they were laid out on the page; certainly, one can find (and forgive) a number of similar plot holes and contrived plot points in the films, as great as they are.

One disappointment I felt in the book is that Indy doesn't really contribute meaningfully to solving any of the mysteries until the final act (where he pinpoints the tomb's location, and navigates through the various traps). Prior to this, his main contribution is grunt work - fights, daring escapes, and suchlike - and he is relying on others to solve the next clue in the mystery for him. Most inexplicably, the main bad guy, Sarducci, repeatedly throws Indy a bone in telling him where to go or what to look for next, for no real reason. Even in the pantheon of pop-culture baddies continually dropping the ball and letting the hero succeed, Sarducci has no rival in his incompetence. This is not helped by the fact that Mussolini's fascists are much less intimidating as villains than Hitler's Nazis, who provided the villainy for the two best Indy films.

It was nice to encounter Sallah in the book, though he serves little purpose; his function could easily have been done by the Farqhuar character, or even by replacing the Farqhuar character with Sallah entirely. It may seem here like I'm writing a negative review, but I did enjoy it. It's far from perfect but it has heart and one can certainly enjoy it if one feels nostalgia and affection for the old Indy films.