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Harnessing the secrets of selective mutation, the psionic abilities of its nobility and benevolent rule of a fair queen, the city-kingdom of Aten remains insular, but safe. Now, Aten faces a desparate fight for survival -- a battle that will lure Kane and his companions into the conflict, where a deadly alliance with the Imperator to hunt out the dark forces of treason could put the Cerberus warriors one step closer to their goal of saving humanity... or damn them, and their dreams, to the desert dust.
The nine barons of post-nuclear America are succumbing to the tides of insurrection, a war that threatens to bring about the extinction of not only the weakening oligarchy, but the entire hybrid race. As the battle for power and territory rages on between the weary barons and the increasingly powerful and dangerous Imperator, the rebels of Cerberus press on, driven by the hope that humanity will someday have the choice that only freedom from enslavement can allow: a chance to reclaim the planet.
Crypt of Darkness
Hidden deep within the canyons of the California desert, the city-kindom of Aten thrives, resplendent with the glory and prosperity of ancient Egypt. Harnessing the secrets of selective mutation, the psionic abilities of its nobility and benevolent rule of a fair Queen, the metropolis remains insular, but safe. Now Aten faces a desperate fight for survival -- a battle that will lure Kane and his companions into the conflict, where a deadly alliance with the Imperator to hunt out the dark forces of treason could put the Cerberus wariors one step closer to their goal of saving humanity... or damn them, and their dreams, to the desert dust.
A Great Story, and A Great Read
Mask of the Sphinx exemplifies everything that is great about the Outlanders series. Rich characterizations, exotic locales, and thrilling action are all delivered in spades. This book also demonstrates the kind of synergy that could have been common between Outlanders and Deathlands, had the publisher so desired. I sincerely doubt the series will ever see so direct a reference to a Deathlands story again.
The epilogue was particularly nice, and a very welcome moment of introspection for Kane. Overall the book was a very satisfying read, one I would rank up there with Tomb of Time as one of the best of the series. Kudos to Chris and his collaboration with Mark to deliver such a well done story.
Mask Of The Sphinx is an engaging new episode in the Outlanders series. I was a little prejudiced against this book because it has a tie-in with a Deathlands novel, Nightmare Passage.
Even though I read Nightmare Passage several years ago and enjoyed it, I am angry with Gold Eagle for what seems like the “Deathlandization” of Outlanders with the two very substandard entries by Victor Milan over the last year.
But Mask Of The Sphinx is a truly excellent book with compelling, vibrant characters, a great storyline and an exotic locale full of mystery and intrigue.
Quite fortunately, the Cerberus heroes—who I buy the series to read about, not substitutes, take note, Gold Eagle!—are back in full character. I enjoyed seeing everyone getting out into the field.
The jumping-off point for the plot deals with helping Quavell, the pregnant hybrid who has been living in Cerberus for quite some time, and who oddly, wasn’t mentioned as even existing in what I read of the previous book, Sun Lord.
It was a nice change to see the characters embarking on a mission that was basically benign for once…even though circumstances changed pretty quickly—as usual!
It was also interesting to see Kane forced to exercise his new diplomat’s muscles, particularly when he comes face-to-face with an old enemy—who actually shows she’s not quite as one-dimensionally evil as the Cerberus warriors thought.
Although Mask Of The Sphinx won’t make my list of top five favorite novels in the series, it’s still a masterful piece of adventure storytelling, full of all the qualities that have made Outlanders so praiseworthy over the years.
More than meets my expectations!
When I read an Outlanders novel I expect four main things: the characters acting in character, action and adventure, exotic places and bizarre situations and characters.
Mask of the Sphinx more than meets my expectations!
Like the best books in this series, the development of the plot is gripping from the first page and set into motion very quickly. New supporting characters are introduced and more familiar ones return, but the main cast is back exactly the way they should be portrayed.
Kane, Brigid, Grant, Lakesh and Domi--these are all heroic people, even Dr. DeFore, but they are very down-to-earth too. Smart and funny, all of them has traits that gets on the nerves of the others because they spend so much time together but when the bullets start flying—Man! This is a group nobody wants to have come after them!
All the action was solid and well paced. The fight scenes were exciting and unpredictable, too. Having Erica Van Sloan show up in Aten as the Imperator’s ambassador was very unexpected but it made perfect sense. Her nasty interaction with the Cerberus warriors was very entertaining.
Aten is a colorful and fascinating place and the probing of ancient mysteries of the Egyptian culture was interesting too, but my favorite part of the book is the sequence set on Thunder Isle on the beginning. That had everything which makes OL such a great series! Prehistoric monsters, kung-fu fighting, samurai sword-fights and the beautiful Shizuka! I’d like to see a mini-series that deals only with Thunder Isle.
Unlike a couple of recent books by fill-in writers, Mask of The Sphinx doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence and gives us the goods in every chapter, from the first appearance of the “Akhakhu” creatures to the final scene with Kane coming to terms with a psychological trauma he’s hidden since the very first book, Exile To Hell.
In my opinion Outlanders is as classic a sci-fi adventure series as Star Trek, Stargate SG-1 or even Star Wars. I would love to see a TV series based on it, with a good budget and decent actors. It would be a monster hit!
Enjoy, Mask of The Sphinx is a great read!
by The Phantom
This is a very enjoyable read, from the first page to the last. Every chapter is interesting, imaginative and moves the story forward at a good pace.
The opening scenes with the mag called Decard bring the reader into the story even before we meet the regular Cerberus crew. While the overall plot arc of the novel is simple, involving getting equipment to help Quavell stay healthy, the story takes many twists and turns along the way, and before long, the reader is caught up in all kinds of cool and imaginative adventures. They discover an amazing Egyptian-like city hidden in the mountains.
From animal-human hybrid warriors to psi-ability priests, to animal helmeted warriors to red-eyed Egyptian queens, and more, the Cerberus crew meets all kinds of interesting characters as they search for the equipment Quavell needs. But wait, there is more... the return of Erica van Sloan and her warriors throws a major monkey wrench into the works for Kane and his friends.
The dialog and drama of the middle portion of the story is done very well, a gripping and intense battle of diplomacy between Kane's crew, Erica, and the queen.
The scenes taking place in the necropolis are excellent, and what really was awesome was Kane's vision confronting his father. Fantastic scene!
This is among the best books written yet in this series, the writing is nearly flawless and always entertaining. The only mistake that confused me was one scene in the crypt, when Grant and his crew fought the three animal-men and the two skull-capped men. Initially, it was stated that three skull-capped men entered the corridor.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes cool, fun adventure, even if you don't read this series, it is worth your time to check it out. Another 10 star book out of many from this high quality series.
by Cerberus Man
I read Mask of the Sphinx pretty much straight through on a coast to coast flight. It was a great, action-packed read with a great group of characters. I particularly liked seeing Erica van Sloan show up...that was a real surprise!
After the disappointment of Sun Lord, this book was awesome in every way! Highly recommended!
UNMASKING OF THE SPHINX!
by One Eye Chills
I just have to say, right off the bat, that this just may be THE best Outlanders novel to date.
Not only does Mark Ellis come back stronger than ever after Milan's Sun Lord, but he gives us diehard fan readers a crystal clear and unabashed view that he is - without a doubt - the reigning and supreme writer in the sci-f arena today.
Not that I ever questioned that. On the contrary. Mark Ellis to me, is like the son of Laurence James. A son who learned from his talented father, and has gone on and exceeded and expanded his father's hard work and dedication.
I digress. MASK OF THE SPHINX marks this latest Outlanders series as a classic moment. And for several reasons. From its beginning at breakneck and breathtaking pace, (a given in this series, most of the time), to it's climatic and heartwrenching climax. Mark Ellis delves a little deeper within Kane in this story. Peeling some hidden layers of his character to utmost perfection.
I can't remember the last time I felt so strongly about a novel. By the time I read the first 100 pages, I knew I held something a little more unique in my hands. I hated putting the book down! How can I tell you about this awesome novel without spoiling it? I hate spoilers and ruining the surprises that are awaiting future fans. So, don't worry. I'll try my hardest not to do that - ever.
Let's just say that one of the things that I thought contributed to this novel being one of the best was due to 2 things: 1: No info-dumping backlog! Thank God! Just pure and solid straightforward storytelling. And 2: Perhaps the collaboration with Chris?
If that had something to do with it, then you two need to collaborate more often! Lol!
Everything about this novel was utterly fantastic and highly entertaining. From the return to Aten - which was written about in Deathland's Nightmare Passage novel, one of the too few written by Ellis - to Kane's internal struggles within himself. Also, the feelings between Kane and Brigid are somewhat furthered here. And to great effect, I might add.
Something I've been looking forward to, for quite some time.
If you like The Mummy movies, then you will definately like Ellis's version much better. He adds to the Egyptian mythos in a way that I just loved.
As par his excellence, Mark Ellis delivers a character-driven story with loads of hints to come in future novels, all the while he adds in some of the very best action sequences ever.
Die hard fans of Ellis are going to go crazy over this one. Of that, I am sure.
Awesome Mr. Ellis, just plain awesome. Thank God Gold Eagle keeps you on. I hope they realize just how blessed they are.
If I could give this installment a 100 rating - I would give it 110.
High adventure and high IQs return!
Mask of the Sphinx is a very loose sequel to the excellent Deathlands novel by Mark Ellis, Nightmare Passage but the reader does not have to be familiar with that book to enjoy this one….and believe me, Mask of the Sphinx is a very enjoyable book on every level.
The contrast between Sun Lord and Mask of the Sphinx couldn’t be sharper particularly with the emphasis on the action-adventure aspects and the characters, who are presented in the classic Outlanders mode—tough, mature, professionals with high Iqs. All of the deficiencies of Sun Lord have been fixed in Mask of the Sphinx.
There is no childish squabbling in the cafeteria, no temper tantrums, none of the main characters pulling guns on one another…and Domi keeps her clothes on!
No, in Mask of the Sphinx the heroes are back in character, caring about one another, making smart-ass remarks and thinking their way through situations to turn the tables on their enemies.
The Outlanders series has always been about character development, and in Mask of the Sphinx, the core characters (Kane, Brigid, Grant, Lakesh, DeFore and Domi) are the focus as they try to find a way to help Quavell, the pregnant hybrid who has been part of the Cerberus crew for a couple of years but whose existence wasn’t so much as referred to in Sun Lord.
As part of the quest, they find themselves in Aten, the city based on ancient Egypt hidden in a canyon in the desert. This city was introduced in Nightmare Passage, and it’s interesting to see how it has changed since then as well as the character of Nefron, now the super-telepathic queen of the kingdom. Her motivations keep the reader guessing. It’s not until near the end of the book that the Cerberus warriors find out if she’s friend or foe.
They also meet the Ahkakhu, genetically engineered creatures based on the pantheon of Egyptian gods. There are very few of these ‘gods’, all kept in a complex under Giza and the Sphinx in Egypt.
They, along with some human allies are trying to take over Aten so they can then conquer the baronies. These are some scary but pretty cool characters that you even feel sort of sorry for.
Erica Van Sloan shows up as the ambassador of Sam the Imperator, trying to cut a deal with Nefron so it’s a very touchy political situation all the way around the Cerberus warriors find themselves involved in.
Mask of the Sphinx weaves everything together that has made Outlanders such a great series over the years—terrific characters, colorful and vivid settings, imaginative and fascinating plots and a very smooth narrative flow. There is nothing at all “dumbed-down” about this book and even though it’s a “smart” book it’s not confusing either. It moves at a headlong pace from beginning to end.
And we are even treated to a great “mini-adventure” on Thunder Isle which features rampaging dinocelphians, Tong pirates, samurai and best of all—Shizuka, the beautiful Tigeress of Heaven!
There is also a couple of hints, foreshadowing events yet to come as well as some unfinished (and unexpected) business from years ago finally being to put to rest.
The core of the Outlanders series success has always been action, characterization, suspense and imagination and all those qualities are presented in equal measure in Mask of the Sphinx.
This is true Outlanders
After reading Sun Lord anything would be considered a good read.
But this was great!!!
I have to say that this was one of the best of all time. I couldn't put it down. This is the type of writing that makes the Outlanders series the most interesting and enjoyable ever.
I have always liked the way the series leaves you wanting more of something. For instance the reference near the end that Brigid might have psionic abilities and how her feelings towards Kane are changing or at least being shown more openly.
This is real story telling and I hope it keeps up this fast paced action. But then Ellis would need to write them all.