In Gayne C. Young’s previous novel (see my review here) a troop of subterranean albino baboons indiscriminately killed and devoured an alarming number of people at the Texas-Mexico border. Victims included a team of paleontology students, a gaggle of drug cartel musclemen and a handful of highly trained soldiers of fortune. At the end of the book, Lt. Col. Jeff Hunter and Capt. Jarrett Taylor barely made it home alive.
Even though Hunter and Taylor ultimately escaped to safety, they left things messy at the border. The cave dwellings beneath the Rio Grande were still teaming with deadly Agartha baboons, a mutated new species of haplorhini. The situation was still unresolved.
With its talon-like claws, its maw of elongated canine teeth and its massively over-sized eyes, the baboons had successfully adapted to living in an underground cavern of eternal night. “It’s become the perfect predator,” observed a primatologist, “and it has lived for centuries in an extremely isolated and almost completely unpopulated area.” It’s beautiful, he admitted, absolutely beautiful.
Now three months later, both Hunter and Taylor were being recruited for another tour of duty down at the border. A specialized private military service organization called Primal Force was working for a client who wanted to capture a couple of the “unknown-to-science monstrosities.”
A new species of primate, one that’s remained hidden to the modern world, would be worth a great deal to science. After all, who knows what their genome looks like? What secrets did their cells carry? All that new information could lead to a bucket load of knowledge and understanding. It’s the kind of thing that could be turned into a fortune.
And so, like dogs that returned to their vomit, the two mercenaries agreed to join P.F. Services and return to the tunnel to hunt Agartha baboons. Time to buckle up, buttercup.
Despite the book’s title, no one actually returns to the tunnel. One unlucky guy falls down a hole, but Hunter and Taylor had a plan to lure the mutated beasts into the open. No spelunking involved. Their plan worked more or less—if you overlooked the eruption of gun and baboon violence during the final act.
I enjoyed revisiting the author’s world of killer monkeys and sharp-shooting mercenaries. But I had two minor criticisms. Number one: There were a lot of “red shirts” in this book—the entire crew of a cryptology internet show, the entire “Texas First” fringe group, an entire squad of Mexican cartel gunmen and a handful of Primal Force agents. It’s ridiculous. I think there’s only one significant character introduced in this story that survived the onslaught.
And number two: I winced every time a character named Dori showed up. The author never missed an opportunity to disparage her physical appearance. She was sweaty and big (“nearly 300 pounds,” said Young), she had a massive bust and she jiggled when she rode in a car. For jewelry, she wore a livestock nose ring like a pig or a cow. Her colleagues collectively gagged at the thought of seeing her in her pajamas. Even in death, we are reminded of Dori’s obesity: “The baboons began devouring the flesh from her cheeks, jowls and multi-tiered neck.”
A reasonable solution was eventually found to curb the baboon problem, and I’m confident that we’ll see more of the cave-dwelling cryptids in future novels by Young. In the meantime, Hunter, Taylor and their Primal Force comrades-in-arms rushed onto an airplane bound for Asia. “We’ve got a problem in Mongolia,” explained their new boss. “A big one.” To be continued.
[Return to the Tunnel / By Gayne C. Young / First Printing: January 2020 / ISBN: 9781922323231]