THE LAST ALCHEMIST by Erik Hamre

the-last-alchemistI admit, I am a sucker for anything ‘alchemist’, and have read some really interesting fiction using that as their vehicle, and some really cheesy pseudo spiritual la-di-da using it as the vehicle.  So naturally, seeing this title, I dived right in.

This is really an alchemical mix of traditional quest trope, a psychotic nut case working for the CIA, an examination (lite) of the Nazi obsession with occultism, and their belief in alchemy,  the legend of Midas and his store of gold,  which, incidentally,  has never been found,  and the possibly mythical die glocke, a supposedly top secret Nazi scientific technological device, a secret weapon that would transform the world.  More on this later, because it is very interesting in and of itself.

The story line is this:  David Dypsvik, a depressed and broke Finnish career student in Australia at Bond University, is coerced into finding a missing long lost billionaire, Yossar Devan. His professor, Grossman, is finishing writing a book on the ten principles of wealth. These same principles came from a series of lectures by Yossar who had held them for a few students at Oxford in London. These students all had become billionaires themselves. Professor Grossman entices David to embark on quest to find Yossar and also learn about the ten principles. David is not the only one looking for Yossar. Like a breadcrumb trail, David starts a globetrotting hunt for clues with someone close to his heels and it becomes a deadly game.

In typical quest fashion, David comes upon a couple of people to help him along the way, but also along the way, he discovers his grandfather worked for the Nazis, and that his father who died in a car accident a year ago, was researching his grandfather, and found some startling info on Midas’ treasure, the Nazi’s and the secret weapon. We get some bullet points on how to get rich which if I recall, came straight from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, a book I read decades ago and did not become rich, so I guess I didn’t think hard enough.

All in all, it was a fun caper, not superior, but adequate.  As in many thrillers and mysteries, there was a lot of recapping, both in conversations and in descriptions of his thoughts, which made the book a lot longer than it possibly needed to be, so I got to skipping over the group analyses of what they knew and their guesswork. Also the psychotic CIA agent angle seemed a little gratuitous, and for me, the book would not have been the lesser for the elimination of that plotline.  It was only there to make it a thriller.  Meh.   I give the book four stars, and it gets Special Mention for the stuff about die glocke.

Now concerning that die glocke, about which I am forced to confess ignorance.

Wiki says the die glocke (the bell) was allegedly an experiment carried out by Third Reich scientists working for the SS in a German facility near the Wenceslaus mine and close to the Czech border, Die Glocke is described as being a device “made out of a hard, heavy metal” approximately 2.7 metres (9 ft) wide and 3.7 to 4.6 metres (12 to 15 ft) high, having a shape similar to that of a large bell. This device ostensibly contained two counter-rotating cylinders which would be “filled with a mercury-like substance, violet in color”. This metallic liquid was code-named “Xerum 525” and was “stored in a tall thin thermos flask a meter high encased in lead”.

It is said that five of the seven original scientists working on the project died in the course of the tests.

Polish author Igor Witkowski who claims he has seen Nazi classified documents concerning die glocke, believes that it ended up in a “Nazi-friendly South American country”.Others speculate that it was moved to the United States as part of a deal made with SS General Hans Kammler. And yet others speculated that it was recovered as part of the Kecksburg UFO incident.

And the Kecksburg UFO incident? [You know, you start with this stuff, and one link leads to another, and three days later you come up for air and try to reduce it all to a paragraph or so, but geez…]

The Kecksburg UFO incident occurred on December 9, 1965, at Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, United States. A large, brilliant fireball was seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. It streaked over the Detroit, Michigan – Windsor, Canada area, reportedly dropped hot metal debris over Michigan and northern Ohio, starting some grass fires, and caused sonic booms in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

It was generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor after authorities discounted other proposed explanations such as a plane crash, errant missile test, or reentering satellite debris. However, eyewitnesses in the small village of Kecksburg, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, claimed something crashed in the woods. A boy said he saw the object land; his mother saw a wisp of blue smoke arising from the woods and alerted authorities. Another reported feeling a vibration and “a thump” about the time the object reportedly landed. Others from Kecksburg, including local volunteer fire department members, reported finding an object in the shape of an acorn and about as large as a Volkswagen Beetle. Writing resembling Egyptian hieroglyphs was also said to be in a band around the base of the object. Witnesses further reported that intense military presence, most notably the United States Army, secured the area, ordered civilians out, and then removed an object on a flatbed truck. The military claimed they searched the woods and found “absolutely nothing.”

Typical government/military response. Haul it away, claim it never happened, and discount all eye witness accounts.

So come for the thriller aspect, and stay for the interesting information about Nazi alchemy experiments.  I enjoyed it.

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