Reviewed by Alisha Churbe

Near Chicxulub, Mexico an archeological dig is underway. Brian Avery, Anthropology professor, Travis Dillman, his assistant, and Sarah Gallagher, a physicist have all been chosen to work on the ChronoTech project. They were placed in the lowly populated area outside of Chicxulub where the Mayan culture very much dominates. The plot loosely follows the three through their explorations and discoveries, during which a Category 5 hurricane threatens the lives of all in the area. They eventually stumble upon 5,000 year old Mayan petroglyphs and work to decode the cipher that locks the information away from modern readers.

MacCallum’s book seems for the most part (he introduces the novel with the liberties he’s taken to set his story) to follow a historical thread that is interesting to read. There are elements of suspense, mystery, murder, and drama. He explores a large number of human emotions and relationships, and both interpersonal and cultural relationships. Each character has a relation to another and that relationship is defined with both rewards and challenges. Cipher has elements of science fiction and fringe science, along with moments of paranormal and spiritual activity.

Cipher has elements of curiosity and insight; it takes you to another place with superb description of setting and character. However, it is very hard to tell just who the main character of the story is, as the point of view belongs to a large number of first and third person narrators. Due to the number of characters, it is often challenging to follow the plot. At times, it seems completely swept away within all the relationships, thoughts and ideas of the many characters.

I wouldn’t classify MacCallum’s book as a quick read, as you’ll quickly get caught up with the many characters, but I would definitely suggest a slow tread through if only to learn more about Mayan culture and history.

Rating: 2/5

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Zach.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Leigh MacCullum. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.