Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock is an elaborate work of fiction with little in terms of redeeiming value, at least from a scholarly point of view.

That said, it is a very compelling tale, a mystery of sorts unraveled by Hancock over several hundred pages of captivating text. Hancock knows how to write, I'll give him that. Now, I'm going to spoil the book for you.

Certain mysterious structure and seeming similarities between distant cultures intrigue Hancock; pyramids in Egypt and Central America; the architectual complexity and perfection of the Egyptian pyramids and Inca stone-cutting; certain myths in various parts of the world, etc. Well, they are interesting - that's something else I'll agree to. How to explain these similarities? Is there a link, a missing link? Perhaps there was a culture before the Egyptians, before the Olmecs, etc. - a culture whose heritage included these myths (actually a method for encoding and handing down special information, to be decoded by us, for example) and certain knowledge (for example, in the realm of constructing large buildings, etc.). This culture from pre-history (around 10,000 BC, for example) is the link that binds and provides an solution to these mysteries. By who were these mysterious "others", this fantastic cultural legacy of all mankind, and where did they go?

Why, they were the inhabitants of Atlantis! And where were they? Where was Atlantis, that fabled city described by Plato over 2000 years ago? The answer: Antarctica!

Well, why didn't I think of that earlier? Of course, you are thinking -- and scratching your head -- but Antarctica is too cold to have been the center of a vast civilization! Ah, but here's the important part: around 10,000 BC or so Antarctica wasn't centered around the South Pole - it was actually about 30 degrees further north, and through a cataclysmic seismic event, it shifted south, putting it originally in a temperate climate and explaining why Atlantis disappeared: it just got too cold!

There's even a "geologic" theory to explain all of this - it's ECD or Earth-Crust Displacement, a theory by the late science-historian Charles Hapsgood, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for coming up with this marvelous structure of intellectural enterprise. I wrote a short geology paper on ECD a few years ago, and I've recently revisited it because I received a letter from Ben Ratcliffe, a 19 year-old high school student from Canada. I sent him a reply based upon his questions, but in order to even do so, I had to re-acquaint myself with some of the texts, and here I am, writing this little passage.

In the past few years, I have also been contacted by Nick Palmer, who thought I was dismissing Hancock's findings a bit too quickly, and by James Bowles, who is the author of another book taking up Hapgood's curious little geologic theory.

Convinced by all this yet?

If not, good.

If so, you're just too gullible.

The "fact of the matter" - so to speak - is that Hancock is full of shit. His scholarship is lousy, and his method of argumentation is deceiving. It is similar to, but not quite as bad as, a book by Michael Drosnin called The Bible Code, which is so bad it makes Hancock look like a serious academic.

Still, if you're interested in some late-night reading to get your mind going, it isn't a bad read. Just remember to take it all with a grain of salt.