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Literature / Reliquary

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Reliquary is a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child first published in 1997. It is the sequel to Relic and the second in the series of novels fan-named the Agent Pendergast series.

It has been eighteen months since the infamous Museum Beast Murders at the New York Natural History Museum. Most of the players have moved on with their lives and left that horrible time as a distant nightmare. They are all dragged back into the horror when two skeletons are dug out of the river with chillingly familiar wounds, including missing heads.

No relation to the fantasy webcomic of the same name.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Justified in that all the tunnels and spaces below Manhattan actually exist, even with the liberties of placement, names and exact size taken by the authors. It's estimated that there's enough room down there that several thousand people make it their homes.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Kawakita's burnt lab journal.
  • Author Tract: The plight of homeless people: the afterword asks that the reader donate to charities and understand the homeless.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Smithback gets in to see Mrs. Wisher this way.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After seeing what happened to the other passengers at the hands of the wrinklers, the final victim in the subway massacre steps on the third rail before they can kill him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Snow bursts into the Crystal Cathedral just in time to save everyone.
  • Chekhov's Gun/Chekhov's Classroom: A SEAL Team member explains to Snow how to use the M16's grenade launcher.
  • Cute Bruiser: Hayward's looks, small frame and gracious endowments often cause people to dismiss her as a police officer. She's a skilled martial artist and one hell of a tough cookie. Those that underestimate her usually get a few broken bones for their trouble.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Mephisto and his underground community.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Vaguely. Pendergast and D'Agosta infiltrate the homeless community disguised as hobos to try and get any leads on the murders.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Remember Glaze from the last novel? Kawakita got horribly mutated when he decided to modify it a little, and the addicts were turned into Frock's wrinklers.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Dr. Frock, a supporting good guy in Relic, becomes megalomaniacally evil in in Reliquary.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Frock plans to release the reovirus to give evolution a kick-start and cleanse the earth.
  • Godhood Seeker: Frock, as Pendergast notes, was setting himself up to be one.
    He wanted to be God - his God, the God of evolution.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Kawakita prematurely begins taking the modified reovirus and suffers horrible deformity and an allergy to vitamin D. When he reaches out to Dr. Frock for help, it gets him killed for his trouble.
  • Gonk: The wrinklers, who resemble naked mole rats with reptilian eyes.
  • Hand Cannon: Inverted when Pendergast recons the tunnels again: he brings along an incredibly small pistol with a round that could "send a bullet through an elephant. Lengthwise."
  • Hannibal Lecture: Frock has the tunnel group brought before him to mock them before killing them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mephisto takes out Frock and a mass of wrinklers by blowing himself up with a landmine. He saves the others and ensures the safety of his community.
  • Horror Hunger: For human hypothalamus. D'Agosta treats the homeless community's favored meat of rat as this, to the amusement of Pendergast.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Our good friend Bill Smithback appears again.
  • Jerkass: The incompetent Captain Waxie. Lieutenant Miller as well for his treatment of Hayward and his cowardice in leaving his injured men behind underground.
  • Karma Houdini: Mrs. Wisher might be considered one. She is largely responsible for the riots that take place and is rewarded with a government position.
  • Kill It with Fire: Pendergast takes a flamethrower into the tunnels to fight the wrinklers.
  • King of the Homeless: Mephisto.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Kawakita is set up as the big bad in the sequel hook from Relic. It turns out he's been dead for several months and Dr. Frock is the one pulling the strings.
  • Master of Disguise: Pendergast makes a very convincing homeless man. D'Agosta only recognizes him when he breaks his phony accent and begins moving and talking in his normal manner.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Judging from the scraps of his journal, Kawakita grew to honestly regret his actions.
  • Orphaned Punchline: The lead up to the subway massacre starts with one.
  • Posthumous Character: Kawakita.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: Every time Mrs. Wisher holds a "Take Back Our City" rally it becomes one of these. The first time it resulted in bottles being thrown at the mayor. When she holds her biggest rally, the teargassed moles emerge right into the middle of it and it becomes a full-scale riot.
  • Psycho Serum: Glaze. At first, it has zero withdrawal effects - but eventually drives the user insane.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Mephisto, the leader of the homeless, feeds the disguised Agent Pendergast roasted rat (referred to as "track rabbit") as a sign of hospitality, and as a test to see if he was who he claimed to be.
  • Title Drop: Pendergast calls the reconstructed skull hut in the Crystal Pavilion a reliquary.
  • Viral Transformation: In three stages The first version of Glaze that creates the wrinklers, the more refined version that Kawakita takes, and the "perfected" version that heals Frock's body at the cost of warping his mind.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The new reovirus simply causes violent insanity in those afflicted. This is Frock's ultimate plan - send the world into a rage-filled suicide by spreading the virus to the oceans, and take over what's left.