Lost in Babylon (Seven Wonders #2), by Peter Lerangis
Okay, I'm cheating a little here. I actually started reading this on my lunch hour and I'm currently on Chapter 6. However, before I opened the book, I did tell a coworker about the basic plot. Here is roughly what I said:
In this series, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are hiding places for Atlantean technology. The protagonist is descended from Atlantean royalty. You see, he and these three other kids have this gene that is recessive so they need to get it from both parents for it to be expressed. This gene gives them abilities with the side effect that it will kill them before they turn 14 and they're all 13 now. So they have less than a year to find this technology, because it is likely that the Atlantean technology will allow them to live, since the Atlantean royalty who first had this gene had to have lived to adulthood, because otherwise the gene would have died out. So they have to find all seven of these things before they die. Oh, and there's a group that's trying to stop them from finding it because they have some kind of plans for the technology themselves. And I don't entirely trust the group that have given all of this information to these kids, because I think they're pretty shady.
She seemed kind of impressed, but mostly overwhelmed. And I never even got around to the nature of the kids' gifts.
This book ends with Jack saying eight words that make a major change in this series. I'm still, two days later, just agog over this development.
But first, the Selects' trip to Ohio and its aftermath. When we left the kids, they were in Greece, and Marco had just disappeared with the first Loculus, which they had found at the site of the Colossus of Rhodes. We rejoin the Select and a few members of the Karai Institute en route to Ohio, where they assume that Marco has gone to visit his family. They are, however, mistaken, and they find out that Marco's family has been advertising a huge reward for information on his return and that their home has been invaded multiple times by people trying to get the reward.
During their return from Ohio, Marco's tracker suddenly reappears and shows that Marco is in Iraq, which indicates that he has headed to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to find the Loculus there.
They return to the island and pick up Professor Bhegad and head to Iraq. They reach what is believed to be the site of the ancient city of Babylon on page 25 of a 300-page book. So obviously they are not going to just pick up the Loculus and go home.
What happens next is fascinating. They find Marco, who points out that the song of the Loculus is not coming from the ruins, but from the Euphrates. He leads them into the river and through a gateway underneath the water. Once they surface, they find themselves looking at a no-longer-ruined city of Babylon and the campsite where they left Torquin and Professor Bhegad is nowhere to be seen. The second Loculus is somewhere in the city. Marco buried the first Loculus somewhere on the outskirts of this other Babylon.
When they return, a lot more time has passed than they spent in the ancient city. From this, they come to the conclusion that the ancient city is in a parallel timeline that passes at one-ninetieth the speed as it does in their own timeline. As a result, the past 2700 years here have been only around 30 there.
So the Karai Institute people use dye to cover the lambdas in their hair, outfit them in tunics similar to what they saw the people in the ancient timeline and give them 48 hours in the ancient city to find and return the Loculus. That 48 hours will be six months in the regular world.
They are taken into the city and given makeovers -- it turns out that the tunics are not current fashion -- to make them presentable then presented to the king, Nabu-Na-id. One of the courtiers is a young woman named Daria, who takes the kids and begins, through talking to them, to learn English. As a result, she is able to act as a translator. Daria also becomes friends with them. She also takes them under her wing in other ways, including giving them hints on how to get to the Hanging Gardens, which they call "Mother's Mountain."
The plot gets more complicated, particularly once they actually find the Loculus, requiring them to make one more trip back to the outside. And it gets even more complicated once they return once again to Babylon.
Throughout this volume, Cass and Jack, in particular, begin to feel the pressure that they are under. Cass begins to doubt his gift, and Jack has doubts as to whether he has a talent at all.
Overall the book is a very quick read with few moments that threw me out of the book. One that stands out is Aly worrying about Cass changing history by bringing gum to Ancient Babylon. Ancient Babylon is a sort of pocket parallel universe. Maybe the future of that parallel world would be changed by gum, but maybe that universe is destined to have had gum at a surprisingly early phase of its development. One thing that I am nearly certain about is that archaeologists in our reality are never going to see that wad of gum because they aren't in our reality. Another one of those moments is when Jack finds a package of needles of some sort and decides that they must be knitting needles. I'm not sure what kind of knitting they do in Jack's neck of the woods, but the needles he finds look nothing like any knitting needles I have ever seen, and I've been a knitter for 30 years. A third is when a character uses someone's iris to get through a retinal scanner, though apparently this is a common-enough error that Wikipedia actually mentions the possibility of confusion.