Marie D Jones and Larry Flaxman. Viral Mythology. New Page Books, 2014.

Mythology is a much larger part of our world than many of us generally think. As readers of this site are almost certainly aware, myths from the distant past still reverberate through our world today, although most of the population, at least in the post-industrial West, are unaware of such influence and the extent to which it shapes our present, and the degree to which various myths are currently being produced and shaped. The general meaning of mythology is that of a tale, which may or may not contain elements of truth, that resonates and shapes lives, something larger than a mere story.

Viral Mythology covers pretty much every way of communicating that there was in the past, from the spoken and written word to patterns engraved in stone and looking at architecture, and how it can hold information carried from antiquity. Firstly the authors examine the nature and meaning of information and how it is spread. Then they look at the various media and how data is passed on from one generation to the next. There is then coverage of many examples of strange artefacts, buildings and the like, and how they either conveyed knowledge from the past, or, in the case of some of those looked at later, how data will be carried into the future.
The problem is that this seems to be two or three books in one. The first four chapters are scholarly, a mite muddled in presentation but still backed up by study and education. One certainly feels that one is learning something useful in these sections, albeit crammed together. Some of the separate sections, which are self-contained essays, are printed in fonts that are hard on the eye, although I suspect that this decision is down to the publisher rather than the authors.
It is when Chapter Five looms into view that we have some issues to deal with. From here on in, the subject matter switches to strangeness, and not in a particularly comprehensive way, either. The section covering the Georgia Guidestones is illuminating, covering old material and introducing information that, to me at least, was fresh. The problem is that this was the last time that original data was uncovered. From Freemasonry to Rosslyn Chapel to UFOs, the same old clich├ęs were covered too briefly and one was left unsure as to how covering popular “fortean” subjects related to the first half of the book.

It has to be said that this book tries to be too many things at once. It covers the transmission of information from the past at the beginning only to morph into a volume about the unexplained, and quite a simplistic one at that. There is little obvious connection between the two and one cannot shake the feeling that the second part was tacked on in order to increase sales. One also cannot shake that trying to cover the conveyance of “truth” is too vague and needs more definition. Also, telling how this “truth” was transmitted seems to get lost in the mix as the book progresses. This cuts to the heart of what readership this tome is aimed at. I must admit that I am at a loss as to the target audience, as changing pace part of the way through throws any potential reader off course. All in all, a confused offering. – Trevor Pyne.

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