June 3, 2009

The Last Oracle by James Rollins

James Rollins' latest paperback The Last Oracle was released on May 11 and I even managed to get my gleeful hands on a copy a couple days before.  I waited eagerly for the mass market to come out, as budget is of concern to me and I only buy mm or trade paperback...and I rarely get the time to visit the library nowadays. I'm loving the sparkly fire on the front cover too. This is the fifth book in the Sigma Force series.
So with all the historical fiction I write reviews on why, do you ask, am I such a fan of James Rollins, when he writes action/adventure/thriller fiction?? WELL first of all, I'm a bit if a nerd and excelled in science and computer classes in my high school and university education (I have a B.Sc. degree in psychology). I love karate and action or science fiction films even prefer them over romantic comedies...I'm all for over the top special effects and I prefer to watch movies on IMAX screens. Plus I need to mix up the historical fiction with something else.
I am a dedicated follower of Rollins and own and have read most of his books (excepting Indiana Jones and Jake Ransom).  Did you know Rollins' The Judas Strain won the Harper Collins March Madness competition out of 60 different titles at the start???  As you can see here there was some very stiff competition. What I love about his novels besides the fast-paced action is that he really develops his characters and relationships between characters...he always weaves his plot around scientific theories, which can sometimes be bizarre or obscure, and controversial topics.  He always includes elements of emotional drama, humor, romance and edge of your seat thrills.
In Washington, D.C., a homeless man takes an assassin's bullet and dies in Commander Gray Pierce's arms. A bloody coin clutched in the dead man's hand—an ancient relic that can be traced back to the Greek Oracle of Delphi—is the key to a conspiracy that dates back to the Cold War and threatens the very foundation of humanity. For what if it were possible to bioengineer the next great prophet—a new Buddha, Muhammad, or even Jesus? Would this Second Coming be a boon . . . or would it initiate a chain reaction that would result in the extinction of humankind?
Vital seconds are ticking rapidly away as Pierce races across the globe in search of answers, one step ahead of ruthless killers determined to reclaim the priceless artifact. Suddenly the future of all things is balanced on the brink between heaven and hell—and salvation or destruction rests in the hands of remarkable children.
I thought The Last Oracle ventured into a new emotionalism from Rollins, which was especially chilling at times. Autistic savant children have been augmented to enhance their abilities and exploit them in the service of a Russian scientific research team to bring about a new Russian Renaissance. The children have significant roles in the narrative and you cannot help but feel a strong sympathy for them...and there is one particular climax where I sobbed my heart out. A character who has been in most of the books in the series we find out may not be dead after all, although we were given this clue at the end of The Judas Strain, and with his life being stolen from him and no memory of who he was, he strives to save the children from an inescapable fate. The main team of characters, Painter Crowe, Lisa Cummings, Kat Bryant, Gray Pierce and Joe Kowalski, are more emotionally vulnerable and complex, they are given additional facets to their personalities, so that the individual is emphasized just as much now as the Sigma team.
The novel starts in A.D. 398 at The Temple of Delphi. We are given a quick glimpse into the significance of the temple, which was a particularly effective way of beginning the book. This is not Rollins' usual style - including a historical POV  - and just shows how he has grown as an author, really broadening the scope of his writing.  Rollins balances very well the historical elements, scientific details and ethical discourse. The only few things that stuck out as odd to me was a question posed by Gray Pierce, which I though since he was supposed to be a genius he should already know but these questions are used as a tool by Rollins to explain in more detail scientific theory. There is a spelling mistake on page 451 that is kind of funny...did you catch it??
James Rollins' next book, The Doomsday Key, to be released in hardcover on June 23, 2009.
My Rating: 4.5
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  1. I have two books by Rollins even though I haven't read either of them yet (hanging down my head in shame). After your review I think I'll just have to get on with it start reading him.

  2. He's not for everyone but if you like action/adventure Rollins is my go to guy. Sandstorm is the first in the Sigma series and I recommend reading the series in order. Map of Bones is my fav. Enjoy!