Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book Review - The Last Oracle by James Rollins

The Last Oracle
by James Rollins
(Advance Reader’s Edition)

The Last Oracle is a Sigma Force adventure that combines elements of Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human (the gestalt of remarkable children), Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (a mystery enveloped in adventure), autistic savants (empaths, sensitives and precognitives) and the history of the Oracle of Delphi.

This book relies slightly on the story that preceded it (Judas Strain) but reading the earlier books in the series is not required to enjoy this story.

A Russian agency has bred Gypsy children and manipulated their DNA for half a century in an effort to create modern day precognitives (or oracles.) They plan to murder a consortium of world leaders and destroy the earth in a “blaze of fire” and, with ten mind-controlled and -altered “oracle” pawns, rule what remains. One precognitive in particular, a little girl named Sasha with undreamed of abilities and potential, is abducted while traveling in the United States and the race to save the world begins.

Enter Sigma Force… Commander Gray Pierce is a seasoned veteran of this “elite team of ex-Special Forces soldiers who had been retrained in scientific fields…” Their quest to avert the apocalypse begins when Pierce witnesses a murder on the Mall in Washington, DC. In an effort to uncover the mystery surrounding the murder Pierce and a cadre of operatives move around the globe from Washington to the Punjab region of India to Chernobyl, Ukraine following clues left behind by the dead man. Sigma Force uncovers the plot and must work to prevent the annihilation of the world and destroy the Russian faction and its cohorts.

Monk, a member of the Sigma Force whose memory has been erased by the Russians, helps three of the “special” children and a chimpanzee escape from the compound known as The Warren in the Ukraine. Chased by soldiers, wolves and tigers the group must survive the radioactive fields and lakes of the Ural Mountains and the pursuit of their captors to help bring a stop to Armageddon.

In true Rollins fashion the many diverse characters, groups and sub-plots coalesce and combine together in an astonishing action-filled finale.

Inconsistencies in the story:

1. On page 330 we find the following sentence: “Archibald Polk had died of acute radiation poisoning, possibly exposed here.” but on page 21 we are told that Archibald was shot on the Mall in Washington, D.C. We later learn that the radiation levels in his body were so high that they would have killed him within weeks. But Archibald Polk died of gunshot wounds and not radiation. This is a minor inconsistency, but one that should be fixed prior to mass publication.

2. On page 335 when Gray is chasing Nicolas he gets pinned down by gunfire from Elena. Then… “Gray checked his watch. Ten minutes.” Since Gray is not part of the conspiracy and arrived on the scene late how would he know that there were ten minutes left? And ten minutes to what? He has no knowledge at this point that any event is going to happen yet he seems to know the time frame. I found these two sentences out of place and used probably only for dramatic purpose. Note: There are also a number of typographical errors in the ARC which usually get fixed before mass publication.

The Sigma Force Series
1. Sandstorm (2004)
2. Map of Bones (2005)
3. Black Order (2006)
4. Judas Strain (2007)
5. The Last Oracle (2008)

A word about James Rollins – After reading a number of his other novels (Subterranean, Excavation and Amazonia) I’ve come to respect Rollin’s work because of his ability to create stories that contain multiple layers and sub-plots that keep the reader interested in the story until the last word. He has that rare talent of orchestrating three or more story lines and characters that interweave together fluidly. His novels are quick reads – not because their simple but simply because you’ll relentlessly turn pages in an excited frenzy to find out what happens next. The highest compliment I could pay him is that if they ever made a movie of one of his stories I’d shell out the $8.00 to see that too (even though I know how it’d end.)

Four and a half stars of five

The Alternative
April 12th, 2008
Southeast Wisconsin

1 comment:

Tisha said...

Interesting to know.