We’re four weeks away from the release of The Eye of God, by James Rollins, and I’m marking the countdown with reviews of all the previous Sigma Force novels.
This is the fifth book in a series. This review contains no spoilers for previous books, aside from giving away the survival of some of the characters in the series.
The Last Oracle, by James Rollins
#5 in the Sigma Force series
William Morrow, July 2008
434 pages (hardcover)
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.
This, like all of the Sigma novels, juggles a few different stories, and one of the most interesting in this book is an internal conflict within our own government. The Sigma organization has been under scrutiny by other agencies in Washington; this was mentioned in the previous book, but it really comes to a head here. And one of the biggest triggers is that age-old question: do the ends justify the means?
So while the Sigma team is (as usual) running for their lives and trying to solve a mystery with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Painter is stuck struggling with the bureaucracy, the future of his agency potentially at risk. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and brings up the point that Sigma isn’t a team of superheroes saving the world. Sigma is a division of DARPA, which in turn is an agency of the Department of Defense. They’re meant to help maintain the US’s technological superiority, and some people in Washington don’t think they’re living up to that directive.
One other thing worth noting is that there’s a romantic side-plot… sort of. But it’s done much more subtly here than in Map of Bones or Black Order. And with so many non-romance books sticking in a love connection — or worse, a love triangle — seemingly just for the sake of having it, it’s nice to read one that’s more understated.
Overall, though, this book is actually my least favorite in the series. (It’s still good, of course, but that distinction has to go somewhere.) For that reason and others, my instinct is to say that this would be the worst possible book to start with. But on second thought, I don’t know that that’s the case.
Some of the events in The Last Oracle are intricately tied to what’s come before, but the story doesn’t actually draw much from previous events. Instead it builds upon them, and if you came into this story cold, without that previous knowledge… your reading experience would be different, but I don’t know that it would necessarily be worse, and in some ways it might even be better.
So, if you’re not a strict “read them in order” reader, and if this story sparks your interest more than the others in the series, I say go for it. And then come back and let me know what you thought.
Next week: The Doomsday Key.
How do you react when you don’t quite connect with a book, either in a favorite series or by a favorite author, in the way you expected?