We’re just one week away (!!!) from the release of the latest Sigma Force novel, The Eye of God, which means today’s review is the last in my countdown.
This is the eighth book in a series. This review DOES contain spoilers for previous books. If you don’t want to read anything about the first seven books in the series, you can skip to the bold text near the end for my spoiler-free closing thoughts.
Bloodline, by James Rollins
#8 in the Sigma Force series
William Morrow, June 2012
447 pages (hardcover)
Galilee, 1025: A Templar knight uncovers a holy treasure in an ancient citadel — a priceless icon that holds a mysterious and terrifying power.
A millennium later, Commander Gray Pierce of Sigma Force is dispatched to the African jungle, teaming up with former Army Ranger Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane, on a covert mission to rescue the U.S. President’s pregnant daughter from Somali pirates. But Pierce fears the kidnapping masks a far more terrible terrorist agenda — a suspicion proven true in a fiery ambush and a deadly act of betrayal… and by the firebombing of a South Carolina fertility clinic half a world away.
Suddenly Gray Pierce and Sigma Force are in a frantic race to save an innocent unborn baby whose very existence raises questions about the nature of humanity. And behind it all is a deadly cabal that has been manipulating events from the shadows throughout history… and a devastating conspiracy rooted in human genetic code that Pierce must expose before it alters humanity forever.
The events in Bloodline have been a long time coming. Though I’m obviously thrilled for future Sigma books, if Rollins had wanted to end the series, this book would have been a good way to do it. Not only does it build to a climax in the Sigma/Guild conflict, but in some ways the book feels almost like a celebration of everything that’s come before.
There are minor references to characters and events in the series going as far back as Sandstorm. For the third time, Rollins introduces a stand-alone character into the Sigma universe, this time pulling the hero out of Deep Fathom (who happens to be Lisa’s ex-boyfriend) in order to help the team out. And I didn’t even notice another recycled character until Rollins pointed out the easter egg months later — Jason Carter, a new Sigma recruit, was originally a much younger character in Rollins’s debut Subterranean. He’s grown up since then, and is a welcome addition to the series.
In addition to all these new characters, as well as Tucker and Kane, all of the core Sigma characters get in on the action. This leads to a lot going on, sometimes it almost feels like too much, but every piece of the puzzle matters, and it all comes together in the end.
One criticism I had, especially after re-reading the whole series, is that Seichan seems to be getting a bit too comfortable in her new alliance with Sigma. It started out as an agreement of convenience and necessity for her, and though there was a three year gap between the release dates of The Doomsday Key and Bloodline, the time within the books is less than a year, with only a month between the last two. Keeping that in mind, some of her behavior in this book just seems out of character.
At the same time, she’s been on her own for almost her entire life; maybe she’s been looking for a place to belong (and the Guild hardly counts). But as much as I like to see development for her character, it still feels like it’s happening too fast. Still, it’s hard to get too hung up on that as we keep racing ahead.
(spoiler-free from here to the end)
One of the most fun aspects of the novel is how Rollins portrays the military dog, Kane, and you can get a small sample of that in Tracker, the completely-separate-from-Sigma-so-no-chance-of-spoilers short story that precedes Bloodline. Writing scenes from the point of view of a dog could have been really gimicky, but I think the scenes, both in the short story and the novel, are few enough that they don’t become overwhelming. And while I obviously can’t get inside a dog’s head to see what it’s actually like, it felt very genuine to me. Kane’s scenes are more about instinct and emotion than actual thought, and Rollins’ love of animals really shines through.
Like The Skeleton Key, you can get the ebook of Tracker for $.99, or get your hands on the paperback of Bloodline where it’s included in print.
As for Bloodline, the story itself is a great one. The science is intriguing. The action is compelling. The basic story would make a great thriller on its own. But it’s the Guild storyline — a continuation of the startling revelation at the end of The Devil Colony — that really makes the book, and the payoff is so much greater when you’ve been following that conflict since Sandstorm.
If you missed my previous Sigma Force reviews, you can read them all here. These are among the best thrillers out there, in my opinion, and of all the authors I read, James Rollins is one of the most consistant when it comes to putting out books that live up to his readers’ expectations… or at least to mine. Next week, I plan to be at the bookstore when it opens to get my copy of The Eye of God.
What was the last book you had to have right when it came out?