Black Order - James Rollins, 2006.
James Rollins is a vet by profession and of late, an author; penning at least 7 novels and working for Lucas Arts on turning the Indiana Jones story into novels.
His own works are a series of books called the SIGMA Force series, though the book I am reviewing here I have read outside of this series and it stands alone as a read.
SIGMA Force is meant to be an undercover part of The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARMA) which does apparently actually exist in the USA.
Here is where we get the idea, a bit like Dan Brown, and other authors that Rollins mixes a bit of fact with a lot of fiction. In fact he mixes a fair bit of fact in this book and we get a short 'epilogue' where he explains to the reader what is factual or fact based in the book.
This is quite interesting, as the plot, or plots are almost too simple to start with, yet are separate and at the same time connected; only we do not begin to see connections until some way in.
A lost bible belonging to Charles Darwin
A Himalayan massacre of a temple full of monks
A group of ex Nazi's in different World locations
A SIGMA Force undercover agent
Ancient Norwegian Rune Language all over the place
Conspiracies a plenty
All thrown in with an evolutionary tale, quantum physics/theory, an Aryan Superman Cult and a tale of several characters and their lives and loves.
We have settings and sub plots in:
I will not spoil any more of the plot as it really is quite a tale of twists and turns, that, in truth, takes some perseverance on behalf of the reader as there seems to be a lot of jumping between sub plots at first.
I am also not going to go into detail about each of the leading characters as this is almost in this book not as relevant as the storylines. In objective fairness most of the characters are parodies and clichés anyway.
Personally, I think the use of language is not very mature, even though there is much use of different languages to illustrate the World scenes. The descriptive nature of the writing almost gets there and yet in places it is quite weak, an example:
"A heavy Oak door, studded and strapped in black iron, sealed the entryway. But as the group approached, the door winched up, rising like a portcullis"
There is so much more that could be done there to illustrate and portray the 'feel' that was intended.
What is good is that the author takes us on a journey with his characters and we begin to feel we know them a bit. Yet he is not 'loyal' to any particular character, we see them when the plot needs them, not when it doesn't.
The author manages to weave together several strands well and there are 'ah I've got it now' points which are quite satisfying. There are also one or two genuinely good suspense making, page turning bits.
He does not portray an awful lot of depth in any character and when we get near to this, he switches. This is good and bad as we are left wanting to know more, which is good, but we never get quite enough so depth is not explored.
In truth there were times in the first hundred pages or so that I thought about giving up on the book, however, it builds and we do get to enjoy the tale as it starts to speed up.
In fact I would have to say, once you get to the last third of the book, it is genuinely exciting.
It feels as though the plot is so complex that the author decided to 'dumb down' the sub plots so the reader 'gets it', this is, I feel, a little patronising as it comes together well, without the easy leaders.
It is not a bad book, and as a 'buy two, get third free' from WH Smith I have no real complaints. It is a decent yarn, which would in all probability make a decent film, but it has not convinced me to go out and buy another of his books, which is a shame, because he clearly has a storytellers talents.
One of those 'holiday books' I feel.