Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Black Order

Black Order - James Rollins
Black Order is the third book in the Sigma Force series and the third book I’ve read from James Rollins. The first two Sandstorm and Map of Bones were both very good with the latter being the stronger novel.
For me Black Order falls somewhere in between but is closer to the Map of Bones in terms of quality. The plot focuses mainly on two PoV within the Sigma Force. That of Director Painter Crowe and of Commander Gray Pierce, both of whom had prominent roles in the previous books.
The Blurb:
A sinister fire in a Copenhagen bookstore ignites a relent-less hunt across four continents. Arson and murder reveal an insidious plot to steal a Bible that once belonged to Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory. And Commander Gray Pierce dives headlong into a mystery that dates back to Nazi Germany . . . and to horrific experiments performed in a now-abandoned laboratory buried in a hollowed-out mountain in Poland.
A continent away, madness ravages a remote monastery high in Nepal, as Buddhist monks turn to cannibalism and torture. Lisa Cummings, a young American doctor investigating the atrocity, is suddenly a target of a bru-tal assassin working for clandestine forces that want the affair buried at any cost. Lisa's only ally is a hidden pilgrim, Painter Crowe -- director of SIGMA Force, an elite command of American scientists and Special Forces operatives -- who is already showing signs of the baffling malady that destroyed the minds of the monks.

Now it is up to Gray Pierce to save both Painter and Lisa -- and a world in jeopardy -- as SIGMA Force races to expose a century-old plot that threatens to destroy the current world order . . . and alter the destiny of humankind forever.
As you can tell from the blurb Black Order begins with Painter and Gray on two separate seemingly unrelated missions. This works well as it allows the reader gain insight into the angst of both characters and allows Rollins to update us on there status so far in the series. Gray is struggling to deal with his long distance relationship with Rachel, trying to convince himself that he is ready for the next step whilst also kidding himself that miles apart is not affecting their feelings.  Whilst Painter, we see through the PoV of Lisa, which is a nice technique as it stops the characters from seeming samey whilst they are separated.
At the start of the novel, of the two plot threads Painters is perhaps the more interesting due to the remote setting, although Gray’s is the more fun to read thanks to the fast pace action, the interaction with the feisty teenager Fiona and the lovable Monk (incidentally one reviewer on Amazon stated how much they detested Monk in their review and his presence stopped the novel from achieving top marks – each to their own I suppose but I find his character endearing. His relationship with Kat is one of the bright spots in the novel).
In conjunction to these plot threads, there is also the one set in Africa that runs through the story and where we encounter the mythical creature Ukufa. This story is perhaps the most intriguing of them all and feels like it should be a separate book until it is inevitably linked in with the Sigma Force team.
As the team’s paths become entwined the mystery is revealed piece by piece.  Like with the previous James Rollins novels I have read, the science is revealed in an interesting way that is easy to follow. In fact Rollins writes in such a way that he makes you feel pretty smart for being able to follow the various theories of Quantum Evolution etc.
With this type of novel there is always going to be the detractors that will scoff at the plausibility of the science, but to me it does not matter. If it is based on a strand of science that I can identify with then what is important to me is that the story is good. There is no better feeling then wondering is such a thing could really happen. With Rollins, I am always half convinced.
The characters all progress in this novel. Painter’s slow deterioration due to radiation exposure is interesting. It makes him fallible. His team, usually so reliant on him, begin to question the sanity behind his decisions.
Black Order has everything you want from an adventure novel: twists and turns, not stop action, explosions, exotic locations and monsters. The ending is satisfying with the big finale that you would expect. My rating: 8.9