Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Judas Strain - Book Review

The Judas Strain
By James Rollins
On sale July 2nd, 2007 - ARC
Time taken to read - 48 hours
June 14 to June 16, 2007

Deep within a jungle, ancient ruins conceal a deadly secret...
In a tomb in Venice a great explorer hides a truth that could shatter history...
Upon an Egyptian obelisk, cryptic carvings hint at the language of angels...
While in the twists of our own genetic code, lies a mystery like no other...
And in the hand of SIGMA force balances the fate of all humanity...

Two marine biologists are diving in the Indian Ocean. They discover that the water appears to be infected with what looks like an algae bloom. Within hours the first symptoms start appearing on their bodies.

In the Vatican, a priest named Vigor Verona is shown a mysterious drawing on the floor of a Museum room, and then an ancient carving in the wall. He decides to contact his neice Rachel's ex-boyfriend for help.

In Venice, Stefano is asked to find a certain Egyptian Obelisk so that it can be returned to Egypt.

On Christmas Island, a mysterious epidemic is raging. This illness is attacking both humans AND animals. Any living creature in the water and on land that comes in contact with the algae, begins to exhibit symptoms, crazy behaviour and eventually dies. Doctor Lisa Cummings and her colleague Monk Kokkalis of the Sigma Force are dispatched to the island to help find the source and hopefully the cure.

Gray and Seichan need to start looking for answers to the disease and to what really happened to Marco Polo on his return journey from China. The first place to look is the mysterious Egyptian Obelisk. The journey takes them to locations where Marco Polo passed through, on his return from China over 700 years earlier.

The Guild also hijack the luxury cruise shop that was being used as a Medical ship at Christmas Island. The Guild plan to use the diease as a bio-weapon.

Can the SIGMA force find a cure and eliminate the Guild threat in time to save the world?

The cover of the book (US version above) shows the City of the Dead. If you can figure it out - well you'll know where the trail ends. The cover of the UK version (right) shows Venice canals and gondolas.

In 1293, Marco Polo, his father and his uncle finally left China with 14 immense ships and 600 men. When they sailed into port 2 years later, they had just 2 ships and 18 men. What happened to the other ships and men?

In Venice Marco Polo's body has long since disappeared from his tomb and has never been found. The last line of his book says "I have not told half of what I saw". What was so secret and dreadful that he could never mention it? What was the secret that died with him?

The journey to find the answers - to what Marco Polo knew and the cure to the epidemic - both lead to the same place.

I loved this book. I read it in 2 days. I loved the action as it hopped, skipped and jumped back and forth between the Indian Ocean, Italy, Istanbul, The Persian Gulf and South East Asia.

Of course I am partial to history and I am especially partial to Marco Polo, ever since I watched a TV Mini series about Marco Polo over 25 years ago. That got me curious about the Silk Road, and I have continued to be intrigued by the history, the cultures and the legends of the Silk Road.

The only down side to this novel is that one of the SIGMA team dies. I was shocked, and sad that Rollins could allow this person to die. But then we see one small clue, that indicates they might still be alive. A classic hook to keep you in suspense until the next book.

(edited June 21, 2007)


The Author said...

What do you think it meant in the epilogue when Susan Tunis met more "glowing people" in the Cambodian mountains? And what about the one who spoke in an Italian dialect? Is it Father Agreer? Could he have lived up to the present times? This part of the book is quite mysterious to me.

Tom Levine said...

Agreed. I was a unsure what that meant, although I speculate.