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James Rollins
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The Last Oracle
paperback
434 pages
Bog standard over the top 007/da Vinci code rip After a prologue containing a compelling peek back at the Oracle of Delphi, Commander Gray Pierce is approached by a man only seconds before he's shot and dies in Pierce's arms. The callous murder sends Sigma Force into motion to try to figure out what's going on. Especially since the dead man seemed to know about Sigma Force, one of the most closely guarded secrets in the United States espionage network.

The man turns out to be Dr. Polk, one of the men who helped create Sigma Force. As soon as that mystery is cleared up, the team realizes that Polk - not Pierce - was the intended target all along. Even more mysterious, Polk was a walking dead man, already dying from radiation poisoning.

Rollins plants his clues deftly, charging into the adventure vigorously. A coin clutched by Polk leads them to the museum, and to Dr. Polk's daughter, Elizabeth. I love the pacing of these books, but Rollins strips the characters down a lot, leaving them more blocked-out than filled in. Sometimes I miss not getting to know more about them, but then I realize with the headlong pacing of the books there's no real way to explore any kind of personal life.

In short order, Rollins has got his plot up and running, separating Sigma Force into teams and branching out with different avenues of action. Director Painter Crowe and his group try to figure out the mystery of the Russian girl that falls into their hands while Gray Pierce follows up on the trail of bread crumbs Dr. Polk has left behind. On another front, we pick up the story of yet another Sigma Force member who's fighting for his life to escape enemy clutches with a cadre of the psychically gifted children. And then there are the machinations of the bad guys.

Although I finished the book in a couple sittings, I admit I had to take a breath now and again to figure out who was doing what to whom from time to time. Rollins introduces all the elements of his adventure, from the Oracle of Delphi to the Gypsy culture to Punjab history, then kicks in a lot of psychic spying (remote viewing that the Russians spent so much time with) as well as archeological and scientific background.
5/10
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