BLOODLINE by James Rollins
For the last few years, James Rollins has been building up a big confrontation between his series heroes, Sigma Force, and the Guild, an international group of evil baddies out to take over the world. The plots in the novels have been straight out of comic books and the old Hollywood serials – and I’ve loved every minute because Rollins plays true to the form while at the same time providing three-dimensional characters with emotional history and cutting-edge science.
This latest book rides on the swell of character-driven plot threads that play out really nicely between shootouts, car chases, and insane derring-do that would leave ultimate sports athletes stunned and breathing hard. As always, Rollins breaks his heroes out in separate groups to confront the threat on several fronts. (For those of us who like to fly our geek flags, this is a page out of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels and Gardner F. Fox’s Justice Society comics.)
Gray Pierce is still trying to recover from his mother’s sudden death (last book) and his father’s dementia while trying to figure out his star-crossed love affair with Seichan, who used to be a female assassin for the Guild. Seichan’s backstory comes into play in this novel in a big, big way as well, and I was blown away, though Rollins played fairly and all the clues were there.
A couple of new characters get added in this novel as well. Tucker Wayne and Kane are a soldier/dog unit that got showcased in a prequel novel. They played well with the other Sigma Force characters. Rollins was a veterinarian, so his interest in the dog was genuine, but there were some passages where the awe and praise tended to get repetitive.
One of the real surprises was the cameo of Jack Kirkland, the hero from Deep Fathom. The new submarine Kirkland is running made me hungry for another adventure that focuses on him. Or maybe a longer pairing with Sigma Force.
The novel isn’t meant for casual reading, though. Rollins keeps the pace accelerated, moving things forward at a heart-straining rush. The idea of putting the book down at any point was just hard to contemplate. Too much was going on, and there were too many questions, too many people in trouble. This is also one of those books that a new reader can’t just jump into. Readers need some familiarity with the characters and the events that have brought everything to a head in these pages. A new reader will be able to get the gist of what’s going on, but the read won’t have the emotional depth it does for confirmed fans.