Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Review: The Devil Colony
The Devil Colony by James Rollins
The Devil Colony brings back Sigma Force, James Rollins’s cadre of government superspies, all ex-special forces trained in a scientific discipline then given guns and sent out to battle the bad guys. And in Sigma’s world, there are no shortage of evildoers. The Sigma thrillers are modern pulp writing at its finest (Rollins has confessed to being a fan of the Doc Savage novels) and I’m happy to report that the latest novel in the series maintains that tradition.
From the novel’s 18th Century prologue in Kentucky to it’s fiery climax in a well-known state park, The Devil Colony is the most American of the Sigma adventures.
When an archeological site is disturbed in the Rocky Mountains, an uproar is ignited, both literally and figuratively. In a cavern filled with mummified bodies that appear to be Caucasian Indians, a cache of gold plates is discovered, each inscribed with mysterious writing. The cavern also holds a mystery substance, which may turn out to be the most destructive element on earth.
Sigma director Painter Crowe is called in to investigate, thanks to a very personal connection to the events in the Rockies. Crowe takes the stage early and holds on to it, playing the lead role normally assigned to Sigma Operative Gray Pierce. Rollins lets the reader get to know Crowe more than in earlier books, as he explores Crowe’s Native American background in depth. Plus, we get to see Crowe as a man of action, a nice change of pace.
Fans of Commander Peirce shouldn’t fret. He and his best friend Monk (nice name for a pulp hero, eh?) see their fair share of conflict and flying lead. In addition, both characters go through dramatic changes in their personal lives. It’s a decent bit of character development that elevates the Sigma books above some of the other pulp thrillers out there.
Rollins always combines real history with real science. In The Devil Colony, it’s the founding of this nation that propels the narrative, particularly the secrets of the founding fathers. The scientific MacGuffin is nanotechnology, unregulated and unchecked, and far older than I would have dreamed possible.
Sigma’s arch nemesis The Guild is back, and in this installment we learn a little more about how far the evil organization’s tendrils extend, culminating in a revelation that will have fans waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.
As always, Rollins supplies an appendix outlining what concepts are real and what were created for the book. And, as always, I’m dumbfounded to discover that certain things that I was certain had been made up by the author are actually true.
Ultimately, though, a thriller lives or dies based upon how well the author delivers the, well, thrills. Rollins once again proves his page-turning prowess. With more cliffhangers than a Saturday morning serial, The Devil Colony is served up to the reader as an electrifying mash-up of Die Hard and The History Channel, in a story that would fit right in among the Indiana Jones and National Treasure series.
Highly recommended to all fans of adventure fiction.