Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Best. Novel. Yet.

The Devil Colony
by James Rollins

Over the years, I’ve written a lot of enthusiastic things about the novels of James Rollins. But until now, I’ve never written this: THE DEVIL COLONY IS THE BEST NOVEL THAT JAMES ROLLINS HAS EVER WRITTEN! (Yes, in all caps even!) Like many readers, I was disappointed in the two-year wait for this latest installment in the Sigma Force series. Now, I’m thinking perhaps he should take two years on all the novels—I don’t know if it was the extra time, but something has paid off huge dividends.

As always, summarizing the story is the hardest part. First, because I’d hate to spoil any surprises. And secondly, because it’s just really hard to summarize one of Rollins’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plots. The main action of this book opens in present day Utah. From two boys who can’t resist the lure of the forbidden, a great and terrible discovery is made at a sacred Native American site. There are bodies. There is an artifact. And, astonishingly, something that goes to the very core of Mormon theology!

Just as the scientists on site are beginning to grasp what they’ve discovered, there is a huge explosion. The explosion is blamed on a Native American activist, but it’s clear that this wasn’t your standard bomb. It’s something far more dangerous, with implications that spread further and further afield, and which drag Sigma operatives into the story on differing assignments and for different reasons. All the usual suspects are back, including the enigmatic Seichan, who is again paired in an uneasy alliance with Gray Pierce. Painter Crowe is also back in the field this time around. Operatives from the Guild are up to their usual tricks, and even as readers learn more about the shadowy organization in this novel, new questions are raised for the next book. (It’s infuriating how he does that.)

In provocative messages leading up to the publication of The Devil Colony, James Rollins repeated asked, “Was America founded on a lie?” The plot of this novel does get right to the heart of the formation of this country. What were Lewis and Clark really up to? What was Thomas Jefferson communicating in secret ciphers? It also explains the fate of some of the most mysteriously lost cultures through history. It delves into the not only the most cutting-edge technology, but also some amazingly advanced ancient technology. And, yes, it also explores the foundation of the Mormon Church. Oh, and there’s a super-volcano! And killer whales! And the heist of all heists!

Seriously, I could go on like this all day. The scope of this novel is breath-taking. What’s amazing is that Rollins pulls all of these diverse threads together so plausibly that you’ll find yourself wondering if he has indeed solved half the puzzles of the ages in one fell swoop. As always, there’s a staggering amount of fact laced throughout his fantastic plot. It’s enough to make you go, “Hmmm.”

The pace starts to race early on, and it just never slows down. The stakes in the book simply get bigger and bigger. Technically, it’s a well-structured page-turner. But in the end, it’s the story that got me and held me. Every part of it was just so inventive, exciting, and so darn interesting! I entitled this review “Best. Novel. Yet.” I don’t anticipate Mr. Rollins topping The Devil Colony any time soon, but I hold out hope. He wrote this one. What wonderful tales can we look forward to in the future?


  1. Susan, this book sounds very good, but lately it seems as if every book that remotely touches upon Mormonism has twisted and/or exploited our beliefs beyond credulity. Yet people still believe what they read, and I grow weary of trying to explain that, yes, while there is a thread of truth, it has been incredibly skewed. Frankly, I am tired of reading all kinds of books that use people's fascination with all things Mormon, but care not at all whether they are honestly portraying our beliefs. I always feel like I have to read them so that I can help my friends sort out what is and isn't true.

    I did watch the trailer, and James Rollins' interest in my faith does seem to stem from a belief that the historical premise of the Book of Mormon could have some validity. This leads me to hope that his interest might be genuine, as opposed to exploitative (a strong word, I know, but you would not believe some of the stuff I have read that authors have used to sell books at the expense of my faith).

    You know that I love history and love an intelligent thriller. Would I find the Mormon angle off-putting?

  2. Hi Care,

    This is a reasonable question, and one that I find slightly difficult to answer. I defiintely don't think it's exploitive. I would think that many Mormons would find the conjecture in this book to be interesting, but if they were super orthodox maybe they wouldn't, just on principle. It seemed respectful to me, but me being so ignorant myself, if he said something really dumb, I probably wouldn't catch it.

    I want to try to say something, and I hope it doesn't sound offensive, as that is certainly not my intent. There are certain aspects of the foundation of your church that many not of the faith find somewhat... fantastic sounding. Jimbo is actually creating scenarios where there is more literal truth to these stories than even many Mormons believe. And I thought it was all super cool and interesting! It was just one part of a fascinating and complex story that involves many cultures.

    Another of my readers shares your faith and my love of James Rollins. I'm sure he's reading the book as fast as he's able. I hope he will share his thoughts here.

    Finally, when I see Jimbo this weekend, I'll read him what you wrote and get a response. Maybe I'll even videotape it. Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. :-)

  3. Susan, I am not at all offended. Part of the reason that our beliefs are so fascinating to others is because some of them do seem a bit fantastical. It is why they are so often used and so easily twisted.

    I do hope your other reader will share his thoughts-I would be very interested in his viewpoint. As someone who loves his faith and enjoys the author, he would likely try to give a balanced critique.

    Hearing more of the author's thoughts would be wonderful! As I said, in the trailer he sounded genuinely interested in our beliefs regarding the history of the native Americans. I will check back to see if you post an update.

  4. Susan, I am sad to admit that I've never read any of James Rollins's work. Which book(s) would you recommend to someone wanting to start out?

  5. Hey April,

    I don't think there's any shame there. So many books, so little time! So, first, I would recommend these for lovers of page-turning thrillers. That established, you can go one of two ways. Actually, three... no, four!

    Jim started his career writing stand alone novels. I started reading him with the very first paperback original, Subterranean. I loved it! The stand alones are:

    1. Subterranean
    2. Excavation
    3. Deep Fathom
    4. Amazonia
    5. Ice Hunt
    6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (novelization)
    7. Alter of Eden

    After Ice Hunt, Jim started the Sigma Force series. The unofficial prequel was Sandstorm, followed by Map of Bones, the first official book in the series. I'd definitely start with Sandstorm if you go that way. The Sigma Force novels are:

    1. Sandstorm
    2. Map of Bones
    3. Black Order
    4. The Judas Strain
    5. The Last Oracle
    6. The Doomesday Key
    7. The Devil Colony

    Also, a couple of years ago Jimbo started a series of Young Adult fantasy/adventure thrillers. The second in the series was released last month. They're lots of fun! The Jake Ransom books are:

    1. Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow
    2. Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx

    FINALLY, while Jimbo was establishing himself as a best-selling thriller writer, he also had a secret identity as fantasy author James Clemens. Those books aren't my usual fair, but I have to admit that they are excellent and addictive! The Clemens books are:

    1. Wit'ch Fire (The Banned and the Banished, Book 1)
    2. Wit'ch Storm (The Banned and the Banished #2)
    3. Wit'ch War (The Banned and the Banished #3)
    4. Wit'ch Gate (The Banned and the Banished, Book 4)
    5. Wit'ch Star (The Banned and the Banished, Book 5)
    6. Shadowfall: Book One of the Godslayer Chronicles
    7. Hinterland: Book Two of the Godslayer Chronicles

    OMG, that was a ridiculous amount of work. That boy is too prolific, and there's no end in sight! Anyway, there's your entry into the wonderful world of James Rollins. If you decide to give him a try, I hope you enjoy the books as much as I have. I'm almost jealous looking at the epic backlist you have ahead of you. :-)