The Judas Strain


This is the usual piece of fluff one might expect from James Rollins. Highly inventive, highly imaginative, mostly well-written. Mr. Rollins composes the novels Dan Brown wishes (or wished) he could do. They are intricate puzzles that often combine disparate elements into a suspense/thriller that really takes off.

In this case, we combine cyanobacteria (incorrectly identified early on as slime-mold--but more about that later), Christmas Island Red Crabs, Cannibalism, Marco Polo, Angkor Wat, Angelic Script, and a few other ingredients into a thick ragout of the outrageous, unlikely, and yet highly plausible. In all of his books, this is Mr. Rollins's forte--the combination of highly disparate elements into a very enjoyable romp through the world. In this case, Washington D.C., Christmas Island, Angkor Wat, Hormuz, Istanbul, Vatican City, and probably other locations I've forgotten.

Now for the little down side--as Mr. Rollins's works become more popular, the editorial staff seems to back down and leave more of the raw writing. This shows infrequently, but unpleasantly in several sentences in the book. The unpleasantness is that they shock the alert reader out of the "vivid and continuous dream" of the prose just momentarily. Fortunately, Mr. Rollins is a better stylist than most thriller writers and only slips out occasionally. (I'm not counting the small hunks of exposition disguised as conversation--you've got to get that background in somehow when you're spanning the globe.)

The one place where I was most highly irritated occurred early on (as mentioned above) when cyanobacteria (which once were called blue-green algae) are confused with slime-molds. Slime molds are either a kingdom unto themselves, or a group of protists (depending on the taxonomy one is following). Cyanobacteria, as the name implies are bacteria--they are responsible for some of the oldest fossils on Earth.

Additionally, he attributes luminescent "milky seas" to cyanobacteria blooms. This may well be the case, I've not done enough to associate the two. However, much of my experience with such phenomenon is the result of a dinoflagellate--Noctiluca scintillans (see here. Anyone interested in my psychological well-being could feel free to cheer me up with one of these). In this case, the discrepancy may be that we are talking about different phenomena and I haven't seen the one described by Mr. Rollins.

These quibbles aside--for those in the mood for a fast-paced puzzle thriller that combines all sorts of interesting persons, places, and things into an interesting and compelling story, The Judas Strain could be your cup of tea.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 21, 2007 7:50 AM.

Kahlil Gibran--And I Thought I Was the Only Detractor was the previous entry in this blog.

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