Review: BLOODLINE by James Rollins

I read that James Rollins grew up on Doc Savage, the bronze tinted pulp hero of brains and brawn who trotted the globe fighting some very weird forms of evil with a group of eccentric specialists. In reading his latest Sigma Force book, Bloodline, it comes as no surprise. Rollins has created the the closest thing there is to modern pulp (and that’s absolutely a compliment.)

Rollins introduces us to two events right off the bat. One takes place in the year 1134 with a female member of The Knights Templar as she comes to the bloody end of a quest. The other brings us up to the present as an assassin prepares to take out the President in four days. The killer is Sigma Team commander Grey Pierce.

We are then plunged into a Sigma Force mission. Somali pirates have kidnapped the President’s daughter. It’s up to Pierce and his soldiers trained in various scientific disciplines to rescue her before her identity is discovered. To help track her down they take on Captain Tucker Wayne, his army dog Kane , and a former Somali pirate.

While this would be enough for one story, it’s just the first third. It’s not long before we’re dealing with killer robots, evil scientists, and a centuries long conspiracy involving the secret to immortality.

Rollins never lets these fantastic elements become over the top or cheesey. He creates a bed of actual science, history, theory, and traditional legend for them to grow from. He also gives his characters real problems outside of their work such as Grey having to deal with his father’s Alzheimer’s.

That said, Rollins is in the business of providing wonder and adventure. His characters are colorful, locations exotic, and his writing has a smooth visceral feel I really enjoyed.

MysteryPeople welcomes James Rollins to BookPeople to speak about and sign Bloodline on Saturday, June 30 at 5pm.

MysteryPeople Q&A with James Rollins

James Rollins writes adventure like no one else. His stylistic fusion of thirties pulp fiction with Crichton-esque science fiction has landed him on bestseller lists for over a decade. Saturday, June 30th at 5pm, Mr. Rollins will discuss and sign his latest Sigma Team novel (on sale today), Bloodline, here at BookPeople. He was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance to give us an idea of his work.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: The Knights Templar legend has been a popular one for authors in the last decade. What did you see in it for Bloodline?

JAMES ROLINS:The mythology of the Knights Templar has always been shrouded by whispers of lost knowledge or hidden treasures. For this new book, I decided to address a suspicious lapse in Templar lore. Historical documents state that there were nine founding members of this ancient order. Eight of these knights are actually referred to by name, but the ninth’s identity has become lost in history. Which makes me as a writer ask:  Why was this ninth knight’s name stricken from history, what secret needed to be buried with that name? Answering that question became the thrust for this new book.

MP: Unlike many adventure heroes, you give your hero Gray problems outside of work, for example dealing with his father’s Alzheimer’s. What does this add to the story and character for you?

JR: First, such details flesh out a real character. It allows readers to relate at a more intimate level. Each of us at some point in our lives has struggled to balance the responsibilities of our personal lives with the pressure of our professional roles. Gray is faced with the same balancing act. It humanizes him and instills sympathy–so when I do put him in harm’s way, you care about his fate. I also wanted to try to capture on the page the sheer devastation of Alzheimer’s, how it effects an entire family.

MP: How did the idea of Sigma Force come about?

JR: As more of a fluke than anything. Sigma first appears in my novel Sandstorm, which was written as a stand-alone, but I was fascinated by the idea of this unique team of covert agents:  former soldiers who have been retrained in various scientific fields. Basically scientists with guns. Once I was done that first book, I knew I wanted to know more about them and to go on further adventures. Bloodline is the eighth in the series, but like Sandstorm and the other Sigma stories, this novel does stand on its own, and the series can be read in any order.

MP: Your action scenes are very visceral and immediate without any compromise to flow. Any advice of what to keep in mind for those trying to writing an action scene?

JR: I put myself deeply and intimately into a character’s shoes during an action sequence–because it’s not the ballet of blood that makes an action scene spring off the page. Instead, it’s the characters in jeopardy who get people turning pages. If you care deeply enough about a certain character, even stubbing his toes can be fraught with tension. Additionally, it’s important to weave additional sensory descriptions into those moments:  the smell of gunpowder, the touch of cold steel, the coppery taste of fear. Such details make an action scene come alive in all of its bloody glory.

MP: It’s been said you’re a fan of the Doc Savage books. What do you hope to have in your novels that are in those classic pulps?

JR: What I loved best about those old pulps was the pure bravado of storytelling, where the lines between genres blurred. I try my best to capture that in my Sigma series, to put a modern spin on that old pulp adventure, to blend historical mystery, scientific conjecture, and riotous adventure all in one book. For me, it never grows old.

MP: You’ve mixed adventure with thriller and horror and write fantasy under another name. Is there any other genre you’d like to explore?

JR: I’m always open to new horizons, and in fact, I do have a secret project, one that I’m working on with a fellow author, an award-winning mystery writer named Rebecca Cantrell. But this new book is not a mystery, but the genre-bending beginning of a new epic series. I’m still not at liberty to say much more about it due to its controversial storyline. That novel, titled The Blood Gospel, will be out in January.

MysteryPeople welcomes James Rollins to BookPeople on Saturday, June 30 at 5pm. The event is free and open to the public.

Trailer Time

Just received this from the James Rollins camp, it’s the book trailer for his upcoming Sigma 6 thriller, Bloodline. Rollins talks about war dogs, a trip he took to Iraq, his experience as a vet, and of course the new book:

Rollins’ books have been called “a cross between Indiana Jones and The Divinci Code”. We’re looking forward to having him here Saturday, June 30, 5p to talk about Bloodline and all of his Sigma 6 books. As always, the event is free and open to the public. Hope you can join us.