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Friday, July 22, 2011

“The Devil Colony” by James Rollins w/Bonus Review of “Skeleton Key” (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “The Devil ColonyHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Watch James Rollins DiscussThe Devil ColonyHERE
Read FBC’s Review of “The Judas Strain
Read FBC’s Review of “The Last Oracle
Read FBC’s Review of “The Doomsday Key

AUTHOR INFORMATION: James Rollins is a pseudonym for Jim Czajkowski and is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of sixteen novels including the SIGMA Force series which was optioned for film adaptation by Dino De Laurentis, the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull novelization, and the Jake Ransom YA books. He also writes fantasy—The Banned and the Banished, the Godslayer Chronicles—under the pen name James Clemens. Besides writing, Jim holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine and is an avid spelunker and certified scuba enthusiast.
                                                                                                                        
PLOT SUMMARY: Could the founding of America be based on a fundamental lie, one coded in secrets that stretch back to before the birth of Christ, to a mystery buried in the prehistoric past? The truth lies hidden within the ruins of a cursed lost colony of the Americas. A place known only as: THE DEVIL COLONY.

During a sweat lodge ceremony in an Indian cave in the Rocky Mountains, a horrible massacre ensues. Bodies are found blistered and burned and purposefully positioned to form two shapes: a five-pointed star and a sickle-shaped moon. One man recognizes the warning behind the gruesome murders: Painter Crowe, director of Sigma. He has seen these two symbols before and knows the deaths were a personal threat—one of the dead is his beloved cousin.

From the frozen volcanic peaks of Iceland to the blistering deserts of the American Southwest, from the tombs of dead presidents to the gold vaults of Fort Knox, Painter Crowe joins forces with Commander Grayson Pierce and an unlikely ally—a woman who may have had a hand in the murders—to penetrate the shadowy heart of a dark cabal that has been manipulating American history since the founding of the thirteen colonies. But can he discover the truth—one that could topple governments—before it destroys all he holds dear? Including the woman he loves...
                              
FORMAT/INFO: The Devil Colony is 480 pages long divided over four titled Parts and forty-four numbered chapters. Also includes Acknowledgments, a map, Notes from the Historical/Scientific Record, and an Author’s Note to Readers: Truth or Fiction. Narration is in the third person via various characters, namely Grayson Pierce, Painter Crowe, Professor Henry Kanosh, Kai, Rafael Saint Germaine and a few minor POVs. The Devil Colony is mostly self-contained, but leaves a small thread unresolved, to be continued in the next SIGMA book.

June 21, 2011 marked the North American Hardcover publication of The Devil Colony via William Morrow. The UK edition (see below) will be published on December 29, 2011 via Orion.

ANALYSIS: It’s been two years since the last SIGMA Force novel—The Doomsday Key—was released. Factor in a crucial cliffhanger at the end of that book in regards to one of the main characters, and I was doubly excited for The Devil Colony...

There is a traditional structure to James Rollins’ novels with the prologue occurring in the past—either decades or centuries ago—with the timeframe shifting to the present day for the rest of the book, followed by multiple plot threads and a crackerjack story. The Devil Colony is no different. Here, the prologue takes place in Kentucky territory in the year 1779, and involves a terrific discovery and a brutal fight. The action then shifts to the present day and a cave in the Rocky Mountains where there has been a new discovery. This discovery involves Professor Henry Kanosh, a  Shoshone historian and naturalist, Painter Crowe’s niece Kai, and a focal event which literally and figuratively kicks the book off in explosive fashion.

Elsewhere, Grayson Pierce continues to deal with family problems including his dad’s dementia. Quickly complicating matters is the appearance of Seichan, who reveals potentially exciting information that has a strange tie-in to the Utah anomaly. Also thrown into the mix are returning characters Monk and Kowalski who aid Gray and Painter in their respective missions. Lastly, there’s the secretive Rafael Saint Germaine who has his own plans for the SIGMA team and is the main mystery of the book.

Another tradition found in James Rollins’ novels is the way scientific facts/mysteries are combined with rollicking action sequences. In this case, the scientific facts/mysteries include the appearance of gold tablets in an ancient Indian burial site, Mormonism, and a third factor that I will let readers discover on their own.

There are many reasons why I’m such a huge James Rollins fan and they can be found in The Devil Colony. For starters, the pacing is once again electric with events happening so quickly that the book will leave readers breathless. Secondly, the action sequences are awesome. From the poisonous piranha-frog mutant scene in Amazonia to the thrilling desert duel in Sandstorm, Jim has never disappointed, and that trend continues in The Devil Colony in the form of volcanic activity, cavern fights, and much more. Lastly, characterization is pretty solid, giving readers a deeper understanding of the SIGMA Force team, while the twists he has planned for the characters are shocking.

Negatively, The Devil Colony can be predictable, especially if you are a long-time reader of James Rollins. This predictability is due to using basically the same formula and plot structure in every book, including the combination of science & historical facts/mysteries, cinematic action/adventure, and a story that is wrapped up by the end of the novel. This doesn’t mean The Devil Colony is boring to read. On the contrary, it’s always fun and interesting to see what new science/history James Rollins decides to explore in his latest book, but it would be nice if he would change things up a little. Another negative is the near invincibility of the main character cast. After seven SIGMA Force novels, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that the members of SIGMA are able to survive everything that’s been thrown their way. In the past, Jim has shown a cruel streak with his characters and I believe he needs to find a better balance in the SIGMA Force series.

CONCLUSION: Even with all of the negatives to consider, The Devil Colony still does a terrific job entertaining and intriguing the reader. In fact, James Rollins is one of the best writers of his genre. So dive into The Devil Colony as James Rollins once again amazes and thrills readers all over the world...

BONUS REVIEW — “The Skeleton Key”:

Order “The Skeleton KeyHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

The Skeleton Key is the second SIGMA Force short story to be released by James Rollins. However, it’s the first one to be released exlusively as an e-book. The short story is told from Seichan’s perspective and is set in Paris among its subterranean catacombs. The timeline is set after the events of 2009’s The Doomsday Key, but before the events in The Devil Colony.

The short story opens with Seichan waking up in a hotel room with a transmitter implanted on her body and instructions to find a certain individual in the Parisian catacombs. In the same room is another person who shares a similar fate, but his instructions are just to aid Seichan. Seichan has no recollection of who did this to her, but she has a faint idea and agrees to the search, thus beginning this exciting short story...

The Skeleton Key is a very fast-paced story, quickly proceeding to an exciting climax, while providing welcome insight into Seichan, a fan-favorite character. There’s also a very nice twist. In short, The Skeleton Key is a worthwhile addition to the SIGMA universe and recommended reading for fans of James Rollins...

NOTE: The Skeleton Key short story will be included in the paperback release of The Devil Colony as bonus material.

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