June 27, 2011

Review: James Rollins, "The Devil Colony: A Sigma Force Novel"

Title: The Devil Colony: A Sigma Force Novel
Author: James Rollins
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Genre: Thriller
Year: 2011
Pages: 480
ISBN13: 978-0-06-178478-1
Binding: Hardcover
Price: $27.99

Deep in the sub-basement of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. a top-secret military organization called SIGMA Force plans covert operations for the protection of the United States. SIGMA Force, led by Painter Crowe, consists of scientist/soldier/spies who counter technological and conspiratorial threats to the US. Author James Rollins conceived of the super-secret team for his SIGMA Force novel series.

The Devil Colony is the seventh book of the series, a mix between the television series 24 and the National Treasure movies. Rollins tells the story of a conspiracy dating back to the founding of the United States when American Indian groups and Thomas Jefferson are said to have anticipated the inclusion of a fourteenth colony in the union. The plan was disrupted, maps and codes were hidden in the seal of the United States, buffalo skulls, and mysterious metallic plates were buried in the earth. The colony itself was lost, which was fortunate since it houses an ancient technology which can threaten the existence of the entire planet. Yes, literally the entire planet, should its fuse be accidentally lit. Current advances in nanotechnology aren't so current after all.  

A good portion of the book takes place in Utah, where a hidden cave contains the bodies of an ancient people who committed mass suicide to bury knowledge of a deadly technology. These light-skinned victims with their Hebrew-esque records catch the attention of Hank Kanosh, a BYU anthropologist and American Indian Mormon who teams up with SIGMA Force to solve the mystery of this cave. The further the team explores the less far-fetched Hank's thoughts about Israelites in ancient America appear. (Although, Hank mistakenly refers to the translator of the Book of Mormon as "John Smith," p. 298. See also pp. 58 and 476 where "Joseph" and "John" are used interchangeably. If you want more spoilers on how Mormonism is employed, let me know. I can give some more details in the comments of this post). In the after-the-story "Truth or Fiction" section included in the book, Rollins humorously apologizes for blowing a hole in the Underground Physics Research Laboratory of the Eyring Science Center at BYU (479).   

Like in most spy novels, all the women are sexy, all the men are brilliant—even the bulky enforcer types. Rollins combines science, history, and religion throughout his fast-paced, though pretty far-fetched story, which jumps from Washington D.C. to Japan, Iceland, Kentucky, Utah and back to colonial America on the Lewis and Clark trail. There are plenty of gun fights, an orca whale attack, volcanic eruptions, buried golden plates, a Fort Knox caper, helicopter hijacking, grave robbing, melting islands, hot lava, and elderly dementia. If you're into early American and Mormon History without being meticulously picky or averse to fictionalization, and you like a gripping spy novel and don't mind a few cheesy one-liners, occasional melodramatics, a couple of f-bombs, and exploding skulls and brain matter, The Devil Colony will make great summer reading. CAUTION: At least two fictional Mormons are maimed in the narrative of this novel!