James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels have been a long-term reading project for the past few years; I read the first one on holiday in 2010 and have been slowly working my way through them ever since. The series is a well-written, well-plotted and exciting one, combining cutting edge science with historical mysteries and the occasional hint of more sfnal elements. The characters start out as the standard thriller fare, but they have developed throughout the books into more rounded, complex people, dealing with some slightly more thorny personal issues. At their core, though, the Sigma Force novels have remained pulpy, over-the-top, seat-of-the-pants thrillers, which are right up my alley. With The Eye of God I have caught up with the series just in time for the release of the latest, The Sixth Extinction, next month.
As with the other books in the series, The Eye of God combines a historical mystery with a cutting edge sf thriller. From the opening chapter, where we discover a military satellite carrying experimental dark matter able to peer into the future, the novel propels us into a race against time to track down the downed satellite while searching for the truth about Genghis Khan and his final resting place. Without giving away the heart of the plot, we quickly discover that finding Khan’s tomb may be the only way to save the Earth and the human race from a world-ending event – the stakes don’t get any higher than that! Along the way, the book takes encompasses quantum physics, alternate universes and the possibility of parallel lives.
The element that means the series just keeps getting better with every book is the way that Rollins has slowly built up the personal lives of his cast of characters, something that he continues to do here. The Eye of God allies the end-of-the-world stakes of the primary plot with a more personal journey for Gray and Seichan on one side and Vigor and his niece on the other. While Gray and Seichan start the book trying to find Seichan’s mother, thus affording us a glimpse into her past and the tragedy of her upbringing, the priest Vigor who has been an integral part of the series since the beginning, is dealing with a tragedy of his own. These more internal journeys provide the book with its heart, making The Eye of God the best of the series so far.
As usual, The Eye of God is an expansive, even epic book, both in geographical and historical terms. A true globe-trotting novel, The Eye of God takes us from Machau to Washington, from Rome to the heights of Mongolia. At the same time, we are introduced to the history of Genghis Khan and Atilla the Hun, whose stories are integral to the plot. All of this combines to create a real page-turner, the chapters flying by at a great pace. This is helped by Rollins usual knack for descriptive passages and historical information – none of this is ever bogged down in overly long prose or pace-killing info-dumps. We get just enough information to create an evocative sense of place or time.
All in all, The Eye of God is an excellent addition to an excellent thriller series. Perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Steve Berry or Indiana Jones, The Eye of God combines pulpy action with an evocative sense of place, enhanced by a keen eye for historical detail and cutting edge, even sfnal science. The pages seem to turn by themselves, building as usual to a corker of a finale, with the very survival of the Earth at stake. Yet throughout, Rollins never loses sight of the personal core of his characters, giving us a truly internal journey for many of them. I gave The Eye of God 4,5 ancient skulls out of 5.