Altar of Eden by James Rollins
James Rollins is from the USA. You may remember him from such novels as Ice Hunt, Amazonia, Deep Fathom and Excavation. He is also a qualified vet (real name, James Paul Czajkowski) and it’s this occupation that plays a central role in Altar of Eden.
Lorna Polk works at Acre, a scientific research centre dedicated to preserving endangered species. When she is required by Border Patrol to board a beached trawler washed up on the Louisiana shoreline, she discovers a menagerie of extremely weird and mutated species stashed aboard, one of which has escaped its confines. The animals show signs of having much higher intelligence than is usual for their individual breeds, somewhere slightly above that of Donald Trump, which is not all that impressive when you think about it.
Together with Jack Menard, a ruggedly handsome cliche working for the Border Patrol special forces, she sets out to capture the jaguar-sabretooth hybrid, and its cub, before lives are lost.
Meanwhile, the company responsible for the genetic experimentation on the animals, Ironcreek Industries, are determined to cover their tracks by removing all traces of both the creatures and those with an intimate knowledge of them. That includes Jack and Lorna. The action swings from the Louisiana swamps, to Lorna’s research facility, to a remote Caribbean island where a final cataclysmic encounter takes place between the forces of good and those dastardly forces of evil.
Rebel Voice wishes to be honest here. Altar of Eden is textbook stuff. It resembles a thousand other novels in the genre, most of them apparently written by either James Rollins or James Patterson. Sometimes it’s a CIA operative and an archaeologist. Other times it’s an FBI agent and a beautiful doctor or historian. It’s formulaic. It’s predictable. It is however, infuriatingly enjoyable even though it is literary crap. It’s like watching episodes of Murder She Wrote. You always know that Jessica Fletcher will catch the villain and be disappointed in them during the denouement. Just once, it would be nice if the quaint Mrs Fletcher lost the plot, went postal and executed half-a-dozen members of Cabot Cove’s Chamber of Commerce before losing a leg in a shoot-out with a right-wing terrorist cell with a predilection for musicals. Yet we still watch Jessica and her mundane adventures.
Altar of Eden is a safe read. It’s modestly entertaining drivel that won’t offend. Unless, of course, you happen to be an Arab, as they are casually referred to as ‘rag-heads’ throughout. Rebel Voice has noticed some apparently ‘patriotic’ US authors using that insult in their books of late. It could be seen as a not-too subtle indicator of the rise in Islamophobia and racism that has emerged through certain sectors of US society in the wake of Trump’s election. James Rollins appears to have, perhaps innocently, fallen victim to this unfortunate trend.
Apart from that, Altar of Eden does little harm and will only kill a few brain cells, which right-wing nutters can ill-afford to lose. So encourage your Trump supporting Tea Party neighbours to read this book and help make Murica great again.
Sult scale rating: 5.5 out of 10. Production-line cac that manages to entertain, possibly because of its recognizable stereotypes, fantastical suggestions and James Bondesque settings. For Ironcreek Industries substitute a poor man’s version of SPECTRE and you will get a sense of the plot in this.
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