Book Review: “Black Order” by James Rollins

July 20, 2010 in Book Reviews by pacejmiller

After experiencing the brilliant writing of Nabokov in Lolita, I decided to go with something a little lighter, a little less strenuating.  Enter Black Order by New York Times Bestseller James Rollins (is it just me or is every book/author out there a New York Times Bestseller?), one of the books I purchased on special in Taipei at the start of the year.

Inside the front cover there is an entire colour spread of praises for Rollins and Black Order.  In big black italic font, it reads: “Buried in the past, an ancient conspiracy now rises to threaten all life…”

Sounded just like every consipracy thriller since The Da Vinci Code — which was exactly what I was looking for.

Black Order is more intelligent and thoughtful than I thought it would be.  I haven’t read any of his stuff before, by Rollins is famous for his ability to “blend science with historical mysteries”.  Well, Black Order is Rollins’ (a former veternarian) attempt to tackle the great debate between evolution and intelligent design.  It’s also another chapter in his ongoing series about the “Sigma Force”, an organisation that mixes highly skilled soldiers with expert scientists.

Black Order is complete with crazy monks, cannibalism, Pakistani orphans, mutant beasts, secret Bibles, Nazi experiments and a race against time — and of course, lots and lots of guns and explosions.  But despite Rollins’ best efforts, the action never really got off the ground for me.  There was some tension and there was a bit of excitement, but none of it felt particularly fresh.  However, what interested me more was how he would mix the action with the scientific debate about evolution and intelligent design/creationism.  For the most part, Rollins does a commendable job of describing some rather complex concepts such quantum physics.  But while it was interesting and informative, there just wasn’t enough of it.  The scientific debate took a back seat to the action and the interweaving storylines between the various Sigma members, and as a result the book didn’t do a whole lot for me.

That said, Black Order is still a serviceable book for those looking to escape reality with an above-average thriller that has some brains to go along with it.  At 500+ pages it was slightly overlong, but if you can get into it (unlike me) then you may find it a fairly good read.

2.5 stars out of 5

[PS: I did some digging and found out that James Rollins is also known as James Clemens (both pen names of Jim Czajkowski), who also writes fantasy.  Fancy that!]