One of my bookish achievements for 2017 is to read through a pile of long serials that have been sitting on my shelves for a very long time. The second serial that’s been on my hit-list is the Sigma Force action-adventure, science-thriller series authored by Californian native, James Rollins. I read a few of the books many years ago, but I didn’t realise it was part of a larger serial until recently. After acquiring all of the current releases, I decided to tackle it because I genuinely enjoy James Rollins’ writing style and stories. The first instalment in the series is the novel titled Sandstorm.
An explosion rocks the antiquities collection of a London museum in the middle of the night, setting off alarms in furtive organisations all over the world. Sensing that there’s an intimate correlation between the attack and her past, Lady Kara Kensington, with the aide of her best friend and curator of the antiquities department Safia al-Maaz, embark on a journey to search for answers. One clue after another leads them through an action-packed adventure fuelled by jaw-dropping revelations and conspiracies. Meanwhile, in an effort to maintain world order, a top secret American paramilitary organisation, known simply as Sigma Force, is called in to assist the two ladies.
When I first read the book about seven or eight years ago, I remember thoroughly loving everything about it. It was very interesting to revisit it after I have evolved so much as a reader. I wasn’t much of a critical thinker and didn’t care to analyse books, but now I thoroughly enjoy doing both of things. This helped to make the reading experience a lot more engaging, even if my reaction towards its quality has changed somewhat. I strongly believe that this sort of thing is one of the reasons that re-reading books is so damn fun.
Alas, I digress. Continuing onwards with the review. There is a lot to enjoy with Sandstorm if you are a fan of the treasure-hunt suspense story. It’s very non-stop action heavy, which is a common trait with Rollins’ novels I’ve noticed. Within the first five to ten pages, something very exciting occurs and continues to carry you from one wave after another until it’s ultimate finale. As a person who’s always been an aficionado of violent and action in her stories, I was thrilled by this. This particular trait, when written well, can create a thoroughly engrossing reading experience by being fast-paced and jam-packed with progressive intensity. Rollins’ doesn’t fail in this regard at all. There were so many twists and turns that it was difficult for me to predict the outcome, even on this second run-through.
The environments are beautifully rendered; displayed with such splendid details that fully enamours all of your senses. Escapism is something that I positively adore in books of this genre. Being able to completely step out of my reality and momentary lose myself in another is just so thrilling. Couple these atmospheres with a cast of interesting characters that vary from wearing their emotions on their sleeves to being extremely mysterious, dark, and twisted as well as a plot ripe in the juices of extremely well-researched lore and history–you’ve got a fantastic concoction of a novel.
Even with all of these positive traits, there are a few minor things about the book that I found to be unbalanced. The first are those descriptions of the environments and essentially the world-building. There’s creating an atmosphere with feelings, sounds, tastes, etc., and then there’s overkill. A certain points throughout the book, mostly in the second half, the details began to feel tedious. The abundance started to take on a repetitive element, which contributed to my focus getting a bit restless. The second is the romance. It was painfully predictable. The chemistry felt forced, mostly in the beginning of the novel, to the point where it was just shouting to you, “These two right here, they’re going to have feelings and attractions! Prepare for it, folks!” It does plateau for a while mid-book, which didn’t really help its case. Lastly, a couple of the plot twists were wholly unnecessary and out-of-place in regards to plot fluidity and progression.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked the story being told. The scientific aspects were very intellectual and extremely well presented. The history, culture, and lore used to formulate the foundation for the the plot a a whole was spectacularly written. The characters were definitely flawed, but that’s what made it easier to connect with a few of them. I recommend this book to fans of the action-adventure genre.
3.75 spears outta 5!