Pogach Reviews: The Last Oracle (Sigma Force 5), by James Rollins
In 393 CE, Emperor Theodosius the Great—the one who made Nicene Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire—banned the pagan Olympic games and ordered the Temple of Apollo at Delphi destroyed. At that time, the Oracle, called the Pythia, offered her final prophecy: All is ended.
Two years later, Theodosius died of a mysterious illness. Fifteen years after that, the Visigoths sacked Rome. A couple generations later, the Western Roman Empire fell.
James Rollins uses the burning of Apollo’s Temple at Delphi as the background for his fifth Sigma Force novel, The Last Oracle. When an artifact from that temple is placed into Gray Pierce’s hands, it begins a quest to discover the unknown fate of the final Pythia. He finds a link in the chain in the mysterious origins of the Romani people, commonly known as Gypsies. The question is: How do Gypsies and the Oracle fit together, and why are they so important to a secret Soviet era program in telepathy and bioengineering, and what does all that have to do with Chernobyl?
In typical Rollins fashion, this is a fast-paced, explosive adventure. For fans of Sigma Force, it will serve as a fun entry in the series with a huge reveal (no spoilers here!). Unlike some of the other Sigma Force novels, it does not stand on its own and works best when read in order, due in large part to that reveal.
My favorite part of Sigma Force is the way Rollins gets technical with the history and science that he weaves together as the foundation of each of the novel’s mysterious core. The Last Oracle doesn’t disappoint in this area. Where it is less effective is in the actual storytelling and prose—though, to be fair, this has always been a series about plot more than character. Still, in The Last Oracle, things get clunky at times, with a number of “oh by the way” fill-ins for events that could have simply been detailed rather than trying to force feed mystery into the plot by withholding them. There are also some clichés and questionable writing choices that plucked me out of the otherwise rollicking storyline. By the final few chapters, I was skimming a little bit, more focused on how it ended than how it was told.
James Rollins seems to fit somewhere between Tom Clancy and Dan Brown, which is an awesome place to be for my interests. Of all the Sigma Force novels, however, this one feels more like a step backwards in terms of Rollins’ writing skills, much of the steady improvement I’ve been noting in that realm seemingly cast aside. That said, I do plan to continue reading the Sigma Force novels.
3 / 5 stars