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The Judas Strain
Sigma Force # 4

by James Rollins

Judas Strain: a scientific term for an organism that drives an entire species to extinction.

Prologue: In 1271 young 17 year old Marco Polo left Venice on a voyage to the palace of Kublai Khan in China. After serving 17 years in the court of Kublai Khan Marco is returning to Venice. In 1295 when Marco left China Kublai Khan granted him 14 ships and 600 men. After 2 years at sea Marco finally reached Venice with only 2 ships and 18 men. A pestilence had come on the men in Kaffa on the Black Sea. Finally Marco with his father and uncle was forced to burn the ships and the dead and dying men to avoid spreading any more of the pestilence. Marco would never speak of this.

The present Day: A toxic virus has infected the waters off the Christmas Island. The World Health Organization has commandeered a luxury cruise ship to evacuate the stricken inhabitants of the island. Sigma Force has installed a forensic lab suite on board with two of its expert scientists. (Sigma Force is a covert field arm for the Department of Defense to safeguard and neutralize technologies vital to United States' security.)

Guild members, who wish to use the plague victims as experimental objects for weapons, hijack the ship. (The Guild hunts and steals emerging technologies, military, biological, chemical or nuclear, and sells them to the highest bidder. It operates through cells around the world with moles in government and research facilities.)

Seichan, an assassin and member of the Guild, has defected and implores Gray Pierce, a Sigma operative, to help her stop the Guild's plan to take over the world. Pierce and Seichan begin a torturous journey to try to determine the nature of the plague. It takes them to the Vatican, Istanbul (where they are involved in a fiery shootout), to Marco Polo's tomb (the ancient plague had infected his crews) and to Cambodia. It is a race against time to deflect the Guild's nefarious purpose.

The Judas Strain is filled with action, intrigue, and suspense. It entertains as well as informs. Science and history are well blended. The recounting of Marco Polo's voyage is very intriguing. The action proceeds at breakneck speed. The descriptions of the effects of the toxic virus (or plague) are very graphic and not for the faint hearted. There is a message to the world about the potential of an occurrence such as this because of our abuse of nature.

The Judas Strain is very reminiscent of Clive Cussler adventures. So if you like Cussler, you will like James Rollins.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Sandstorm #1
Map of Bones #2
Black Order, #3
The Judas Strain,
The Last Oracle, #5
The Doomsday Key,
The Devil Colony
, #7
#8 [review 1] [review 2]
The Eye of God #9
The Sixth Extinction #10
Seventh Plague #11

The Book

May 2008
Mass Market Paperback

The Reviewer

Barbara Buhrer
Reviewed 2008
© 2008