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Bloodline (Review 1)
A Sigma Force Novel
James Rollins

HarperCollins Publishers
June 26, 2012 / ISBN 978-0061784798

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

Bloodline, the new novel by James Rollins explores the science of genetics and immortality. In this thriller the reader is left to question the balance between science and morality. The book delves into the meaning of life and death using science, history, religion, and technology.

The plot takes off right from the very beginning when Somali Pirates hijack a yacht off the coast of the Horn of Africa. They kidnap a pregnant American woman, who happens to be the President's daughter, Amanda.

Commander Gary Pierce is put in charge of a mission to rescue her. He enlists a retired military dog team as well as his fellow Sigma Force teammates, who are an elite and covert arm of the Department of Defense's DAPRA unit. They must deal with the devilish secret society, GUILD.

Rollins noted, "The bad guys were named because GUILD is currently used by intelligence agencies to describe shadowy terrorist organizations. Also, "Man from Uncle" was an influence since I watched a lot of these TV shows while growing up. I like to read and write old school type thriller novels with shadowy organizations fighting the good guys."

Beyond the adventure story is the backdrop of the genetics issue. Amanda is kidnapped for her fetus, having undergone in-vitro fertilization at a clinic in South Carolina. Rollins explores this issue using a biotechnology and genetic engineering plot. He wanted to "point out genetic manipulation, since we only understand 20% of the human genetic code. With manipulation, strange unexpected things can happen. This book is a warning on how far we want to reach into issues we don't truly understand. There should be a common ground where fate, evolution, and science meet."

The women characters play a major role in Bloodline. Rollins appears to have accurately captured the role of the female in armed combat. Unlike many other novels, the women in this plot fight and bleed alongside their male counterparts. There is Captain Kathryn Bryant, the second in command for SIGMA Force, Dr. Lisa Cummings, whose expertise is in genetics, Seichan, a former GUILD assassin, who now is part of SIGMA, and Petra the German nurse, who is influenced by past Nazi atrocities.

These characters complement their male counterparts: Sigma Force Director, Dr.Painter Crowe, Commander Gary Pierce, President James Grant, and the evil OB-GYN, Dr. Edward Blake.

The former military dog team, Tucker and his Belgium Malinois, Kane, are enlisted to join the rescue group. Once again the author presents a very realistic picture involving the working and thinking between a dog and its handler. He explained that about a year and half ago, as part of a USO author tour of military bases in Iraq and Kuwait, he saw these war dogs in action. He also came upon a classmate of his from veterinary school who works with the veterinary corps in Iraq. He gave a heads up when he stated that this team would be spun off into its own series.

Anyone who has a dog will appreciate the quote in the book, "the inexplicable bond between dog and handler, tying them together by something deeper than just hand signals and spoken commands… both bound together by blood and trust." Rollins explained, "Since I am a veterinarian I wanted to capture what it is really like to be a dog. Not to make dogs a four legged human. To have the reader placed in the 'paws' of Kane, to be in the hunt, the battle, from a dog's point of view."

What is also very interesting is how he uses technology to enhance the plot: a stealth submarine, how Kane was able to distinguish a single drop of blood, a multitude of electronic viewing and listening devices, as well as the inhumane electronic leash. He describes this leash as a device placed in a human's ear that can explode or inflict great pain if the person does not follow directions. Rollins explained he took liberties with this piece of technology but based it on bomb collars placed on hostages in Africa. There they use the collars side by side with invisible fences, which were invented to keep dogs in the backyard, for the purpose of keeping hostages from escaping, without using much manpower.

Bloodline is a powerful and insightful novel. Rollins has the reader ponder the innovative aspects of science and technology. He does all this in an action-packed, fast-paced thriller the reader will not want to put down.

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

Reviewed 2012