A quick disclaimer to introduce my review: I have read and enjoyed Rollins last nine books, and while none of them have received my highest rating of 5 out of 5 stars, Rollins is one of my favorite authors. My review, then, will be biased by this reality. Out of all of the early review books that I have received, this is the only one by an author I had read before, and I note again that he is one of my favorite authors. I enter this book quite happy to have the ability to read a book by Rollins, and reading it now in April when it is not scheduled to be released until the end of June (publication June 24th, out in July?). So this little disclaimer.
An exciting trek through the museums of Washington DC, the Urals Mountains, the Ukraine, and through India. Sounds like a cliche, eh? But really, a thrilling page turner. In the beginning. I had to keep stopping to go back to work, because hey, I have to get paid, but I found it hard to draw myself away. Wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next. Somewhere along the way, though, it started to get clunky. I still wanted to continue racing through the book, but I found myself starting to skip sentences, paragraphs. I forced myself back to read them, but there it is, forced myself.
The title of the book, “The Last Oracle”. The Last Oracle references the Oracle of Delphi. Interesting scene at the beginning of the book as the last Oracle, and the temple itself, is attacked and the temple destroyed in 398 AD by the Romans. A girl was brought to the temple that seemed to have some abilities the temple looks for in additions, and she has a vision involving the “brother of the Hebrew” (I think that is how that was worded), coming forth with a wave of fire and destruction behind him (of course that is told with lots of question marks, good or bad will this person be?). I do not recall the “brother of the Hebrew” (a reference to Jesus) turning up again in the book, specifically the “brother of the Hebrew” part.
The book then moves from 398 AD to 1959 AD Romania where some KGB/military personal are searching for the children of the Gypsies. Apparently they have some tests they want to run on the children. The story then leaps ahead to today with a man dying in a member of Sigma’s arms.
The characterization seems much stronger in this Sigma book, than I have seen previously, but that might just be because I seem to be hyper-alert, knowing that I had to write a review in return for receiving an early review book. Whatever the case may be, I really seemed to have a connection with the missing Sigma member in Russia crashing through the jungle, the KGB linked Yuri and his children, and all the rest of the large cast of characters. Well, didn’t get that detailed with the DIA guy, and I never seem able to get close to the Sigma director. Otherwise mostly developed characters. Enough there, at least, to see them as characters, and not ciphers on the page.
The history, back story, about the gypsies was also quite interesting.
The story involves a desire of both the Russians and the Americans to use Autistic children with special gifts to basically see events from a distance, in time and/or in space, and to change the events around them (a big point and a large motivation of the Russians (Russian characters not Russian government) is the people like Jesus who change the course of history, the main Russian group wants to change the course of history and thrust forward a new Russian Empire). That is the underlying story, not the thrust of the book. The story involves Gray, of Sigma, having a man dying in his hands who is a recognized professor studying the mystics of India (and the Gypsies of Europe), and Sigma’s examination of the case (which leads them to places like India). Meanwhile, and linked, the Russians are in the final stages of their project which will ignite the world in fire, while their American partners are trying to keep up, but do not have all the facts. Meanwhile a missing Sigma member wakes up and escapes a facility in the Urals mountains. Descriptive, aren’t I? I do not wish to give anything away and end up writing gibberish and boring gibberish at that. No matter, this is just a hint of the plot, not the review.
There is a plotline string involving the professor spending time in India testing people, their genetics, looking for the “special” markers that has a vague “feel” of the television show Heroes professor looking into the genetics of the “special people.” Rollins books sometimes have a vague feel of similarity with other popular ideas, themes of the time but also a disconnect from that idea. An example would be “Map of Bones” that came out at the height of “The Da Vinci Code”, but which was started, according to an interview with Rollins (I don’t mean my interview with Rollins) was started long before Code came out.
The crowds of India, the packed streets, the outlying “outcasts” and the lost city really came through. A good attempt at drawing in the reader in Russia (and the Ukraine), the underground town and the forests of the Urals, but seemed a little less as intense, less . . .um . . well crafted. Running through the museums of Washington DC, the National Mall, and surroundings were interesting, but I had no feel of the place, and I live here, so . . ..
If you like Rollins books, you will like this one. If you like books like Rollins, like those by Matt Reilly, you still should like the book, though Reilly’s books are filled with !!! and tend to be faster action (I mean literally filled with the symbol !). Towards the end I felt as if I was drifting over the story, that I had become disconnected to it. That is either the result from knowing I would be writing a review and spending too much time thinking about writing the review, or the story moves from fast passed and exciting to . . . something less. Still interesting, still wanted to see what happened next but . . . there was a little too much action, so to speak. If at least one time a group could go from point A to point B without running fast through a forest with lions chasing them, or visiting a group of people without gunfire erupting . . .. Too much action? Maybe just too many actions scenes. A tighter book might have been better. I give the book a solid 4.38 stars out of 5 stars.
There was a comment made when the book was discussed about how good it was to return to old friends, the people of Sigma. There have now been five Sigma books, and five non-Sigma books by Rollins (as of the time of writing this review), and . . . quite frankly I just enjoyed more non-Sigma books, the non-series books. When anything could happen, when the books seemed less tied to the military. When the books were more about exploration and adventure among amazing ruins and artifacts of the past. With a series, Rollins is tied to Sigma, with a government agency, with ex-military characters, with . . well just tied down.
1) page 263: 5th line from the bottom: “He had kept her waiting tob long” should be “He had kept her waiting to long.”
2) “Hirschhorn Museum” misspelled on the map.
3) Added to my review written in 2008, a comment from 2012: Since reading the book and writing Gypsies many times in this review, I have come to the understanding that Gypsies themselves do not like the term Gypsies. I am not sure how to fix my use of the term now.