No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. Especially when there’s AI involved in the brouhaha.
Blame it on Umberto Eco: For every one, soaring Name of the Rose, there are a dozen books of Da Vinci Code depths, with medieval voodoo tangled up with modern steely-jawed heroes, priests and demons, international espionage, and all the rest. Rollins (The Bone Labyrinth, 2015, etc.) has a corner on part of this market with his Sigma Force franchise, in which steely-jawed Cmdr. Gray Pierce and his sidekicks stalk the world searching for and neutralizing evildoers. Apparently the bad guys who steal his pregnant S.O. (significant other and/or special operative, as you will) didn’t get the memo that Gray is not to be trifled with, but then they’re no slouches: They’re bent on—well, world conquest, maybe, but certainly on getting rid of their enemies, a bunch of witchy women with Ph.D.’s and feminist ideas who hang out in—or under, that is—“the only existing example of a medieval prison in all of Portugal.” Not to be outdone in the subterranean department, the bad guys, who wear priestly collars and veils and all but are still whiz-kid hackers, have a clubhouse underneath Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris (“Of course, the Crucible would pick such a spot"), while Gray and his cohort tootle around on the D.C. Metro and suchlike venues assembling the wherewithal to go kick clerical butt, real-time and virtual. Chopsocky, MRI scans, tumbling helicopters, incunabula, grimoires, USB-C cables—Rollins pulls out all the stops in a tale that hints at not just Eco, but also Stieg Larsson in making one of its principals a brilliant young woman programmer who is probably better suited to the Castile of El Cid than Capitol Hill but still knows how to use smart machines the right way. Or does she? It depends on which side of the Witch Hammer one falls….
Another mindless entertainment to fill time better spent with Monty Python—or Indiana Jones.