Planet of the Apes meets Rocky—or maybe The Big Bang Theory.
Who knew that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the government think tank, had its own elite military force, as if Big Bang's Dr. Sheldon Cooper were adept with an Uzi? That’s the conceit behind Rollins’ (The Sixth Extinction, 2014, etc.) pulse-quickening Sigma Force series, though his nerds, “former Special Forces soldiers who had been retrained in various scientific disciplines,” are tough guys one and all, even the women. And, oh, the women: James Bond himself would blush at the sight of an extra-perceptive assassin, her perspicacity “honed from her years as an assassin for hire,” shedding a towel for queen and country—or maybe for party and politburo. Rollins commences from the straight-from-the-headlines notion that Neanderthals mated with some other hominid type to produce extra-bright kids, the “hybrid vigor” that evolutionary biologists lecture about. Locate some bones, throw religion into the mix, and you have a doctrine-shaking new view of Adam and Eve. Throw in Athanasius Kircher, the great 17th-century Jesuit scholar so beloved of Umberto Eco, and you’ve got your Da Vinci Code–ish intellectual backdrop. Throw Chinese mad scientists, spies and counterspies, and monkeys and half-monkeys—half-monkeys?—into the narrative Cuisinart, and you’ve gone maybe a thread too far in a complex storyline. But let Rollins describe just one subthread: “The plan had been to kidnap her from Leipzig before she left Germany. With both sisters in hand, she could have leveraged the one against the other to gain their respective cooperation. Furthermore, that lapse in intelligence required accelerating their plans to raid the U.S. primate lab.” Got all that? If it’s conjuring visions of Jay and Silent Bob instead of Sly Stallone, then no worries: it gets more hairy-chested as it goes along, and not least because supersmart silverbacks and human hybrids come to figure in the yarn.
Improbable, sure, and complicated enough to try the reader’s patience at points. Still, as we’ve come to expect from Rollins, an altogether satisfying techno-thriller.