Friday, May 28, 2010

Guest Review: Altar of Eden

Summary: Following the fall of Baghdad, two Iraqi boys stumble upon armed men looting the city zoo. The floodgates have been opened for the smuggling of hundreds of exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles to Western nations, but this crime hides a deeper secret. Amid a hail of bullets, a concealed underground weapons lab is ransacked—and something even more horrific is set free.

Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk stumbles upon a fishing trawler shipwrecked on a barrier island. The crew is missing or dead, but the boat holds a frightening cargo: a caged group of exotic animals, clearly part of a black market smuggling ring.

Yet, something is wrong with these beasts, disturbing deformities that make no sense: a parrot with no feathers, a pair of Capuchin monkeys conjoined at the hip, a jaguar cub with the dentition of a saber-toothed tiger. They also all share one uncanny trait—a disturbingly heightened intelligence.

To uncover the truth about the origin of this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses, Lorna must team up with a man who shares a dark and bloody past with her and is now an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, Jack Menard.

Together, the two must hunt for a beast that escaped the shipwreck while uncovering a mystery tied to fractal science and genetic engineering, all to expose a horrifying secret that traces back to humankind's earliest roots.

But can Lorna stop what is about to be born upon the altar of Eden before it threatens not only the world but also the very foundation of what it means to be human? -- William Morrow

I have a friend who is a huge fan of James Rollins. Every time she mentions his novels, I tell myself that Booking Pap Pap would probably enjoy them as well. So I was extremely happy to finally share one of Mr. Rollins' books with him. It came as no surprise that Booking Pap Pap really liked Mr. Rollins' latest novel ALTAR OF EDEN. Here are his thoughts:

Altar of Eden by James Rollins begins after the fall of Bagdad where something is very wrong at the city Zoo. The novel quickly moves to New Orleans where Dr. Lorna Polk, an endangered species research scientist, is called on to investigate an exotic animal smuggling case. She discovers that this is not an ordinary investigation but one that involves animals with genetically enhanced intelligence and mutated bodies. Dr. Polk teams up with U.S. Border Patrol agent, Jack Menard, to first tract a killer mutant tiger through the swamps and bayous of Louisiana and then to uncover the mystery behind the strange animals.

Altar of Eden carries the typical ingredients of an adventure thriller: a courageous, intelligent, and sexy heroine from a well-to-do family and a handsome, brave hero from a poor background who are tied together by an unfortunate youthful experience; a secret island laboratory with a ruthless head of security funded by a greedy bible quoting financier; a chase through a dangerous and mysterious landscape and lots of destruction and killing.

James Rollins utilizes his veterinarian background to bring a realistic tone to the novel. He weaves in enough factual scientific information about such things as bioweapons, junk DNA, fractals and magnetic crystals to make the novel seem plausible despite its futuristic ideas of cloning and mentally linked creatures. At times, however, the scientific jargon did slow down the pace of the novel.

Rollins provides some interesting character development including the secondary ones when he brings to life Cajun hunters, crocodile farm owners and sinister biotechnology scientists. He also paints vivid descriptions of the bayou and the secret island which hides the lab. With that being said, this novel is not about the characters or the landscape but about the action. It is nonstop from the Bagdad zoo to the assault on the island lab.

Altar of Eden is a thrilling and informative novel that brings to light the risks of animal cloning when it is accompanied by greed. It is an excellent fast paced read. This is my first James Rollins novel and I look forward to reading more.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his insightful review and to the publisher for sending a review copy.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I think this one would fall under the category of an airplane read for me. Action, intrigue, mysteries and alot of running around. Thanks to Booking Pap Pap!

Marie said...

Nice review. I have this one on my to-be-read pile. I just might have to move it closer to the top after reading this. It sounds really good. Thanks!

Beth F said...

Oh boy. I just got this one in the mail -- glad to see that it's worth the read.