A master at combining historical and scientific intrigue with cutting-edge adventure, New York Times bestselling author of Map of Bones and Black Order James Rollins returns with his most relentless, high-octane thriller to date--a terrifying story of an ancient menace reborn to plague the modern world . . . and of an impossible hope that lies hidden in the most shocking place imaginable: within the language of angels.
From the depths of the Indian Ocean, a horrific plague has arisen to devastate humankind--a disease that's unknown, unstoppable . . . and deadly. But it is merely a harbinger of the doom that is to follow.
Aboard a cruise liner transformed into a makeshift hospital, Dr. Lisa Cummings and Monk Kokkalis--operatives of the shadowy covert organization SIGMA Force--search for answers to the bizarre affliction that has inexplicably washed ashore. But there are others with far less altruistic intentions. In a savage and sudden coup, terrorists hijack the vessel, turning a mercy ship into a floating bio-weapons lab.
At a Fourth of July celebration a world away, SIGMA's commander Gray Pierce thwarts the murderous schemes of a beautiful assassin--a would-be killer who holds the first clue to the discovery of a possible cure. With the fate of every man, woman, and child on Earth hanging in the balance, Pierce joins forces with the woman who wanted him dead, and together they embark upon an astonishing quest--one that winds through Venetian tombs, Byzantine cathedrals, and jungle-encrusted ruins--following the trail of the most fabled explorer in history: Marco Polo.
But time is an enemy as a worldwide pandemic grows rapidly out of control. And as a relentless madman dogs their every step, Pierce and his unlikely ally are being pulled into an astonishing mystery buried deep in antiquity and in humanity's genetic code. And as the seconds tick closer to doomsday, Pierce will realize he can truly trust no one--not the bewitching enigma who runs at his side or even those who are closest to him--for any one of them could be . . . a Judas.
The special-ops trained scientists of Sigma Force battle the criminals of the shadowy Guild in bestseller Rollins's lively third Sigma Force thriller (after Black Order). An ancient and deadly plague, the Judas Strain (which afflicted Marco Polo), has suddenly re-emerged. Gray Pierce, a Sigma operative, and Seichan, a Guild defector, pursue clues to the nature of the plague to the Vatican, Istanbul (with a fine shootout in the Hagia Sophia mosque), Marco Polo's tomb and, finally, Cambodia's Angkor Wat. Meanwhile, Guild members hijack a cruise ship full of plague victims (to provide experimental subjects for the weaponizing of the plague), and Gray's parents are taken hostage (though the senior Grays prove feistier than their kidnappers reckon). Sophisticated the plot isn't, but Rollins includes more than enough action and suspense to keep readers turning pages. 8-city author tour. (July)
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1 . Worth the 8 bucks
Posted April 02, 2011 by NickInMS , MeridianDecent read. Entertaining.
July 02, 2007
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Excerpt from The Judas Strain by James Rollins
Island of Sumatra
The screams had finally ceased.
Twelve bonfires blazed out in the midnight harbor.
"Il dio, li perdona..." his father whispered at his side, but Marco knew the Lord would not forgive them this sin.
A handful of men waited beside the two beached longboats, the only witnesses to the funeral pyres out upon the dark lagoon. As the moon had risen, all twelve ships, mighty wooden galleys, had been set to torch with all hands still aboard, both the dead and those cursed few who still lived. The ships' masts pointed fiery fingers of accusation toward the heavens. Flakes of burning ash rained down upon the beach and those few who bore witness. The night reeked of burned flesh.
"Twelve ships," his uncle Masseo mumbled, clutching the silver crucifix in one fist, "the same number as the Lord's Apostles."
At least the screams of the tortured had ended. Only the crackle and low roar of the flames reached the sandy shore now. Marco wanted to turn from the sight. Others were not as stout of heart and knelt on the sand, backs to the water, faces as pale as bone.
All were stripped naked. Each had searched his neighbor for any sign of the mark. Even the great Khan's princess, who stood behind a screen of sailcloth for modesty, wore only her jeweled headpiece. Marco noted her lithe form through the cloth, lit from behind by the fires. Her maids, naked themselves, had searched their mistress. Her name was Kokejin, the Blue Princess, a maiden of seventeen, the same age as Marco had been when he started the journey from Venice. The Polos had been assigned by the Great Khan to safely deliver her to her betrothed, the Khan of Persia, the grandson of Kublai Khan's brother.
That had been in another lifetime.
Had it been only four months since the first of the galley crew had become sick, showing welts on groin and beneath the arm? The illness spread like burning oil, unmanning the galleys of able men and stranding them here on this island of cannibals and strange beasts.
Even now drums sounded in the dark jungle. But the savages knew better than to approach the encampment, like the wolf shunning diseased sheep, smelling the rot and corruption. The only signs of their encroachment were the skulls, twined through the eye sockets with vines and hung from tree branches, warding against deeper trespass or foraging.
The sickness had kept the savages at bay.
But no longer.
With the cruel fire the disease was at last vanquished, leaving only this small handful of survivors.
Those clear of the red welts.
Seven nights ago the remaining sick had been taken in chains to the moored boats, left with water and food. The others remained on shore, wary of any sign among them of fresh affliction. All the while, those banished to the ships called out across the waters, pleading, crying, praying, cursing, and screaming. But the worst was the occasional laughter, bright with madness.
Better to have slit their throats with a kind and swift blade, but all feared touching the blood of the sick. So they had been sent to the boats, imprisoned with the dead already there.
Then as the sun sank this night, a strange glow appeared in the water, pooled around the keels of two of the boats, spreading like spilled milk upon the still black waters. They had seen the glow before, in the pools and canals beneath the stone towers of the cursed city they had fled.
The disease sought to escape its wooden prison.
It had left them no choice.