Saturday, September 19, 2009

James Rollins: Science Pulp at its best!

Photo by David Sylvian

James Rollins, is a veterinarian turned adventure/pulp novelist. He has, along with guys like Dan Brown and Clive Cussler, helped usher in a new era of pulp adventure. James Rollins is an adventure himself, enjoying outdoor pursuits like spelunking and scuba diving. He brings those adventures and their visceral reality to his writing. It's not surprising that Rollins (real name James Czajkowski) cites influences such as Doc Savage stories and the author Edgar Rice Burroughs on his web site:

Rollins has written novels that take place from deep in the Amazon to Antarctica. His recent series has focused on a scientific investigative branch of the United States government called SIGMA. Think commandos with PhD's. These guys and gals are the best of the best and will beat you at Jeopardy to boot!

The stories start with a bit of history, much like Clive Cussler's novels. A historical prologue is often presented to give context and clues throughout the rest of a Rollin's novel. Then a dash of science, all of it wrapped up in a whole lot of action and suspense.

Science is the underlying theme of Rollins' adventure novels. He takes current scientific issues and applications and questions where they could go, and should science even go where it is. This is far from dry stuff; rather, the story is wrapped and woven so skillfully that it makes sense and in some cases frighteningly plausible. Some examples in these novels range from evolution, red tides, and genetic modification of both animals (including humans) and plants.

The stories that Rollins writes (including his fantasy under James Clemens) grab the reader and like any good pulp serial keep you coming back for more. My advice to anyone sitting down to start a James Rollins novel is to make sure you have the time to kill, because you will not want to put this guy down once you start. I've done many a short night's sleep because I was staying up too late to finish "one more chapter".

Rollins presents well fleshed out heroes and villains with real world issues and agendas. Of course many of the villains, like any good pulp bad guy, are twisted and often die because of their nefarious pursuits.

James Rollins is also on the short list of writers along with a couple of my other favorite authors R.A. Salvatore and Terry Brooks that have written novelizations of screen plays by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. In Rollins's case: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; a novel that was better than the film.

Here is a list of the adventures that have been penned by James Rollins: Subterranean, Excavation, Deep Fathom, Amazonia, Ice Hunt, Sandstorm, Map of Bones, Black Order, The Judas Strain, The Last Oracle, and The Doomsday Key.

I have enjoyed them all immensely, I almost like the stand alone novels more than the SIGMA Force novels because they seem just a little more fantastic in a Journey to the Center of the Earth/Lost World kind of way, a little less grounded and more pulpy.

So if you enjoy fast paced novels that read like a mega-budget summer block buster, or you're like me and enjoy all things Indiana Jones and Saturday Serial, then pick up any of the James Rollins novels, they all can be read as a stand alone adventure without any other back ground. Or for the younger reader there is a young adult series that he has just started: Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow.


  1. So far I've only had a lmited exposure to Rollins work; specifically, to the audio book presentation of Sandstorm. I tried... twice. Both times I found myself in the middle of the second or third disk asking myself, "what the hell is going on in this book?". Perhaps the printed page would be a better experience, I don't know. But Bootsekaris' (sp?) work on the audio book caused me to abandon the book...twice.

  2. ok that was about 14 hoops to jump thru to post that comment

  3. That might be... I have only read his stuff, not tried the audio. But thanks for reading the post! I have AAALLLLLL the books if you want to try.