ALTAR OF EDEN, the new thriller by author James Rollins, is the usual mix of action and science fiction, though his science is rooted in what’s going on in today’s world, making a logical projection into possible advances from present technology. He does a lot of research in preparing his books, something I appreciate. It usually involves those who would misuse their knowledge.
Mr. Rollins has a doctorate in veterinary medicine and brings that knowledge to the character of Dr, Lorna Polk, all of twenty-eight and in charge of ACRES’ frozen genetics bank, repository of embryos, eggs, and sperm of endangered species. ACRES(Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species) had even cloned one of the endangered animals.
She has been called out to help investigate a suspicious trawler washed up on one of the islands in the delta below New Orleans, during a tropical storm, by the border patrol. The field operations supervisor, Jack Menard, had requested a vet and she drew the short straw.
Unfortunately, the pair knew each other, but hadn’t seen each other in thirteen years. The two families have some sort of contentious past that we don’t know about as yet.
We will learn later though.
Lorna is horrified when she goes down into the hold. Animals locked in cages. But not normal animals. Animals gentically altered. A parrot with no feathers. Conjoined monkeys. A snake with vestigial legs. A newborn jaguar cub the size of a medium dog. Not only that, it has fangs, a feature that shouldn’t develop in the big cats until later. And the size. That would make the mother about five hundred pounds.
Where was the mother?
The cage was big enough. And big cats were fiercely protective of their babies. This one was a sickly thing and may have been abandoned by the mother to care for a cub in better shape.
What was going on here?
A hunt is launched for the big jaguar while the other animals are taken to ACRES. Tests show them surprisingly intelligent. The parrot starts spouting out the numbers of pi, running the unsolvable numbers correctly into several hundred digits.
While all that is going on, the people responsible are making plans to cover it up. They launch a raid to recover, or destroy the animals, take any data gleaned, and raze the facility and everyone there. They do want one prisoner to find out what’s been learned and where it might have been stored.
Guess who gets taken.
Now Jack is in a race against time to find where they’ve taken Lorna and rescue her. He knows her life will be short as these people cover their tracks. He takes a team of Cajuns made up of his brother, two other brothers, Lorna’s brother, and a couple of his Border Patrol agents willing to ignore higher-ups orders to stay away.
Nice tense thriller that moves the action along nicely. Rollins does one thing better than any other writer I’ve come across. He can do an information dump, idiot lecture, without slowing things down. I never feel the need to skip ahead.
Another good science fiction thriller. Recommended if you like this type.