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Altar of Eden Hardcover – December 29, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 341 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Guest Review: Steve Berry on Altar of Eden by James Rollins

I first started to hate James Rollins in 1999. That was when I picked up a paperback original called Subterranean, Rollins' first book. While I was struggling even to write a manuscript, this veterinarian out in California had actually done it and sold the thing. I hated him. Over the next few years, I would wander into a bookstore and discover that the 'vet from Sacramento' had written more stories. I read them all, titles like Ice Hunt, Amazonia, and Excavation and hated him even more. There I was, struggling to get published, and this guy had found the big time.

I finally made it to print in 2003 and, sure enough, who's my chief competition? You got it. James Rollins. The guy creates Sigma Force and writes one New York Times bestseller after another. Titles like Map of Bones, Black Order, The Last Oracle, and The Judas Strain. Amazingly, while this string of Rollins' books flooded bookstores, I managed to eke out some modest success. But every time things started going right, here came that 'vet from California' again with another book.

Occasionally, I'm asked to provide a quote or two for someone else's book. I can't tell you how many times my words of praise languish on the back cover while Rollins' is front and center. Rollins. Rollins. Rollins. That's all I hear. Even on Amazon, in the section titled "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought," ON MY BOOK PAGES, there's always a Rollins cover or two staring back at me from the screen.

And, if things weren't bad enough, the 'vet from California' wrote another series. Some character called Jake Ransom and The Skull King's Shadow. It's not enough Rollins is everywhere in adult fiction (taking up valuable spots on the bestseller lists), now he has to claim a piece of the young adult pie, too. I read that he's going to write more of those things. Apparently, the first one did okay. Like that was a big surprise.

Which brings us to Altar of Eden, Rollins' latest concoction. Here he goes again, not satisfied with a thriller out in the summer, he has to publish another in the winter. Which, by the way, directly competes with me (of course, Rollins doesn't care). This new book has it all. A savvy veterinarian (like that was a stretch), genetic engineering on long extinct animals (which was fascinating, I have to admit), fractal science (whatever that is), biological warfare (in ways you've never seen before), and mach-speed mayhem. The thing is drum-tight in its execution. Does this guy have herbs that stimulate his imagination in some amazing way? I read Altar of Eden in two sittings (yeah, it's that good) and, when finished, I promptly hurled the book across the room. It landed on the shelf where all of Rollins' other tomes stand, each sheathed in plastic, first editions, and, of course, signed (for which he charged me $5.00 a piece, cash. He wouldn't take my check).

'Oh, the humanity.'

I barely bang out a-book-a-year and Rollins writes three.

All of them great.

Like I said, I hate this guy.

Which is too bad, because he's not only a terrific writer but also a close friend.

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Rollins (Subterranean) explores the genetic engineering theme popularized by Jurassic Park, if less imaginatively than, say, Warren Fahy did in his 2009 debut, Fragment, in this solid stand-alone thriller. During the looting of the Baghdad zoo in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, 12-year-old Makeen and his younger brother observe two men, one dressed in a khaki military uniform and the other in a dark suit, remove a large metal briefcase containing embryos from a secret facility at the zoo. About five years later, a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter lands at the New Orleans Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species to take Dr. Lorna Polk, a postgraduate resident, out over the Mississippi Delta to an abandoned trawler. In the boat Polk sees cages filled with bizarre creatures like Siamese twin capuchin monkeys and oversized vampire bats. The science mostly takes a backseat to generic suspense scenes of animal attacks, gunfights, and abduction. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More to Explore
Read a Q&A with James Rollins, author of Altar of Eden [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 398 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231421
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (341 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #995,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Golomb VINE VOICE on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Altar of Eden is a fun, exciting and fast read. If you're looking to escape in a tv-movie sort-of-way, then this is a good purchase.

James Rollins writes short and to the point. His characters and plot are somewhat similar - short and to the point. And it's enjoyable. The first half of the book sets the stage for genetically altered animals escape into the Bayou after an attempt to smuggle them into the U.S. goes awry.

Rollins writes adventure and pseudo-science well. Think Michael Crichton lite. But that's not a bad thing.

The book is full of gun fights and nasty animals attacks, plus the obligatory evil-scientist-explaining-his-nefarious-plot-to-the-protagonist. But it wraps up the story nicely.

If you're looking for something deep, then keep looking. You can stop looking, however, if you're in the market for a rock solid adventure, with mutated jaguars and super-smart hominids.
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Format: Hardcover
I love James Rollins' SIGMA novels, but after a while, all series start to feel a bit old to me. Like many other readers, I've really been hoping for a return to the stand alone thrillers with which he began his career. My wish has been granted with his latest work, Altar of Eden, and it was everything I could have hoped for.

Some books can be summarized with a single, high-concept sentence. That's never the case with Rollins, though this book is structured differently and is in many ways simpler than the SIGMA novels. More on that in a moment. The novel opens in the wake of a hurricane. Research veterinarian, Dr. Lorna Polk, is collected from her workplace by a Border Patrol helicopter and ferried out into the Louisiana swamplands. She can't fathom who has requested her or why she is being brought here. The "who" turns out to be Field Operations Supervisor, Jack Menard, a painful ghost from her past. The "why" is a shipwreck. A shipwreck that looks like a nightmarish crime scene, and which holds a most extraordinary living cargo. Her first guess is that they've stumbled upon an exotic animal smuggling ring, but as Rollins writes: "Jack turned and shone his flashlight into the nearest cage. She stared inside--and knew she was wrong about everything." James Rollins is great about writing these hooky endings to his chapters. They're sort of textbook, but irresistible! I know they keep me turning the pages.

I noted the structure of this novel above. The SIGMA novels all contain multiple narrative threads and stories. They're notably complex thrillers. Altar of Eden has a single narrative thread throughout. It is the story of where this discovery takes Jack and Lorna, and it's broken into three discrete parts.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've seen the teasers for Alter of Eden here at amazon for quite some time before it became available, and suddenly, out of the blue, the amazon vine program offered me (for the first time) a copy of a Rollins book before it was released. Being the slow reader that I am, I didn't finish it until it actually came out, but I had a good head-start, which I am very grateful for. Being a James Rollins fan now sure makes waiting for the NEXT novel sometimes difficult, but 2009 has been quite a busy year for him. By my count, he's given us 'The Doomsday Key', the first 'Jake Ransom' and now 'Alter of Eden' in an 11th hour final pitch. Fine with me. All things considered, I'd rather wait for a great novel than be semi-satisfied by churning out one sub-par novel after another like some factory (James Patterson, are you listening?!?).

While Mr. Rollins produced more than usual this year, I simply cannot see where we the readers had to suffer one iota as a result. Writers rarely get a chance at a year like this (well, not the GOOD ones anyway) very often, so its nice to see how it all works out in the end for an author who deserves the attention and stepped up to the plate and brought three runs in without breakin' a sweat.

One thing Rollins fans can expect is a healthy dose of science in his books...and that is on full display here. One thing he has been adding to his last group of novels at the end is a sort of explanation of the realities of what we have just finished reading...truth or fiction? On more than one occasion I was a bit surprised to discover just how REAL the science actually IS in his books. Fascinating and more than a bit scary at the same time. I enjoyed how we finally get to see an adventure featuring a career that Mr. Rollins knows well: a Veterinarian.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I truly enjoyed this book on a cold, snowy afternoon. Mr. Rollins is one of the few remaining authors of this genre that is producing quality over quantity. He has not disapoointed from his first book to this one.
This book has an interesting, but fact based premise. Some parts are vaquely reminiscent of Jurassic Park, but all in all it is a rip roaring good read set in one of my favorite parts of the world! You can't go wrong with this book!
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Format: Hardcover
I started reading this novel and thought; "Hey, I just saw this story on the sci-fi channel, only it was a giant mutant snake, or maybe alligator"? Then I got to the next section of the novel and thought, "man, I just saw this on "24". My point is that if you are looking for something original, there's not much here. The dialogue in the beginning of this book is just terrible. It is so cliche ridden and melodramatic that at points it is laughable. The two main characters Jack and Lorna are okay, but much like when you see a bad movie with great actors in it, they just aren't given much to work with here.

What moves this book from a two star up to a three star rating for me is all the action. I might not appreciate this author's character development or talent with dialogue, but he can really write those action scenes! I felt that this book really redeemed itself at the end when it veered away from the overly dramatic character back stories and many of the other overdone characterizations and concentrated on the action of the story. After the first section of the book, the author does a brilliant job of pacing and creating a tense environment for a really exciting finish.

So, I didn't feel that there was much new here, but this was a fun read. I didn't find the characters to be all that engaging or believable until the end when the author tied everything up nicely. The scientific and ethical issues examined in this book have all been looked at before and the author does a fair job with them here as well. Just nothing new that really wowed me. Still an entertaining read and a fair way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.
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