Customer Reviews: Altar of Eden
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on December 29, 2009
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.

Act One encompasses the first third of the novel, and it reminded me of nothing so much as those old creature feature films from the 70's. You remember the ones? Where the mutant piranhas are heading upstream to the summer camp? That's just a nostalgic example, there are absolutely no mutant piranha in this novel (though if that's your cup of tea, definitely check out Rollins' Amazonia), but SOMETHING has escaped that shipwreck, and it's stalking the bayou. The hunt is on!

Act Two is the shortest of the three. Here, the protagonists have a chance to catch their breath--for like a minute. It's a chance for Lorna and her colleagues to strut their scientific stuff. And this is the part that I have to assume other Rollins fans like me love. Every Rollins novel features at least one element of mind-blowing science. My favorite part of this one involved magnetite crystals in the brain, but the fractals were really cool too! There are tantalizing tidbits from any number of scientific disciplines, but don't worry if you're not as geeky as me. Rollins doesn't go too deeply into anything. His explanations are brief, clear, and intriguing. (As always, he has an author's note at the end to separate fact from fiction. And as always, there's more fact than you might expect.) Unfortunately for our protagonists, the bad guys that were in the background of Act One come front and center in Act Two.

Act Three is the lengthiest of all. It's the endgame. Dr. Polk discovers that what she found in the Mississippi Delta was just the tip of the iceberg. I have to admit that I had a few small quibbles with the end of this novel that I can't discuss without massive spoilers. Nonetheless, those quibbles did not take away from my total enjoyment of this excellent page-turner. I read much of it on an airplane and it kept me compelled for 3,000 miles.

Amusingly, I listened to a large section of this novel on my Kindle while wandering the National Zoo. There are a lot of animals in this novel, so I could read about alligators and monkeys while visiting alligators and monkeys! (Yes, I really AM a huge geek.) I've heard former-vet Rollins discuss why he's never written about a veterinarian before. "Not enough people die," he always says. Well, he finally found a way to make it work. I'm looking forward to more stand alone adventures!
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VINE VOICEon December 29, 2009
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.

Action, twists and a fair share of surprises certainly place AoE definitely ahead of the vast majority of action/adventure thrillers available and easily one of Mr. Rollins' best stand-alone books to date. Without adding any spoilers (which I HATE) let me say this: if genetic manipulation doesn't frighten you, then read this book and maybe it will (it really should). As with ALL of his earlier stuff (all of which are awesome), expect a roller coaster ride traveling to exotic places and introducing us to a lot we probably never heard before. I believe one of the major talents that James Rollins has is the ability to 'dumb down' the science so almost anyone can grasp the significance of what you're reading and why its so terrifying. Michael Crichton managed to pull it off in many of his books, but failed in a few as well...from my perspective Rollins does it much better.

Once again it is my supreme fortune to be able to HIGHLY endorse another thriller from Mr. Rollins. I do so gladly here yet again. If you couldn't tell, I really, REALLY love his stuff. Kudos yet again, and here's to an even better 2010!
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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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on March 7, 2016
This is not a favorite genre of mine, because usually these books can give me nightmares I don't need. This was a quick page turner, and the sci fi was scary, but not so bad it would keep me up. Interesting handling of children and families. Nice romance part.
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on February 11, 2015
Finished reading this last night and it's another great stand alone book by James Rollins. Great characters and a fascinating plot with a lot of action to keep things moving right along. The added science and technology is a bonus to the story. This gets added gto my Read Again Kindle Collection.
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on July 18, 2011
nothing -- as everything is wonderful. Need a good read, pick up a Rollins book. started out with Clancy and Cussler -- tested this guy out a while back and have always been pleased. fascinating writing that has caused me to pick up all sorts of other references books and internet research because of the cool ideas and concepts he uses to write his stories. on a scale of 1-10 this writer is a 20.
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on January 17, 2015
I enjoyed this book. It has all the ingredients necessary to keep a Rollins fan glued to the book. There is a beautiful veterinarian, a good looking cop, an evil scientist, and unusual experimental animals. Lots of fun to read. Oh and a good ending.
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on October 6, 2015
I read 2-3 books every week, and James Rollins is one of my very favorite authors. I love the way he weaves some little known facts into his fiction, and the tells you all about it at the end. Working my way up to have all of his books on my Kindle, because I'm one of those people who like to re-read a story (or see a movie) more than once, and Rollins' books lend themselves to that very well.
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Mr. Rollins, as usual and as I have come to expect, hits another one out of the park and over the outfield stands with ALTAR OF EDEN, an excellent stand-alone novel that leaves an open but completely satisfying conclusion in which a possible sequel could be coming. I'll be figuratively standing in line for that one too, as with all his novels. In ALTAR OF EDEN, Mr. Rollins once again shows his deep compassion for animals and those who dedicate their lives to caring for them, and at the same time takes the reader on a rollicking, action-packed adventure that keeps you burning the midnight oil well into the morning hours. I'm fairly certain my fingers left scorch marks on the pages. Highly recommended, along with all this excellent author's fine works.

Kerry Alan Denney, multiple award-winning author of SOULSNATCHER
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on February 24, 2015
James Rollins knows how to write a book. Every Book is well written. And every Book keeps you on your toes, keeps you reading just one more chapter...Soon you know you have read half of the book. Everyone of his books is a Page Turner. He is one of my favorite Writer.
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