118 of 126 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2005
Having read all of James Rollins' previous novels, I couldn't wait to get my hands on "Sandstorm" and dive in. While Rollins did a good job setting the stage for the plot, I found myself soon losing interest in the story as I got 100 or so pages into it.
Rather than waste your time with another plot synopsis of this book, let me just suffice to say that there are plenty of well-developed characters (a Rollins strength), but his over-wordy style took a book of about 300 pages and turned it into a 500+ page novel.
If you're new to Rollins, start with any of his earlier works to get a better feel for his talent (and he is a talented writer).
This reviewer's recommendations are in this order:
1. Subterranean (his first and still best IMHO)
3. Deep Fathom
4. Ice Hunt
6. Map of Bones (to be read yet)
72 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Imagine Indiana Jones, (his name is Omaha Dunn here), taking-on 'the perfect storm' in the great Rub al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, in central Arabia. In this desert place, beneath the burning sun, hurricane force winds blow up quickly. One can drown in an ocean of sand and remain interred forever. Add to this mix, the obsession to find a great fabled city, and a civilization lost thousands of years ago, now buried beneath the shifting dunes. Ubar, a rich and fabulous trading center of ancient Arabia, ruled by the Queen of Sheba, once rose out of the desert and then mysteriously vanished back into the sands. References to Ubar in the Koran, the Arabian Nights, and countless Bedouin tales told around desert campfires have captivated the imaginations of explorers and archaeologists. But all searches have been fruitless and the city remained lost. The storm, the search for Ubar and for a source of energy strong enough to fuel the entire earth, are just the basics of this enthralling story. James Rollins' "Sandstorm" also contains various subplots, no less exciting than the primary adventure, a terrific cast of characters, fascinating historical and scientific information, a love triangle and enough action, suspense and thrills to keep you reading long into the night. This is one of the most addictive novels I have read in some time. Once I began, I just couldn't put it down.
Dr. Safia Al-Maaz, curator of the Arabian wing of the British Museum was abruptly awakened one night by the smell of smoke and the sound of sirens. She looked out her window and saw her wing of the museum in flames, and chaos in the streets. Dressing in panic she ran to the site, a short distance from her flat. The Arabian wing, priceless artifacts, and all the work she had accomplished over a 10-year period, were totally destroyed by a tremendous explosion. Clandestine organizations worldwide were alerted to this event almost before Safia reached the disaster area. And so begins a dangerous, lethal race to discover what caused the explosion, why it happened and what it means.
Lady Kara Kensington, Safia's best friend and sponsor to the Arabian gallery, is devastated also. Both women have strong roots in the deserts of Arabia. Painter Crowe, member of a secret American government organization, is tasked with finding the incredibly powerful source of the explosion before anyone else does, and if possible, to contain it. Answers to these questions and many more are to be found in the desert country of Oman and the Rub al-Khali, a forbidden land where evil spirits reign, and where, perhaps, lies the mysterious city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the Sands. Lady Kensintron organizes a small expedition, including Dr. Al-Maaz and Crowe, to travel to Oman to find these answers. However, Kara's expedition is not the only group determined to discover the desert's secrets; other shadowy groups trail the expeditions every move.
Again, I was completely riveted. The historic detail is amazing. A great read & highly recommended!
56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2004
With Sandstorm James Rollins takes his story telling skills to a new level. Sandstorm like all of his previous works is a fast paced, action packed adventure that takes to fabulous locations and keeps the action moving. This is the best Rollins book yet and it is sure to please.
Sandstorm begins in England, and after a mysterious murder, an artifact is found inside an ancient statute. It leads to a race in the desert between two groups searching for the lost city of UBAR.
The story leads of a fact paced, and exciting finish that will have you on the edge of your seat turned each page faster and faster. The writing takes you into the desert and you can feel the Sandstorm heading towards you. If you are looking to be transported away for a fun filled journey, this is the book for you!
Along the way there are the normal twists and turns that keep you wanting more. Some in the past have said there was not enough character development in Rollins' books, but this time, I think there is just enough. You get to know what is driving the characters and can see why they are doing the things that they are.
This is a great book for that summer weekend at the beach or just sitting out on your front porch! Fans of Rollins will love this new book, and if you are a first time reader of Rollins, I am sure that you will be hooked. I HIGHLY recommend Sandstorm by James Rollins!
43 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2005
I suppose in an era when Paris Hilton is considered a star and Dan Brown sells 100 books for every two of Alice Munro's, I really shouldn't waste my energy railing against the mediocrity rampant in today's popular fiction. Who am I to say we should expect better books from the big publishing houses that continue to pull in Croesean profits? Why bother to ask for more when the stuff that's being published sells just fine as it is?
Because I believe we're on the edge of a very slippery slope, that's why. More and more genre books - mystery, thriller, sci-fi, etc. - are hitting the shelves these days that should be so much better than they are. Not so long ago this quality of writing was reserved for the ubiquitous Harlequin romance and Mack Bolan novels that delivered every penny of their two-dollar cover price. Now we're expected to shell out $35 for hardcovers written by authors who couldn't write their way out of a wet paper bag. I'm not talking about the Nora Robertses or even the Dan Browns here. They at least can string together a sentence and an intriguing plot, though the grander aspects of theme elude them.
No, I'm referring to an insidious underclass that has managed to worm its way onto the bookshelves and offer itself as a source of books in between major releases from the dozen or so big names in popular fiction. It'll be months before the next Tom Clancy comes out, they whisper. Why not pick me up while you're waiting?
Case in point is James Rollins and his latest tepid thriller, Sandstorm. This amateurish mish-mash of stereotypes, ideas lifted from movies, poor prose and faint-hearted plotting is typical of the new substandard, wallowing in its own mediocrity.
Hold onto your hats, folks, as we delve into the mysteries of the past, following museum curator Safia al-Maaz on her quest for a fabled ancient city. An explosion at the British Museum leaves traces of evidence that, when looked at in the proper light, contain clues to the location of Ubar of Arabian Nights fame. Does it truly exist? Let's find out! Enter wealthy British financier Kara Kensington. Through a herculean act of deus ex machina, Kara and Safia are soul sisters, so Kara feels obliged to help. She also has an agenda of her own (which is made glaringly obvious early in the book, for the reader's convenience).
If you thought we might be following the Da Vinci Code formula, read on. Soon we're introduced to Painter Crowe, who is this book's answer to 24's super agent Jack Bauer. His ultra-secret government agency Sigma (apparently Delta is too much of a cliche even for Rollins) is also interested in Ubar. And just in case we were still short on cliches, along comes Omaha Dunn, archeologist and adventurer. I swear to God, this is a real character. If Stephen Spielberg were dead, he'd be rolling in his grave. A pointless love triangle completes the cliche.
Our intrepid crew heads out for the deserts of Oman in search of Safia's past, Kara's father and the secret of Ubar. By the time I discovered this secret, I thought I had run out of eye rolls. I was wrong. Turns out I still had plenty of frustration left and had no trouble crying out, "You've got to be kidding me!" when the mystery became clear.
This book has no redeeming qualities. Even the kind of breakneck pacing used to such great effect in The Da Vinci Code can't save Sandstorm. The characters are as flat as tissue paper, Rollins' prose is embarrasingly wooden and the "plot" is nothing but a feeble mosaic of other cliches jammed together like a load of potatoes inside a patchwork quilt.
Why do we put up with this kind of crap? I truly believe it's because publishers subscribe to the theory that the public will eat whatever you feed it. Hey, it worked - and continues to work - in TV and the movies. If it didn't, Who's The Boss would have been cancelled after the pilot and Catwoman wouldn't have made it past the planning stages. But I've always expected more out of popular fiction. Bookshelves have been a kind of safe haven for me over the years, a place to escape the crap that's constantly thrown at us from the other mediums. It appears companies like Harper Collins (the owner of William Morrow, Sandstorm's publisher) aren't concerned with keeping that sanctuary sacred any longer, and it's a damn shame.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2005
The fertile mind of James Rollins conjured up the incredulous plot of his latest adventure thriller "Sandstorm". While Rollins' use of cutting edge technology makes for a mostly interesting read unfortunately the novel gets more preposterous as it proceeds.
The crux of the novel is an unexplained explosion at the British Museum in London thought to be caused by static electricity. The explosion, centered in the Kensington Gallery, was so ferocious in actually melted the bones of an unfortunate security guard that had the misfortune to be present within the gallery. The gallery was a vast collection of Arabian artifacts collected by Sir Reginald Kensington, who had mysteriously disappeared in the Arabian desert during a quest for the fabled city of Ubar. Head of the family Lady Kara Kensington appointed her dear friend and childhood playmate Dr. Safia Al-Maaz, a talented and attractive archaeologist as its curator.
Examination of the rubble that remained of the gallery pointed to a meteoritic artifact in the shape of a resting camel that eminated from the legendary Omani city of Ubar as the source of the outburst. U.S. counterespionage agent and former Navy Seal Dr. Painter Crowe and his amazonlike partner Dr, Coral Novak were called in to lead the investigation as to the cause of the devastation. The use of Geiger counters lead to the discovery of a major source of radiation within the gallery. Amazingly the source seemed to be within a nine foot tall sandstone statue. With the help of Dr. Al-Maaz, an iron relic shaped like a accurately proportioned human heart was extricated from the statue. Inscribed on it were the words U-B-A-R. It was postulated that the explosion was due to the degradation of anti-matter which when put in contact with matter could result in a massive release of energy.
The potential to acquire the secrets of this powerful energy source lead to an expedition to Oman by the characters previously mentioned, to find the mythical city of Ubar, thought to be the home of the Queen of Sheeba. Typically another team of mercenaries under the banner of a group called the Guild was also attempting to learn the secrets hidden in Ubar. Lead by a turncoat ex-partner of Crowe, Cassandra Sanchez they would kill anyone that stood in their way.
Along the way numerous twists, turns and fantastic revelations attempt to hold our interest as the plot thickens. It gets somewhat too thick at times.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2005
James Rollins's books have something going for them: they are lengthy and written with an eye for detail and interesting plot twists, essentially providing the reader with a "money's worth" summer read.
Unfortunately, while Sandstorm is long (and not overly so), I found it lacking. Despite the fact that Rollins overuses the word "subterranean" in all his books (he refuses to say underground), he is a good writer, one of the better authors working today. But his latest book, the first of his Sigma Force series, is a major disappointment.
Omaha Dunn is not the main character. But he should've been. For a character-tribute to the genre's superstar Indiana Jones, Dunn had the most potential of anyone in the book. Rollins brings him in late, and we get a weak pre-adventure adventure (Rollins introduces most of his characters in the middle of their own mini-sequences). Painter Crowe, a cop with a cool name, is the flattest person here. He thinks straight, shoots the same, but has no dimension, and is not very likeable.
Safia and Kara are the two girls whose plotlines are the most important. I really enjoyed these two.
Here's the big upsetting thing: this is the first book I have read in years that has zero payoff. You read me correctly: by the time you reach page 440 (hardcover), and you've paid close attention, you will notice that the whole book was for nothing. I have not been this disappointed in a long time. And perhaps this was a style Rollins was going for... a different approach to the Grand Finale. But it didn't settle with me.
Obviously this book works for most people, so do not fret, and enjoy the story! But I heartily recommend Ice Hunt over Sandstorm as a great Rollins read.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2004
First of all I liked this book. It's fun, fast, never overly silly, but just silly enough. It's one of his two best. Now, I'd like to rant about something that bothers me. I've been an avid reader for well over twenty years and I can't help but cringe whenever I hear someone talking about character developement in an action/thriller where all of the action takes place in a matter of a few days. First off, when someone is staring at an enemy army with no hope of escape and a potentially Earth destroying antimatter bomb under their noses... who cares if they once had a puppy that died or if their favorite color is blue?!? This isn't an epic saga of the Russian Revolution where it might be important to know what events have molded our characters in the past. This is a fast-paced action adventure where we get to know all we need to know about the characters in order to enjoy the story. We have tough guys and even tougher gals fighting for their lives in extreme, supernatural circumstances. It's GREAT for a fun weekend read. I love some author's ability to coax a lot out of his characters, but in a book like this more character developement would have slowed down the pace and seriously hurt the overall book. As far as character developement, Dean Koontz is the champ, Matt Reilly is at the other end, and Rollins is in the middle somewhere. However, I can get just as big a kick out of Rollins and Reilly as I do from Koontz. Overall, for this kind of book, I think Rollins does pretty good in the overrated "Character Developement" category. It's an enjoyable read and you won't get cheated out of anything. I gave it 4 stars only because I save 5 star reviews for the truly GREAT works.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
There is a lost city in the midst of East African continent, called Ubar. Ubar has not been found yet, but the legend has it that it was the home of Queen of Sheeba and that it is cursed. An archaeological expedition is on its way to discover the secret of Ubar, which might be connected with a mysterious explosion of antimatter at the British Museum in London. Unfortunatelly, the bad guys are also on their way to steal Ubar's treasure and are not above using some underhanded methods.
With characters named like Painter Crow, Saffia al-Maaz, Lady Kensington (and most laughable of all) Omaha Dunn (mehehehehe - can't help it), this was sure to be a very exciting read, right? WRONG!!!!! Ugh, eekh, this book was absolutely horrible. Nothing could save the aweful characters, not even the mega sandstorm that could have wiped Yemen and Oman off of the face of the earth. Ubar itself wasn't all that interesting, and all that antimatter thing, I think I've had enough of it since reading Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons". The science in the book was also very questionable, since we have a tribe of women who are, what genetically could be called, a copy/clone of the Queen of Sheeba, since they reproduce asexually (they don't need men). Oh righty then. But the worst of all were the characters. Saffia was the most pathetic excuse of a woman I have read about (short of Tess of the D'Urbervilles); she had panic attacks every three seconds. Lady Kensington was just bossy and annoying as hell, and the special US operative, Painter Crow, was not good enough to belong to boy scounts not to mention some elite special forces team. He kept on being beaten by his ex-partner, the evil Cassandra! LOL! Yes, it is funny. The worst of the lot however, was the adventurer-archaeologist, Indiana Jones...ooops, sorry, I meant to write Omaha Dunn. Honest mistake; although in my opinion, calling him Indiana Jones (which is what Lady Kensington did) was an insult to the real Indiana. That's because Indy wasn't a complete ass and idiot of the greatest magnitude like Omaha was. I just wanted to shove him off of a nearest waterfall! What an imbecil!
So, to sum up, this was second book of Rollins' I read (first one being 'Subterranean'), and I have to say that I will not read anything else by this author. He can't write anything interesting or even remotely plausible.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2006
While this book is not the best Rollins one out there, it's definitely satisfying for anyone who has read and enjoyed his other books. While I think his new book Black Order is by far his best work yet, this book is not at all bad and kept me very interested and compelled at what was coming next throught the entire book. With the book's setting and plot both involving
the Arabian peninsula, I was a little hesitant about reading it because I haven't had any particular interest in reading about the area, but as usual, Rollins makes everything work very well and it's just another very good book in the Sigma series.
Returning Rollins readers: definitely get it.
New Rollins readers: because each book stands well on its own as well as in a series, I'd read Map of Bones or Black Order first, but really, anything by Rollins is great.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2004
Ok, this is my second James Rollins book; but I have to state that I enjoyed his last book, Ice Hunt much better. That doesn't mean Sandstorm was a bad book, it was just that some of the characters really bothered me. It's hard to put my finger on it, but the characters, `Painter' and `Safia' didn't have that special element that authors need to make their books work. First, Painter showed some promise as a covert operative working for the American government at the start of the book. As soon he meets Safia, Painter has mixed emotional feelings towards Safia. He likes her, he loves her, and he doesn't love her and so on...please. Yes Painter had plenty momentous action scenes in the book, but he was not interesting to me. He was just a former Navy SEAL that had some romantic feelings toward Safia, that's all. The character, Safia, was too whiney for me. She kept on thinking of her bad experience back in Tele Aviv, and I kept on thinking, "Get over it! Move on!" Maybe I am being too harsh on Safia. The one character I did like was Omaha Dunn. He was smart, he was funny, and he was not perfect. His character was much more interesting that Painter's; in my opinion James Rollins centered on the character Painter a little too much.
As far as the story goes, I thought it was original and very entertaining to read! Just like the last book, Sandstorm was fast paced, and exciting, especially at the end. There's also some real life truths written in the book, just read the epilogue
If Mr. Rollins ever decided to use a character again, I hope it is Omaha Dunn!