The Judas Strain: A Sigma Force Novel
Released on 06.13.2007
From the depths of the Indian Ocean, a horrific plague has arisen to devastate humankind - unknown, unstoppable...and merely a harbinger of the doom that is to follow.
Operatives of the shadowy covert organization Sigma Force, Dr. Lisa Cummings and Monk Kokkalis search for answers to the bizarre affliction aboard a cruise liner transformed into a makeshift hospital. But a sudden and savage attack by terrorist hijackers turns the mercy ship into a floating bio-weapons lab.
Time is an enemy as a worldwide pandemic grows rapidly out of control. As the seconds tick closer to doomsday, Sigma's commander, Gray Pierce, must join forces with the beautiful assassin who tried to kill him - following the trail of the most fabled explorer in history into the terrifying heart of an astonishing mystery buried deep in antiquity and in humanity's genetic code.
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"Cannibals, man eating squid, a bacteria that may wipe out humanity—Rollins's high octane spectacle has it all." — People
"James Rollins is a master of international action and intrigue...[The Judas Strain] is as thrilling as any blockbuster summer action film...Heart pumping action...guaranteed to sweep away readers." — Richmond Times-Dispatch
"A fast paced meld of intrigue, medical thriller, and historical mystery that owns echoes of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain...Rollins invests The Judas Strain with his characteristic command of detail, along with a creeping dread. The world won't have to wait for gradual environmental calamity. It is about to be visited upon us in a matter of days. And he makes it all seem all too plausible." — Post and Courier (Charleston)
"Rollins Effortlessly Blends Science and superstition in grand tradition of Clive Cussler and David Morrel to make The Judas Strain the best pure action thriller in recent memory." — Providence Journal
"You won't want to put this adventure thrill ride down...There's a code to crack, a disease to cure, a villain to outsmart, words of an angel to translate. And, just to to make going to sleep out of the question, the fate of every man, woman, and child on Earth hangs in the balance." — Knoxville News Sentinel
"Rollins does his job: thrills promised, then delivered." — Tampa Tribune
The crack, ultrasecret Sigma Force team returns in another adventure that, as usual, unfolds at breakneck speed. Sigma Force, made up of former Special Forces officers trained as experts in various scientific fields ("killer scientists," one of their number calls them), scours the world for technologies that could help or threaten the U.S. This time the group's mission involves a devastating bacteriological plague, a mysterious cryptogram that may predate humanity, and the deadly truth about what happened after Marco Polo's expedition to China. After a handful of Sigma Force novels, Rollins has fine-tuned the formula to precision: characters rendered in broad strokes, punchy dialogue, short paragraphs that propel us headlong through the story. The novels are like prose versions of comic books, or lightly fleshed out movie treatments. But this is not a criticism, at least not completely. The books' style perfectly matches their subject matter, and it's impossible not to be swept up by their energy and excitement. Action/adventure fans unfamiliar with Rollins' work should be emphatically urged to read this series. — David Pitt, Booklist
THE JUDAS STRAIN is a 400-plus-page adventure novel that takes us around the world in search of answers to questions that spark the imagination. Rollins’s latest thriller should appeal to those who prefer books that focus on serpentine plots rather than multidimensional characters, and it will give readers something scary to think about while vacationing at the beach. – Donna Volkenannt, Bookreporter.com
Here are some of the questions I have been asked by my readers and the media on The Judas Strain. I'm always asked good questions when I'm visiting readers on author tours, so I'll add to this Q&A periodically.
Q: The Judas Strain explores a mysterious link between the Catholic Church of Marco Polo's day and the ancient ruins of Khmer temples at Angkor Wat. What inspired this plot?
A: It all started from a seed of a mystery. As I relate at the beginning of the novel, Marco Polo spent almost two decades in China, along with his father and uncle. Upon the trio's return voyage, Kublai Khan granted the Polos fourteen ships and six hund red men to escort them home. But when they arrived in Italy, the returning Polos were down to two ships and eighteen men. What happened to the rest of the escort? Marco hinted at some mysterious tragedy in his famous book, but he refused to ever say exactly what transpired, even on his deathbed. Such a mystery, I thought would make great fodder for a thriller. What if what destroyed Marco's fleet were to arise again today?
Q: How did you stumble across the mystery of Marco Polo's journey from Kublai Khan's palace in China home to Italy that is so central to the plot of this novel?
A: I actually stumbled upon this mystery while doing research for my earlier novel, Map of Bones. While exploring the history of Vatican spies in Rome, I came upon an intriguing footnote. Some scholars believe that the Polos' journey to China was not a random bit of trade exploration, but a plot by the Vatican to spy upon the Mongol forces in the Far East, to determine China's strengths and weaknesses (which is also touched upon in The Judas Strain). I followed this thread and came upon the mystery of Marco's lost fleet. And while this didn't fit into the plot of Map of Bones, I knew I wanted to explore this in a future novel. So over the past three years, I've been growing that seed of a mystery into the current novel.
Q: Within the pages of The Judas Strain, you write of "evolution running in reverse, the oceans devolving into primordial seas," and the impending extinction of marine life. In this, we can see your love for creatures great and small, shining through. Do you find you pull a great deal from your experiences/leanings as a veterinarian in your writings?
A: As a veterinarian and a human being, I certainly have a strong belief that the stewardship of this world is our responsibility as a species. I think the true merit of any society can be weighed on how well it cares for the weakest among them, whether that be an animal or a human. As to the statement about the devolution of the world's seas into a primordial state of toxic slimes and jellyfish, it is a true and disturbing fact. The Los Angeles Times ran a chilling weeklong series of articles detailing and warning of the impending collapse of our seas.
Q: Readers love the scientific gems you sprinkle through your books. For instance, in The Judas Strain you write, "Did you know Saxitoxin, from bacteria in certain shellfish, has been classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction?" Where do you get this stuff?
A: I am a voracious reader. Not only do I read across a wide gamut of fiction genres, I am passionate about science and history, so find myself perusing scores of nonfiction books. While doing so, I gather thousands of strange little tidbits. Also during the course of researching a novel, I interview several experts in various fields - and I've learned shocking details that defy believability but are indeed true. And I love to share these bombshells with my readers.
Q: You're known for your own personal adventures that you undertake in researching your novels: tell us your amazing stories behind this book?
A: This novel required doing a bit of traveling, back to Italy again but also to the jungles of Cambodia. A large section of The Judas Strain takes place among the Angkor ruins of that country. It was an eye-opening journey into a country where landmines are still a risk to the unwary and where colonial culture and Cambodian history blend in some beautiful ways. Yet, it's also a haunted landscape, where in the recent past a quarter of the country's population was brutally slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge.
Q: You quote the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "But what is known with fair certainty: the next great pandemic will arise again out of the East." SARS, the Avian Flu - even the bubonic plague - all arose from Asia. What is your conjecture as to what will come next? Are global agencies already working out preventative measures to ensure the hypothetical pandemics will not become real worldwide crises?
A: I don't think we'll ever be fully prepared for what comes next, and I don't think we can. When it comes to creativity, Nature rules. While we might anticipate a devastating flu outbreak - like the Spanish Flu in the past or the
Avian Flu today - Nature adapts, mutates, and surprises. If we try to close one door, it merely opens another. And this doesn't even take into account our own ham-fisted manipulations of Nature's worst threats: from weaponized anthrax to the laboratory recreation of the Spanish Flu virus. Are we prepared? Not even close.
Q: There's a tongue-in-cheek warning within the pages of The Judas Strain, "Keep in mind...we still don't know for sure what killed the dinosaurs." It feels as if you are giving a gentle warning to the world at large to watch their backs...
A: I make another statement in the novel. To paraphrase, if we push Nature, Nature pushes back. We've only been on this planet a short period of geologic time, yet we've committed an amazing amount of abuse for such a young species. Someday soon we may be slapped back. Dominance today does not guarantee survival. There's a lesson in the fate of the dinosaurs. Nothing is permanent in this world. Life is change.
Q: Marco Polo once said, "I have not told half of what I saw." Would James Rollins say the same?
A: While my books may cover a breadth of topics, there is always so much more left unsaid. As I mentioned before, my goal is to entertain and leave one with some thoughtful concepts and histories to ponder. But ultimately I'm only scratching the surface. I hope the journey to a deeper understanding starts with my novel and excites readers onto their own paths of discovery.