Black Order is proof that an author can always rely on the Nazis for truly gifted bad guys. James Rollins digs into WWII real history and a real weapon that was actually in development which even today modern science has yet to fully comprehend. The simple reality is that the allies knew that the Nazis were working on weapons which were unique to the Nazis in part because the Nazis approached physics from a different direction. While the allies approached physics from the general relativity angle the Germans pursued things on a quantum level and that made all the difference.

The prelude to Black Order outlines the techniques the Nazis used to try and keep their most precious military secrets to themselves. There is so much going on in Black Order which tries to cover WWII history, intelligent design, Thule Society, quantum physics and the Aryan ideal.  The historical truths which Rollins weaves into his story are likely to be a first exposure for most readers. The Nazi experiments that are discussed in the novel are ones which actually took place and the device that is at the center of the novel held the highest security classification in Nazi history (higher than their atom bomb research and higher than their fuel-air technology. Rollins has gone to great pains to get as much of the history as right as it can be gotten considering how much has been destroyed or hidden by post war allied operations.

As with Rollins previous Sigma Force novels the key players are all accounted for: Painter Crowe, Grayson Pierce, Monk Kokkalis and Kat Bryant are all back to play their respective roles and Logan Gregory even plays a significant role this time out. The novel in present day starts out with two separate threads which are woven together with the skill we have come to expect from Rollins. Painter Crowe is stranded in the Himalayas and in need of serious medical attention as a mysterious night time illumination near a Buddhist monastery seemingly has deathly implications for the entire surrounding area.

Meanwhile back in Copenhagen commander Grayson Pierce has taken on a routine low level assignment so he can be in Europe to rendezvous with his Italian paramour. The assignment is to investigate who is trying to reassemble a prewar library and why the Darwin family bible is of such importance and how it relates to interconnected quantum effects.

The action of the story proceeds with breakneck pace bouncing back and forth from Europe to Washington to Asia to Africa with the inevitable corresponding increase in body count as thing progress. Where Rollins is most successful is in his creation of modern day Nazis who are both strangely attractive and repellent. Curiously this time out Rollins main characters lose some of their attractiveness from an adventure/mystery novel standpoint as we delve deeper into the personal lives of some of the Sigma Force team. This is the kind of thing which is best left on a very superficial level than digging deeper into it as Rollins has done with Black Order. The reader likes to have a little personal information – favourite drink, favourite team, favourite food, who they are sleeping with but that’s about it. Imbuing the Sigma Force team with detailed backgrounds didn’t help to serve the story and whether or not it helps the series remains to be seen.

In short Rollins has scored another fine summer reading effort. This is a real page turner and well worth picking up.

James Rollins
Black Order
509 pages
Harper (May 29, 2007)

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