The Judas Strain

Book review by Sebastian Lim

Title: The Judas Strain
Author: James Rollins
Publisher: Harper
ISBN: 9780062017925
Year Published: 2007

This is another amazing thriller from James Rollins that redefines his work as a
thriller writer. There is a code to solve, a disease to cure, a villain to outsmart, an
assassin to outrun, a map of Marco Polo to follow, and the words of an angel to

The Judas Strain starts with the screams heard on the Island of Sumatra in 1293
where Marco Polo, his father and uncle together with the crew and Chinese soldiers
supplied by Emperor Kublai Khan of China had taken shelter and camped there.

Some of the crew men and soldiers had been struck by a strange illness. In the end,
to survive, all the boats that were filled with the sick patients, except for the one
preserved for their departure, had been torched to stop the spread.

Apparently, long dormant organisms, roused from their slumber by insidious
international villains, threaten civilisation with the unstoppable plague that spoiled
Marco Polo’s trip home.

Marco Polo’s travels, which Rollins begins as a thriller, sets from Christmas Island to
the Washington suburbs to Rome, Constantinople and Cambodia. There’s no time to catch your breath when the fate of mankind may fall into the hands of The Guild, a gang of terrorists.

These people will stop at nothing to get what they want. Including
terrorising a spunky old couple or unleashing bacteria with the power to turn South
Sea islanders into maddened cannibals. The Guild will go to any length and torture
anybody in their quest to control the terrestrial balance of power and make tons of
money in the process.

And what does the Venetian explorer have to do with the modern mayhem? It seems that the glaring omissions in his travel diaries had to do with a little side trip into the East Indies, where his fleet encountered victims of a plague with no known cure.

And it is that very plague that the Guild has its fiendish grasp on. As soon as they
figure out the antidote, the ruthless criminals can bio-terrorise the entire planet.
Meanwhile, operatives of the shadowy covert organisation, Sigma Force, Dr Lisa
Cummings and Monk Kokkalis are put to work to search for answers to the bizarre
affliction aboard a cruise liner that has been transformed into a makeshift hospital.

But unfortunately, a sudden and savage attack by terrorist hijackers turns the mercy
ship into a floating bio-weapons lab.

With time running out as a worldwide pandemic grows rapidly out of control, the
resourcefulness of Sigma Force comes to the rescue. This is America’s semi-secret collection of sharp-shooting scientists and commando types and they are thrown into the fight immediately after Seichan, a sexy, vaguely Asian, possibly turn-coat Guild operative, careens on her motorcycle into the driveway of Sigma stalwart
Commander Gray Pierce while he’s helping his mother clean up after a Fourth of
July celebration. Seichan’s got a bullet in her gut with the pursuers on her tail. After
this, Sigma Force members are kept busy for weeks.

Pierce must then join forces with the beautiful assassin, Seichan, who had tried to kill him before, by following the trail of Marco Polo into the terrifying heart of an
astonishing mystery buried deep in antiquity and in humanity genetic code.

Relentless action in spectacular places and plenty of spurious science provide more
than enough distraction from some breathtaking coincidences and leaps of logic as
readers are taken on a roller coaster ride by Rollins in this adventure. An absolutely
thrilling read.

Sebastian Lim is an experienced journalist and editor who now runs his own book review blog — The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of The Weekly-Echo.