Review

The Judas Strain

by James Rollins

In
James Rollins’s latest novel, THE JUDAS STRAIN gets its name
from scientists who have coined the term after “studying the
genetics of anthrax and other toxic bacteria.” It is a strain
that “created the early ancestors of anthrax and other plague
bacteria…and turns friendly viruses into foe.”

The story begins at midnight on the Island of Sumatra in Southeast
Asia, in the year 1293. After the screams finally cease and last
flames of the bonfires die out in the dark water, Marco Polo and
his father whisper a prayer that God will forgive them for their
sins. After praying, Marco, his father and his uncle began their
return voyage from the Far East to Italy. They started with 14
ships and 600 men but arrive at their destination with only two
ships and 18 men. One of history’s mysteries persists: What
became of the remainder of Marco Polo’s fleet? The explorer
never revealed what actually happened. Could it have been a deadly
virus?

Flash forward to modern times. Dr. Susan Tunis and her husband
Gregg have just celebrated their fifth anniversary on a yacht
moored near Christmas Island. A few days later, while at sea
investigating possible causes of scores of dolphins that have
beached themselves along the coast of Java, a mysterious pall falls
upon them. Has the deadly virus that may have decimated Marco
Polo’s crew laid dormant but is now preparing to unleash its
poison again?

After a toxic plague erupts in the Indian Ocean, killing marine
creatures, birds, animals and humans, a luxury cruise ship on its
maiden voyage across the Indonesian Islands is converted into an
emergency medical ship. Scientists and physicians from throughout
the world are flown in to investigate the cause of the plague,
isolate its victims and find an antidote. Then a team of ruthless
Guild terrorists, led by an evil genius, hijacks the ship and takes
over the quest for the cure. Susan Tunis appears to be the key to
discovering the antidote, and the Guild has her under heavy guard.
The terrorists are one step ahead of SIGMA Force and anticipate
their every move. Could there be a mole within the ranks of
SIGMA?

In the Vatican, Monsignor Vigor Verona, prefect of the
Vatican’s Secret Archives, receives a cryptic note
instructing him to come to the Meridian Room, where he is shown a
secret room that has been uncovered during a restoration process.
He also is shown a series of ancient scripts written in “the
language of the angels,” along with a symbol of a curled
dragon drawn on a marble floor. The symbol is the sign of the
Imperial Royal Dragon Court and its sinister Guild. What is the
meaning of the message, and how did an unauthorized person gain
access to the heavily guarded archives? Has a traitor infiltrated
the Vatican? And how is this all connected to the deadly plague
that threatens to unleash its destruction across the globe?

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.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on January 22, 2011

The Judas Strain
by James Rollins

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0060765380
  • ISBN-13: 9780060765385