by James Rollins

(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)

Year published: 2004
Category: science thriller; series (#1)

Tech rating (out of 5):

SUMMARY {from the back cover}:

British heiress Kara Kensington’s father died mysteriously in the deserts of Oman on her 16th birthday. When her father’s archeological treasures are destroyed in a bizarre incident at a museum, she sponsors a quest to the Arabian peninsula to search for answers. Her close childhood friend Safia, also an archeologist, joins the expedition, which is led by adventurer Omaha Dunn, who closely resembles the character Indiana Jones. Manly, sensitive Painter Crowe of Sigma Force insinuates himself into the group to hunt his traitorous ex-partner as together they seek a lost underground city beneath the dangerous desert sands. But a group of ruthless villains is also looking for the same thing…


Sandstorm is James Rollins’ first Sigma Force novel, and fans have been clamoring for more ever since. Sandstorm establishes several of the trademarks of the franchise: the Sigma Force, a secret organization of ex-Special Forces types trained in advanced science to tackle any technical problem that threatens global security; action so nonstop that the book could end about a dozen times and you’d be satisfied, but Rollins tosses in another _____ (storm, rock slide, attack, etc.) and keeps it going, which is sometimes a little annoying; and of course a random assortment of fascinating science bits that Rollins magically links together in a single outrageous plot (in this book, the elements are Buckyballs, parthenogenesis, mitochondrial DNA, and antimatter).

Rollins has a gift for character development that sets him apart from less-skilled action writers. The Sigma Force gang is likable, believable, and sympathetic. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad (except for the occasional traitor to blur the lines). In my opinion, Rollins does a particularly good job writing his female characters, who, by the conventions of the genre, must be smart and sexy but also human.

The technical elements in Sigma Force novels tend more toward science fiction than fictionalized science, so don’t read these books expecting a Michael Crichton-style educational experience. Turn to page one expecting to have a rollicking good time without excessive profanity or graphic violence—and enjoy!

View the trailer here.

Read this book if: you’re a fan of the desert archeologist Indiana Jones

James Rollins’ Sigma Force series:
Sandstorm (2004); Map of Bones (2005); Black Order (2006); The Judas Strain (2007); The Last Oracle (2008); The Doomsday Key (2010)

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