BONE LABYRINTH by James Rollins Reviewed

BONE LABYRINTH
James Rollins
William Morrow
December 15th, 2015

BONE LABYRINTH, by James Rollins, is a thriller that tugs at the reader’s hearts. There are two plots, one historical and one scientific. This novel explores many important current topics including animal experimentation, the relationship between the guerilla and man, as well as the genetic make-up of a human’s brain.

This 11th Sigma Force novel has Painter Crowe, the director, assigning Commander Gray Pierce, to investigate an attack on a group of scientists exploring a massive cave in the mountains of Croatia. One of the scientists, geneticist Lena Crandall, along with her twin sister, Maria, is attempting to find the origin of human intelligence. Maria’s research centers on her work with a three-year-old male lowland gorilla, Baako, who’s a hybrid of gorilla and Neanderthal genes. After Maria and Baako are kidnapped, the action-packed story begins.

The story is told in alternating chapters involving two sets of protagonists. The first group is comprised of one of a pair of twins, an American scientist studying the evolution of human intelligence, a Catholic priest and some Sigma Force members assigned to rescue them after things go bad in a cave in Croatia. This piece is more of a historical quest. The other group, who wind up in a vast, underground science facility in China, is comprised of the second twin scientist, some other Sigma Force members, and Baako, the young gorilla who is the subject of the twins’ research. Many readers will be drawn more to Baako and his story, turning every page as they wonder what will be his ultimate outcome. This sub-plot involves more of the science and genetics piece of the story as the Chinese scientists attempt to harvest some of the DNA of the animals to engineer a stronger solider.

There is a powerful scene in the book where Sigma operatives Monk Kokhalis and Kimberly May are embedded in a Chinese zoo. Rollins commented, “I spent a week in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. I joked with my editor after I finished the book I will never be allowed back in China. This scene is taken from my reaction. I was appalled, some of which, could not even put in the book. For example, I found out that fifteen years ago, at the zoo restaurant, they would serve animal body parts. I was shocked how the patrons of the zoo treated the animals, banging on their cages, throwing things at them, and as I describe in the book pouring a coke on top of a Mongolian bear.”

Rollins noted he did extensive research from watching clips of the Lion, Christian, who was released into a reserve after having been a pet for years. When his human handler finds Christian in the wild the lion charges, hugs, and plays with him. He also read about a pet gorilla that was also released into the wild, was found, and brought the family over to meet the human handler.

The reason Rollins chose to write about a gorilla instead of a chimp is explained in the book: from a genetic viewpoint 98% of the Chimpanzees are like us whereas gorillas are 97%. Yet, from an intelligent and thinking standpoint gorillas are closer to humans than Chimps. The author’s description of how Baako looks at the world seems very plausible, having a sharper sense with a very emotional understanding of the past, present, and future. The best scenes are between Baako and Maria, which mirror a mother/child bond.

THE BONE LABYRINTH blends intense action with thrilling plots that are sprinkled with interesting historical and/or scientific facts. A fabulous adventure that is heart wrenching and action packed.

Elise Cooper

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