Book Review: Crucible by James Rollins

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Arriving home on Christmas Eve, Commander Gray Pierce discovers his house ransacked, his pregnant lover missing, and his best friend’s wife, Kat, unconscious on the kitchen floor. With no shred of evidence to follow, his one hope to find the woman he loves and his unborn child is Kat, the only witness to what happened. But the injured woman is in a semi-comatose state and cannot speak—until a brilliant neurologist offers a radical approach to “unlock” her mind long enough to ask a few questions.
What Pierce learns from Kat sets Sigma Force on a frantic quest for answers that are connected to mysteries reaching back to the Spanish Inquisition and to one of the most reviled and blood-soaked books in human history—a Medieval text known as the Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of Witches. What they uncover hidden deep in the past will reveal a frightening truth in the present and a future on the brink of annihilation, and force them to confront the ultimate question: What does it mean to have a soul?

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My romance with globe trotting action-adventure/spy thrillers started almost a decade ago and I’ve always had so much fun reading them. But I did feel that some of them have been losing their mojo when some of their books in the past few years didn’t feel upto the mark. However, I have been pleasantly surprised in the past few months and I’m so thankful for it. While Steve Berry’s latest The Malta Exchange and Matthew Reilly’s Three Secret Cities thoroughly impressed me, this book showed me why James Rollins has been my go-to author for this genre for the past ten years. I was just expecting to have some fun but this book definitely did so much more.

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Rollins’s strength has always been combining aspects of history with advanced technology which seems both implausible but not completely unrealistic at the same time. In Crucible, he really intertwines these concepts brilliantly and I just couldn’t put the book down even for a minute. Even though this book has a historical backdrop starting with the Spanish Inquisitions and the inhuman witch trials that happened across Europe, the story here is definitely more about the extremely fast technological developments that are happening in the area of Artifical Intelligence and how when unchecked, these might have very unintended and unimaginable consequences. The core part of the plot in the book deals with an almost sentient AI which is something that has never been seen before and it’s capabilities are very vast, but the most surprising part is that this is the only fictional part of the story. As Rollins mentions in his always riveting Author’s Note, almost all of the technology that is mentioned in the book apart from the AI itself and the other incidents that have occurred are all true and that’s what makes this book absolutely terrifying. These stories are supposed to be escapist fiction, not impending doom of our own reality, but it’s this touch of reality that makes this book both entertaining and thrilling while also serving as a word of caution.

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If you are a James Rollins fan, you are going to adore this book and I don’t have to sing it’s praises. If you haven’t read the Sigma Force series before but love action-adventure novels with a touch of history and science, please go and checkout Sandstorm right away. This book was action packed, full of thrills and terrifying events but also very very emotional at its core. I don’t think I’ve ever cried reading one of these books before, but I did here and that’s what makes this installment truly special.

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