Review: The 6th Extinction by James Rollins

the_sixth_extinction_usaAbout The 6th Extinction

A remote military research station sends out a frantic distress call, ending with a chilling final command:  Kill us all!  Personnel from the neighboring base rush in to discover everyone already dead-and not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated:  every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria.

The land is entirely sterile-and the blight is spreading.

To halt the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma must unravel a threat that rises out of the distant past, to a time when Antarctica was green and all life on Earth balanced upon the blade of a knife.  Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will discover the truth about an ancient continent, about a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, Sigma will face its greatest challenge to date: stopping the coming extinction of mankind.

But is it already too late?

About the Author

James Rollins is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sigma Force series and other novels. Blending science and history, his action adventure novels have been praised as "enormously engrossing" (NPR) and "smart, entertaining adventure fiction" (New York Journal of Books). Before pursuing a writing career, Jim obtained a degree in veterinary medicine and established a successful veterinary practice in Sacramento, CA. He currently resides in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

My Thoughts

I've been a fan of James Rollins for a number of years now, and yet I can't help but feel that his series of Sigma Force novels are getting a little long in the tooth.

His tenth iteration, The 6th Extinction, carries with it a whiff of 'been there, done that' malaise and the typical Rollins formula has been reduced to a simple template. If you've read the series thus far, you know exactly what you're getting. Frankly, that's a shame. There's no surprises, to the point that you can predict exactly what happens when and where in the narrative with striking efficiency. From an author that used to keep me glued to the pages and in constant suspense with an adrenaline-fueled read, this book only managed to inspire boredom and apathy.


Going in, you know that the Sigma team will be split in half, with the A-team and B-team focusing on their own A and B stories before converging for the finale. You know that there will be good guy scientist commandos versus merciless bad guys intent on devastating the world and siccing their own army of commandos against the Sigma boys and girls. There's a Dog in Danger subplot, and since The 6th Extinction is all about a man-made renegade virus that could potentially eliminate the human race, you know that dog will get infected and that he will make a full recovery. When the book opens with Painter and his fiance prepping for their wedding day, you can rest assured that their lives will be quickly interrupted with a crazy global threat, but that everything will get resolved just in time for their happy nuptials to take place. You know that Gray will be dealing with his father's Alzheimer and agonizing over the choices he must make to care for his dad, simply because that's become an ingrained part of his story for ten novels now. I know Alzheimer is a rough and awful disease and that it is not the least bit simple for those dealing with it, or their family. But reading the same schtick for ten books now has grown into a frustration, right down to Gray repeating a decision from an earlier book under the auspices of Second Chances. I wish Rollins either had something new to say about Gray, his father, (or even the rest of team Sigma for that matter) or would just freaking move on already. There's even multiple ticking-time bomb scenarios, stacked one atop the other in the forms of an actual nuclear bomb, a rampaging virus, and multiple infections that could spell death for these unfortunate ancillary one-off characters if a cure isn't found in a matter of hours. About the only cliche not stuffed into The 6th Extinction is the tired 'days away from retirement' device.

While I completely dig the science and sense of authenticity Rollins is able to breath into these thrillers thanks to meticulous (or at least seemingly meticulous) research, it's heavily lacking in other areas. While the plot elements of rogue genetic engineering, biohacking, and ancient, almost alien-like lifeforms surviving in shadow ecologies are ridiculously strong and interesting, the story element surrounding these devices is pretty blah. Particularly the characters, who may get shot or dismembered from time to time, only to bounce back virtually unaffected or any worse the wear. It was cute at first, but now lacks even a glimmer of interest. Which is compounded further, since this is a book centered on a mad, perilous viral threat to all of life on Earth as we know it, but there's never really any true sense of danger. Rather than moving along at a breakneck, frenetic page, it feels bloated and sluggish under its own weight. There's no surprises here, and the stakes don't feel much at all like stakes because you know everything's going to be OK. This may be Rollins' most risk-averse formulaic comfort-read effort yet. Sadly, I found myself far too bored far too often.

At this point, one Sigma Force book is pretty much the same as the next, just swap out one bit of cutting edge science for another, change the name of the mysterious far-flung locale hiding Mother Nature's deepest, darkest secrets, slap a new cover on it, and hit the bestseller lists. I'm sure Rollins is contractually obligated to turn out new stuff in this series for his publisher since it's a no-brainer cash grab for both of them, but still, these stories need to get seriously shaken up and the author desperately needs to break the mold.

Or, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just too tried of prolonged, open-ended, never-ending series reads. Maybe I'm just too old for this stuff, or maybe I'm just growing more finicky with the books that fill my scare free time for reading. I obtained this book from my local library, and maybe the time that elapsed between requesting it and obtaining it meant a swing in desire and this just wasn't the right book at the right time for me. Maybe. Just maybe.

Right now, I certainly don't find myself in any rush to read Rollin's next effort, The Bone Labyrinth. I'm sure I will one day, in the hopes that his books can excite me the way they did when I first stumbled upon Ice Hunt quite a while back. I used to buy his books religiously, but I think those days are at an end. For now, I'm quite content with waiting for an ebook copy to turn up in the check-out queue at my library, or for it to hit that sweet $1.99 price point. Or maybe this was just a misfire for Rollins and he can rediscover his groove and remind me why I used to enjoy his cunning romps around the world and into the corners of lost dark continents.

Buy The 6th Extinction At Amazon

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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