Edition 30: Short Fiction Review: Crash and Burn by James Rollins
Reviewed by Lee Murray
I thought I’d start 2017 with a short and explosive read to launch us into the New Year, so James Rollins’ Crash and Burn, a Sigma Force short story was the perfect choice.
For readers not familiar with Rollins’ Sigma Force novels, the series focuses on a clandestine division of the United States’ DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), a band of former special forces operatives retrained as scientific field officers and assigned to protect US interests against everything and anything that can go wrong in military experimental science.
In Crash and Burn, two agents, Seichan and Kowalski, the ‘black sheep’ of the Sigma team, are thrown together when their Gulfstream G150 is knocked out of the sky by a mysterious flash. Crashing-landing on a remote volcanic island, the pair must first overcome their differences, in order to overcome an horrific weapon born out of science and greed.
Rollins is not a #1 New York Times bestseller for nothing; one reviewer compares his work to Michael Crichton on steroids. It’s a fair assessment. In Crash and Burn the prose is gritty and spare, with the characters as conflicted as the plot, and fight scenes choreographed to perfection. In short, Rollins’ words are as sharp and punchy as the blows his character’s land. He has a love of significant phrases—think; Hasta la vista, baby, or Yippee-ki-yay MF—and in Crash and Burn has his own version, which gives readers a notion of the genre: high action thrills delivered at break-neck speed, slightly cheesy and yet hugely entertaining.
But don’t be fooled into thinking the story is all helicopters, back flips, and muzzle flashes, even if its narrator, the shadowy Seichan, is a former assassin, who has infiltrated the Sigma team through the back door. Wait. A Eurasian, female, assassin? Finally, a main character with whom I can identify—well, on two out of three counts, anyway. Caught on all fronts by her complicated past, Seichan has a softer side, her battle with her own internal demons providing the story with unexpected depth.
Released just weeks ago and already an Amazon bestseller, Crash and Burn makes up half of the book’s 50-page text. The rest of the book includes notes about Rollins’ research and his reflections on the current state of the play in weapons technology. It makes for chilling reading to learn recent research is coming decidedly close to achieving the kinds of destructive forces Rollins writes of. There is also an extended excerpt from The Seventh Plague, released last month, and the latest novel in the Sigma series.
Overall, Crash and Burn is an excellent choice for lovers of science fiction action, who might be looking to ‘try before they buy’ into a longer series. Great fun.
Crash and Burn (James Rollins)
William Morrow Impulse, 2016 (kindle only)
Science Fiction Action
Lee Murray writes fiction for adults and children, winning New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction and fantasy writing no less than six times. However, she has only recently turned her hand to horror, and finds teenagers to be far more terrifying than spiders or zombies.