Featured Review: ‘Tides of Fire’ by James Rollins


James Rollins’ 17th Sigma Force adventure once again features his beloved “scientists with guns” in an impossibly dangerous scenario where they must race to save the day or deal with unthinkable ramifications unlike anything the world has ever known.

The good news is that Commander Gray Pierce and his team are all back. The bad news is that Sigma Force must come face-to-face with their toughest mission to date. Set after the events of Kingdom of Bones (2022), Rollins’ latest opens with a flashback sequence set off the coast of Sumbawa in April 1815 that follows the crew aboard the HMS Tenebrae as they make a shockingly deadly discovery near a small, fiery island. History, of course, remembers that 1815 was the year that Mount Tambora exploded in the South Pacific. The amount of damage and death that followed was unprecedented, as the carnage left in the blaze’s wake led to a worldwide string of climate abnormalities that paved the way for what would become known as “the year without a summer.”

In the present day, more than two hundred years later, in an international research station off the coast of Australia, Sigma Force is involved in the exploration of the deepest parts of the Coral Sea. Surprisingly, they discover a thriving zone of life populated by bioluminescent coral that’s mere existence throws scientists for a loop. Of course, that’s not the only thing hiding deep in the waters. Sunken in the Tonga Trench is a Chinese nuclear submarine that wishes to remain hidden. If the Chinese are correct, that submarine is the key to them one day wielding a weapon more powerful than anything else on Earth, rendering nuclear warheads utterly useless. Meanwhile, in Asia, a string of earthquakes and tsunamis bring reports of mass casualties, though it’s quickly realized that such events are only the beginning, and soon, natural disasters begin wreaking havoc all around the globe. As Pierce and his team race for answers, they begin to realize that there is something decidedly unnatural about the disasters occurring. But could someone really be causing such acts to happen, and if so, how?

With the earth on fire and powerful enemies racing to take control of an extinction-level weapon capable of wiping out humanity, it’s once again up to Sigma Force to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself and to ensure that fire doesn’t once again lead to ice. It’s all hands on deck for Gray Pierce and his team. who must find a way to stop the end of the world before it’s too late.

If ever there was a question as to who would take over the throne vacated by the late Michael Crichton, Tides of Fire puts that discussion to rest once and for all. . . it’s James Rollins, and second place isn’t even close. Not only can Rollins really write—and he lets it all hang out here, putting his full range of talent on display from the first to the last page—but his ability to continue to somehow find time to develop his growing cast of beloved characters without sacrificing pacing or straying too far from the plot at hand, is unmatched. Longtime fans will no doubt love and appreciate his deft touch in that regard, and yet somehow, if you’re brand new to the series and looking to try out a Sigma Force book for the first time, Tides can function perfectly well as a standalone too. Fair warning, though, because those who do come into the series with this one will surely find themselves rushing to go back and start the franchise from the beginning as we await Rollins’ inevitable 18th entry, which cannot come fast enough. Bottom line: there’s nothing else quite like what Rollins is doing hitting store shelves today, and to find anything even remotely comparable, we’d have to take a trip so far down memory lane that many of today’s readers wouldn’t even recognize their surroundings. Crichton, rightfully so, is still celebrated and revered, but it’s time James Rollins gets the credit he so richly deserves, and we start mentioning him alongside other all-time greats.

Packed with double servings of sophisticated, cutting-edge tech, science, action, hateable bad guys, and good guys you can’t help but cheer on, Tides of Fire is another masterpiece from James Rollins and a real contender for best thriller of 2023.

Book Details

Author: James Rollins
Series: Sigma Force #17
Pages:  480 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062893076
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 15, 2023
Real Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, comes out on August 8th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And to take part in free, exclusive BOOK CLUBS each month, join The Real Book Spy on Discord.


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