‘The Bone Labyrinth’ by James Rollins: Superb and thoughtful action thriller

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Rating: 5 stars

“The Bone Labyrinth” by James Rollins is a double treat. It’s a wonderfully thrilling action book filled with cliff-hanging scenes and characters and situations that will make your heart bleed. But it’s also a thought-provoking book filled with true facts about history and biology about which most readers (including this reviewer) will be fascinated to learn.

The beginning of the story serves to intrigue the readers with first a scene from the Southern Alps 38,000 B.C., when a group of strangers is hunting for children who were born from a Neanderthal – human pairing. The story then jumps to 1669 to Rome to the museum of Father Athanasius Kircher, who was “known as the Leonardo da Vinci of the Jesuit Order.” Kircher receives a mysterious visitor.

The story then jumps to modern day Croatia and Atlanta, with a main plot converging into two adventures involving twin sisters, Lena and Maria Crandall, both geneticists with similar interests. When Lena’s party is attacked in Croatia, Sigma Force is called in and goes to the rescue. At the same time, Maria Crandall is also attacked in her research lab near Atlanta. She is kidnapped along with her research subject, Baako (a gorilla genetically engineered using information about the Neanderthal genome to be more intelligent than he otherwise might have been), and a Sigma operative who was on the scene because of his ability to sign (which is how Baako communicates).

While there is plenty of action to please those who love reading thrillers, there is also plenty of heart. Pity the reader who does not fall in love with the plucky gorilla child, Baako, for that reader has no heart. Even Kowalski, the hard-hearted Sigma operative, isn’t immune to Baako’s charm by the end of the story.

New human species are still being discovered, including after this book was finished, as reported by the BBC in “New human like species discovered in S Africa.” And another article, “Modern humans and Neanderthals ‘interbred in Europe’” adds information that Rollins uses in the plot.

Rollins bases much of the story on “The Great Leap Forward.” It’s described as a time, 50,000 years ago, when there was “an intelligence explosion that has baffled both anthropologists and geneticists.” That question is explored in this story, as is the issue of stolen research by foreign nationals who come to the US and study in our universities, getting advanced degrees and information, and thus causing a possible security problem. Are we educating students who will then return to their countries with information that may be used in unethical ways that our laws would not permit?

The story also points out strange anomalies regarding the moon. For example, “….the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, while also sitting 1/400th distance between the earth and the sun. No other planetary moon in our solar system matches this symmetry, not even close. Isaac Asimov described this odd alignment as ‘the most unlikely coincidence imaginable.'”

There are stories of underground caverns in Ecuador with ancient treasures and proof of advanced ancient civilizations. Why did astronaut Neil Armstrong join a group looking for those lost caverns? What was found — or not — and what was covered up? There are still questions about findings that may or may not have been hidden by the Vatican, findings that would threaten our view of our history.

Science, animals, adventure, espionage, murder and mayhem — this book contains it all. And it will keep you thinking for days about the questions — or rather mysteries — that it raises. Rollins has outdone himself with this thrilling adventure.

Please note: This review is based on the hardcover book received from the publisher, William Morrow, for review purposes.