Altar of Eden

Altar of Eden

by James Rollins

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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“Every James Rollins delivers mach-speed mayhem, throat-clutching suspense, high-style adventure, and a terrific story told terrifically.”
—Steve Berry, author of The Romanov Prophecy

The thriller king praised for his “edge-of-your-seat excitement” (San Francisco Chronicle), James Rollins storms the New York Times bestseller list with every novel he writes. With his latest breathtaking blockbuster, Altar of Eden, Rollins takes a breather from his Sigma Force adventures (Map of Bones, Black Order, The Judas Strain, et al) while delivering all the action, surprise, and intensity for which he’s well known—and loved. Combining science, history, and breakneck suspense—and a secret tied to the Book of Genesis—Altar of Eden is sure to satisfy every James Rollins fan while winning over a slew of new converts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061231438
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/28/2010
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 84,256
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

James Rollins is the author of international thrillers that have been translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the "hottest summer reads" (People magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets—and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight. He lives in the Sierra Nevada mountains.


Sacramento, California

Date of Birth:

August 20, 1961

Place of Birth:

Chicago, Illinois


James Rollins on the Truth behind the Tale

Your SIGMA series has been incredibly popular. What drew you to write a stand-alone thriller now?

After writing six Sigma novels, I was ready to tackle an independent story, one free of baggage and recurring characters. It was also a chance to return to my writing roots. My first five novels were stand-alone adventures. Each book was an attempt to capture some of the spirit of adventure found in the pulp novels that I grew up reading, paired with the wild imagination of writers such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and H. Rider Haggard.

In this book the main character is a veterinarian. For many years you were a practicing vet. What made you want to have a protagonist share your former profession?

Because I still love the profession. I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I remember in third grade getting that assignment all teachers eventually inflict upon their students: to answer what do you want to be when you grow up? I sat at my desk as a third grader, scratching my head. I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I had a big problem. I didn't know how to spell it. So I did the one thing all third graders are loath to do. I looked it up in the dictionary. I was that determined to be a veterinarian.

We see that you decided to make Dr. Lorna Polk a woman. How are you able to get inside the mind of a woman so well and what made you want to write from the point of view of a woman for this book?

When I was in veterinary school, half of the class was composed of women. Since then, that percentage has continued to grow. So I thought it would beappropriate to tell the story from such a fresh perspective. I also grew up with three brothers . . . and more importantly, three sisters. When it comes to getting inside the mind of a woman, they keep me honest. They're still my best first readers. And since I was breaking ground writing a new subgenre anyway-the first veterinary thriller-I thought I'd have a woman take the reins in what is normally a male-dominated genre. But I didn't want to write a female Rambo. I wanted to flesh out a real woman with a rich history, one tied to New Orleans where the story takes place. So Lorna Polk came into being.

One of the true scientific gems you include in ALTAR OF EDEN is the idea of "genetic throwbacks." What exactly is a genetic throwback and is it possible for my next kitten to be born with saber-tooth fangs?

The scientific term for "genetic throwback" is atavism. It's a real phenomenon where a genetic trait, lost for generations, returns in an individual. In this novel, one of the many creatures featured is a python born with reptilian limbs, a throwback to a time before the snake's ancestor lost its legs. I thought I was making this creature up, but a couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a scientific article about a Chinese snake born with a fully functional reptilian limb poking out of its flank. For the curious, a quick Google search will bring up a picture of this snake. It just goes to show that nature is full of surprises.

Another concept that you include in ALTAR OF EDEN is the idea of a higher, collective intelligence. Do you believe in the notion that animals can think together? Do you believe this type of intelligence already exists?

Something is definitely going on, something beyond our current understanding. One of the scientific phenomena explored in this novel is the human-animal bond-the strange and deep affinity humans have for animals, an affinity that goes beyond mere affection or need for companionship. The presence of animals has a profound effect on people: petting a cat triggers an immediate drop in blood pressure, animals brought into hospital wards boost immune responses in patients and accelerate healing times. Yet, it remains a mystery why we have this bodily reaction. Current research is exploring the roots of this strange bond. In this novel, I offer my own theory. But to tell you more would ruin the story.

I'm sure many fans of the SIGMA series are panicking, wondering when they are going to see Gray Pierce, Painter Crowe and the rest of SIGMA again. Why don't you quell their fears, when can we see the next SIGMA?

It comes out next summer (July 2010). In that book, a major storyline that has been building over the course of the series comes to a head, and all Hell breaks loose . . . in this case, literally. It's titled The Devil Colony and it's a huge story.

Customer Reviews

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Altar of Eden 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 651 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
With the fall of Baghdad, the American political leadership in the White House and the Pentagon howled in euphoria for the military victory insured the reelection next year. In their adrenalin highs, no one was concerned over looting including the zoo of its exotic animals that would make a fortune in the black markets of the west as some Iraqi adjust to capitalism rather quickly. However, when the zoo was invaded by smugglers, a secret underground lab is found. Seven years later research environmental biologist Dr. Lorna Park finds a wrecked trawler on Lost Eden Cay, a barrier island off the Louisiana coast. No crewman is found alive, but inside the cargo bay is a shocker; mutations of species that should not exist are locked in cages. Besides physical anomalies, these caged beasts are extremely intelligent. Ironically as her work is to save endangered species, Lorna is unsure what to do with this strange cargo. She and U.S. Border Patrol officer Jack Menard unite in an attempt to uncover who genetically modified the animals and perhaps more important the one beast who escaped captivity. This is a fast-paced thriller that modernizes Dr. Moreau using recent current events including the Iraq War and genetic breakthroughs; but the key is like HG Wells did, James Rollins makes the bad guys and altered animals especially the one that got away three dimensional and intelligent. The lead couple is a solid pairing, as they follow the clues of diabolically clever villains and an even smarter genetically altered beast. With an underlying message to think what we sow before we Alter Eden, fans will relish this terrific thriller. Harriet Klausner
FlaBookworm More than 1 year ago
I have read every book James Rollins has written (after coming across his work accidentally). I have yet to be disappointed in one of his novels. They are always well thought out and well researched. His writing style gives just enough techno jargon to serve its purpose , but always comes with a character who needs it in layman's terms and I thank him for that. I love the way he takes something historically provocative and weaves a thrilling tale around it. If you've never read his work, but like action packed adventure, Rollins is your guy.
Suspensemag More than 1 year ago
Writing plots and intricate characters that virtually reach out to snare like tentacles, Rollins continues to stagger us with his mind-blowing style in the introduction of his stand-alone thriller, "Altar of Eden". Beautifully crafted and set in the backcountry of Louisiana, it only takes a small squint of the eyes to see the landscape unfurl as Rollins words progress. When veterinarian Lorna Polk is summoned to the scene of an abandoned shipwreck, she couldn't have been prepared for the shock when she encounters an individual from her painful past and a vessel crammed with exotic animals. Each, a slightly unnatural version of a recognizable beast has an obvious and extraordinary intelligence. These animals-now orphans of the storm-are an incredible find even after the collective realization that a modern day monster, a female jaguar with the teeth of a saber tooth and a hungry cub, is on the loose. As the mission morphs into a hunt for the beast, the company that stands to lose all is taking no prisoners and leaving no evidence. They will not allow anyone to discover the truth behind their life's work even while it threatens the very fabric of our world. Teeming with creativity, Rollins' mix of the wide-ranging worlds of suspense and science equal a perfect cocktail to satisfy anyone's literary palette. Reviewed by Suspense Magazine
Tmorley8183 More than 1 year ago
As a fan of Rollins' previous Sigma force novels, I was somewhat hesitant to dive into a new set of characters, but what a pleasant surprise. In this new novel he introduces two new great characters (Jack & Lorna) all the while immersing the reader in the Louisiana bayou setting. And of course Rollins maintains his trademark perfect blend of science, action and character development. A must read for any Rollins fan.
Readit-byPam More than 1 year ago
This is the first and only book to date I have read br Rollins. I couldnt put down. The animals kept me intrigued and the plot kept me turning pages as fast as possible. Unusual, suspenseful and hard hitting. I hope this author keeps it coming. Mith a bit of scifi, and mysterious twist, couldnt put it done. I am definitely shopping for more by Rollins.
VictoriaQueen More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely a page turner, unfortunately in a few chapters it was a page skipper as well. The plot was awesome, your typical mad scientist looking to create a race of super human fighters in the hope of securing a Haliburton-sized government contract, and his evil minions who will stop at nothing to protect the "project". Most of the characters were well drawn out if not just a tad cliche. The heroine was your classic superwoman, blonde, blue eyed with advanced degrees who can quote obscure scientific facts at the drop of a dime. And our leading man was the lone-wolf warrior with the chiseled chin and piercing gray eyes that looked through your soul, his hard body bearing the scars of victory as he battles evil. But Mr. Rollins is such a talented writer that he makes these characters work. There is a sub-plot about their personal relationship that I found to be a bit contrived and when it engaged into the main storyline it was like an unwelcome houseguest that you just want to go away. The plot takes many surprise turns although some were painfully obvious most were pure writing genius, and while the last few chapters were nail-bitingly exciting the end was as flat as a pancake. I pressed the next key thinking there was a clitch in my Nook and this could not be the end, alas it was. As for the aformentioned page skipping, we really did not need the extended science lessons on the theoretical existance of factuals (sp?) and the beginning of life. However, Igor the featherless, talking parrot was a great character and I do hope we see him again.
BeachWriter More than 1 year ago
This one got off to a quick start and never slowed down. The Louisiana swampland was a perfect setting for this novel. The plot centers on a series of government experiments gone awry. Throw in a rekindled romance and several colorful characters, several good twists, and you have a great story. I found it hard to put down.
laurak122 More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of James Rollins - I like his writing style, as well as his stories. This was not his "best" book, but still was a great book! Rollins has some interesting characters in this one: I particularly like that the lead female thinks and behaves as many real women do (rather than like a scared, stupid ninny, as women are often portrayed). Rollins also touches very briefly on the issue of homosexuality in this book, making me wonder if he might write more on that some other time. I always appreciate Rollins' intellect, insight, and respect for all human beings and animals. This was a fantastic book with an interesting plot and I found it hard to put the book down when real life came calling!
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Multi talented actress Paula Christensen gives a stunning voice performance of James Rollins's latest thriller - a startlingly imagined tale of genetic engineering. From the initial moment when protagonist Lorna Polk makes an incredible discovery to the denouement Christensen perfectly captures each characters' shock, fear, resolution. ALTAR OF EDEN is a spellbinder, albeit a scary one. The tale begins at the Baghdad Zoo where two young boys are poking around where they shouldn't be - they find a storeroom filled with strange equipment and come face to face with an enormous monster, the likes of which they've never seen. Action segues quickly to veterinarian Lorna Polk in Louisiana who is summoned to see a cage of animals in a shipwrecked vessel. Odd things may have been found in the Mississippi River but never anything like this - the animals have been mutated, horribly so yet they are all highly intelligent. However, one beast is missing - a mammoth jaguar escaped and is killing in order to eat. Not only must the jaguar be found, but what or who could possibly be behind such nefarious doings, and for what reason? Lorna, with the help of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jack Menard, must find the answers to these questions and quickly. It's a gasp producing hunt as the two eventually uncover a secret they never could have imagined. - Gail Cooke
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
Altar of Eden is a fun, exciting and fast read. If you're looking to escape in a tv-movie sort-of-way, then this is a good purchase. James Rollins writes short and to the point. His characters and plot are somewhat similar - short and to the point. And it's enjoyable. The first half of the book sets the stage for genetically altered animals escape into the Bayou after an attempt to smuggle them into the U.S. goes awry. Rollins writes adventure and pseudo-science well. Think Michael Crichton lite. But that's not a bad thing. The book is full of gun fights and nasty animals attacks, plus the obligatory evil-scientist-explaining-his-nefarious-plot-to-the-protagonist. But it wraps up the story nicely. If you're looking for something deep, then keep looking. You can stop looking, however, if you're in the market for a rock solid adventure, with mutated jaguars and super-smart hominids.
Grandpa More than 1 year ago
After the fall of Baghdad, looters discover a secret laboratory beneath the zoo, and allow more than animals to escape. Seven years later a fishing trawler shipwrecks with very unusual things aboard. U.S Border Patrol agent, Jack Menard, is trying to track down the perpetrators of this horrible cargo. Twists and turns, packed with action make this a great read. I highly recommend it.
BrockSamson More than 1 year ago
The book starts with a break neck speed and never lets go. The books start in Baghdad after fall of Iraq. Two kids scavanging in a abandoned zoo for food witness a horrible attack by a creature that comes out of a hidden lab under the zoo. Fast forward to Louisiana. In the aftermath of a hurricane, an investigation into a beached trawler leads to a horrific discovery and hunt for a escaped creature that should not exist at all. Genetic manipulation, evolution, fractals, flocking behaviour and lots and lots of action make up rest of the book. Have read all James Rollins books (except for Jake Ransom. Yes I read Indiana Jones too), I am a big JR fan. It is refreshing to see JR return to stand alone series. The book devels into the murky subject of genetic manipulation with a awesome twist. I think the reason JR choose to write a standalone thriller was because Sigma team has already touched on some elements of this book (but not all) in The Judas Strain. The reason I read JR books is because I always get to learn something new science wise. Sadly the only new thing I learned was too little(fractals fractals everywhere). Rest of the elements in the book have already been touched upon in other recent books like Judas Strain, Next (by Michael Chricton) etc. Also the characters were not as well developed as you might expect of a JR book. And the Sigma Team would have probably kicked the villan's butt in the first few pages. Despite some of the shortcomings this is a excellent book. Definitely recomend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the worst Rollins book I have ever read. It was hard for me to get through the first few chapters because of how incredibly cliched the characters from Louisiana are portrayed. Rollins names drops throughout the book as though he is mentioning a Travel Channel highlights. By trying to be " authentic" he wound up being nauseating. Alter of Eden had a lot of promise, evolution, genetic throwbacks, but it was terrible. It may be the last newer james Rollins book I will read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of good adventure with plausible detail. A little predictable but still a fun read.
JoClare on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really love James Rollin's books. I love how he takes a historical tidbit of information and connects it to a slice of science, mixes it all together with a lot of adventure and a dash of romance and voilà!; I'm ready for an enjoyable read~I also love how he points out the facts and the fiction at the end of his stories; more than once I have gotten lost on the internet satisfying my curiosity regarding the history/science he calls to attention there.I think he does a great job with his protagonists, I find most to be really interesting and fleshed out. Sigma Force is a recurring theme in many of his stories and it adds another layer of interest for me, taking the adventure to the next level.Rollin's novels are every bit as enjoyable to me as a big screen summer blockbuster; think I'll go get some popcorn~
elbakerone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Veterinarian Lorna Polk is more than a little surprised when Jack Menard, a man from her past, shows up at her research facility in a border patrol helicopter asking for her help. Whisked off to examine the strange animals aboard an abandoned trawler, Lorna knows something odd is going on. The conjoined twin monkeys, featherless parrot, and cub of a saber-toothed cat all display heightened intelligence and evidence of genetic alterations. From this intriguing start, the novel takes off at a whirlwind pace. First, the adult saber-toothed cat is loose in the Louisiana bayou. Then, it's up to Lorna and Jack to track down the people responsible for transporting the animals and discover the truth behind the strange subjects. Meanwhile, the minds - and hired guns - behind the genetically altered creatures will stop at nothing to recapture the animals and dispose of those who know their secrets.As a reader, I'm a sucker for a great fast-paced action story; as a scientist, I love a genetic thriller done right. James Rollins' Altar of Eden had it all. I was really impressed at how accurate the concepts of biology were as they entwined into fiction in the story. High-tech science was explained in an every day manner while not coming across as being dumbed-down. Also, Dr. Lorna Polk - a veterinarian like Rollins himself - was a strong and intelligent heroine. She displayed realistic fear and emotion but was also action-oriented and determined at all the right moments. Overall, Altar of Eden was a smart thrill ride from beginning to end.
PegSwaney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
research on animals and humans for military- Dr. kidnapped - rescued- island destroyed and mutants formed
Emidawg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me this novel had a very "Chrichton" feel to it.While it was a page turner it was fairly formulaic. "Evil" government contractor performing genetic experiments, one gets loose and chaos ensues. Heroine gets involved, captured, and comerades must rescue her against odds.Not really my cup of tea but it did provide entertainment for a few days.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is difficult to describe a book like "Altar of Eden" without giving away too much of its plot. In simple terms, it can be thought of as a high speed thriller/shoot `em up that combines key elements of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (H.G. Wells) and "Jurassic Park" (Michael Crichton). As much as I like "The Island of Dr. Moreau," I dislike "Jurassic Park" so it does not surprise me that I have mixed emotions about "Altar of Eden." On the one hand, this is a science-based thriller and author James Rollins provides enough detail about fractal research and DNA manipulation to give his plot a certain degree of credibility. On the other hand, much of the book is filled with endless gun battles and sieges fought by a host of rather stereotypical characters on both sides (especially the Cajun bunch featured so prominently in the story). Rollins knows how to write a good thriller, and he punches all the right buttons in this one, but I have read enough thrillers now that they do not "thrill" me like they used to. What kept me reading this one was a desire to find out exactly what the rogue scientists were trying to achieve and what was going wrong for them. Dr. Lorna Polk, a veterinarian researcher, is stunned by what she finds in the hold of a boat that washes up on the coast of southern Louisiana after a bad storm. The caged animals there, while recognizable, appear to be throwbacks to an earlier evolutionary period during which they were not only larger than their modern counterparts but displayed physical characteristics long lost in the evolutionary process. What appears to be a baby saber-tooth jaguar is alone in one of the cages and the immediate problem becomes one of finding the baby's gigantic mother before she kills anyone as she moves up the coast in search of food. Lorna Polk and Jack Menard, the officer she teams up with, do not have to worry about finding the bad guys because those people are coming to them in a desperate attempt to get back their lost animals. This is a story of evil scientists, the amoral exploitation of science for military purposes, corrupt paramilitary organizations, religious fanaticism, and those innocently caught in the crossfire, including the victims produced by genetic research gone bad. Rollins also includes an interwoven bit of back history involving Lorna Polk and Jack Menard to make his characters more sympathetic to the reader and to break up what would otherwise have been an endless series of pitched gun battles. Strangely enough, even with all this back story, the most sympathetic characters in the book are not Lorna Polk and Jack Menard but are, instead, the animals and humans produced by the failed genetic experiments. As a thriller, "Altar of Eden" is only average but there is enough other stuff going on here to make it worth a look. Rated at: 3.0
Altarasabine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Undoubtedly one of the best books that I ever laid in my hands. A brilliant plot full of fast paced adventure. An intricate combination of real world science, put into easy to understand terms and concepts, into a fictional, yet quite possible, world. Enlightens the reader of what is actually taking place behind closed doors in the scientific community. Terrifying in its effectiveness of relating the consequences when man messes with the order of nature. Creating monsters that can do more than just haunt our nightmares. Captures humanity not only at its' worst but also at its' best, the parent child bond, true sacrifice, love and redemption. This book will pull your emotions from one extreme to the next. Includes a section at the end of the book that informs the reader of what was fact, what the author fabricated and where to find additional information.
psychdoc66 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A well written and entertaining scientific thriller. Fast paced and exciting story with well developed main characters. The author explains complex scientific concepts very well.
pharrm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a page turner. The scene jumps from the zoo in Bagdad after the US forces invasion to a ship abandoned out the coast of Lousiana bayou country. Inside the ship are some unusual animals that have throwback characteristics. Especially concerning is a missing animals of the "jaguar" family that has left a small sickly cub behind.Vet LornaPolk is called in to assist in identifing and saving the animals. Upon arrival she meets Jake Menard who saves a violent past with her. They both seek to find the missing animal in the swamps with the help of Jake's bayou family members who are not keen on Dr. Lorna.The puzzle of the animals DNA, and what it means takes the reader on a running journey across the Carribean to a fantastic island called "Eden".
JGolomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Altar of Eden is a fun, exciting and fast read. If you're looking to escape in a tv-movie sort-of-way, then this is a good purchase.James Rollins writes short and to the point. His characters and plot are somewhat similar - short and to the point. And it's enjoyable. The first half of the book sets the stage for genetically altered animals escape into the Bayou after an attempt to smuggle them into the U.S. goes awry.Rollins writes adventure and pseudo-science well. Think Michael Crichton lite. But that's not a bad thing.The book is full of gun fights and nasty animals attacks, plus the obligatory evil-scientist-explaining-his-nefarious-plot-to-the-protagonist. But it wraps up the story nicely.If you're looking for something deep, then keep looking. You can stop looking, however, if you're in the market for a rock solid adventure, with mutated jaguars and super-smart hominids.
MKPMRP More than 1 year ago
This was a lot of fun to read. Jurassic Park story line with a lot more violence but an outstanding cast of characters keeps you reading to the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alter of Eden was my initiation into the world of James Rollins one of the stirrings best authors since reading alter of eden I've read every thing Rollins has published where all his works are wonderful and a joy to read this remains one of my favorite all time books always scientifically accurate, just when you wonder how he going to keep the story line going, BAMM be his toy with a surprise and changes the game completely!!!