Sigma Force is a techno-thriller series by author James Rollins (a pen name for Czech-American Jim Czajkowski) chronicling the exploits of a covert special forces agency, recruited by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for their incredible intelligence as well as fighting skills. Together the team goes on missions to investigate and secure discoveries, both technological and historical, that could hurt the United States and the world, which more often that not brings them to a clash with the Guild, a mysterious organization bent on world domination.
Sandstorm (2004) — In many ways a prequel novel, Sandstorm follows Painter Crowe, future head of Sigma Force, on the mission that led up to his promotion. After an explosion at the British Muesum, Painter teams up with the wealthy Lady Kara Kensington and her foster sister Safia Al-Maaz to find the lost city of Ubar in Oman and the lake of antimatter it rests on. They are pursued by former Sigma agent, Cassandra Sanchez, who works for the mysterious Guild.
Map of Bones (2005) — The first book to introduce the series protagonists — Gray Pierce, Monk Kokkalis, and Kat Bryant. After the massacre of an entire congregation attending mass in Cologne Cathedral in Germany, during which its most prized treasure — the bones of the Three Magi — were stolen, Sigma joins up with Rachel Verona, a beautiful Italian archeologist, and her uncle Vigor, a priest and custodian of the Vatican Archives, to find the bones and discover a mysterious substance that may have been the source of Biblical miracles while clashing with the Dragon Court and its enforcer, Raoul de Sauvage. The series also introduced Seichan, an agent of the Guild with unclear allegiances. The book also features a rare benevolent Vatican secret society.
Black Order (2006) — While Gray goes to Denmark to find Charles Darwin's family Bible, Painter heads to Tibet where he finds a Buddhist monastery full of dead monks and a swastika painted in blood. Both their teams find themselves in a battle between two groups of Those Wacky Nazis intent on uncovering research on creating Super Soldiers, delving into Nazi Germany's real-life genetic and nuclear experiments.
The Judas Strain (2007) — Gray teams up once again with Seichan and Vigor to seek out the key to stopping a strange disease that has broken out aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Indonesia (where Monk is representing Sigma in the relief/investigation efforts) that threatens the entire world. The series also introduces Joe Kowalski, a hulking ex-Navy soldier. The first book in the series to have a Twist Ending, meaning most plot threads from future books will invariably spoil the previous highly serialized installments.
The Last Oracle (2008) — A Russian cabal has been bioengineering autistic Roma children into psychic prophets... while hatching a plan to massacre world leaders convening at Chernobyl to witness the sealing of its contaminated reactor, leaving Russia powerful again. Painter would have to deal with one such child who somehow made it to America, Gray and Kowalski travel to Chernobyl to stop said cabal, and Monk (who survived drowning in last book) has to accompany a cadre of such children to the area around the highly radioactive Lake Karachay.
The Doomsday Key (2009) — Three murders separated by distance (the Vatican, Mali and Princeton) are connected by the victims sharing the same Celtic cross seared onto their chests. Meanwhile, a Norwegian corporation is making questionable genetically modified crops. Gray, Kowalski, Rachel and Seichan travel across Britain to find connections between said company's crops and 800-year-old cases of "death with a full stomach", while Painter, Monk and newcomer John Creed travel to Norway to investigate the company itself.
The Devil Colony (2011) — A cataclysmic explosion in Utah portends an even greater catastrophe: the long-overdue eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Blame for the blast is pinned on a radical Native American youth organization protesting the "desecration" of a sacred graveyard by an archaeological team — among whose ranks is Painter's niece, Kai Quacheets. Gray and Kowalski must infiltrate Fort Knox to uncover secrets related to the blast, Kai must fight for her life and prove her innocence, a Japanese research team affiliated with Sigma is on the lookout for strange stirrings in Europe, and Painter discovers a truly horrifying secret — one which extends all the way back to the origins of the Mormons and the founding of America.
Bloodline (2012) — Somali pirates kidnap Amanda Gant-Bennett, the pregnant, runaway daughter of President James Gant. Gray and Seichan set out to rescue her and her unborn child, accompanied by Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his combat dog Kane, Kat and Lisa get in on the action by investigating rumors about a fertility clinic in Charleston, South Carolina, and Painter, Monk and Kowalski investigate links between Amanda's kidnapping, the Guild, and a staff said to have been used by Jesus himself — reputed to hold the key to immortality.
The Eye of God (2013) — An American satellite used to conduct research on the dark energy contained in a comet crashes somewhere in Mongolia, setting off a wild scramble to find it, but not before relaying a horrifying image of the Atlantic coast of America in ruins. Meanwhile, Vigor Verona receives a mysterious package from a colleague who supposedly disappeared a decade ago — a skull etched with Aramaic writing and a book bound in human skin, both of which are identified to be Genghis Khan's. Sensing something is afoot, Gray and Sigma reunite with the Veronas to investigate links between the crashed satellite, relics of the Khan, the fall of the Roman Empire, and rumors of an ancient superweapon — while forcing them to question the very nature of reality itself.
The Skeleton Key (2010): Seichan awakes with a metal collar rigged with explosives around her neck and a strange boy by her side. Forced to fight for her life, she and the boy race through the streets of Paris and beneath to stop an apocalyptic cult.
Tracker (2012): Before they met Sigma Force, Tucker and Kane rescue a woman fleeing three assassins on the streets of Budapest, only to realize that she holds the key to a terrible secret originating from Nazi Germany's final days.
Sigma Force contains examples of:
Ancient Astronauts: Implied with the big discoveries of many of the books, but perhaps the biggest one is the nano-enhanced gold artifacts featured in The Devil Colony.
Artistic License: Of a variety of types. One of the biggest ones (acknowledged by Word of God) is that the Dragon Court (the overt Nebulous Evil Organization from Map of Bones) is a real group, but they are actually very benevolent and philanthropic, not the world domination seekers depicted in the novel.
Badass Bookworm/Genius Bruiser: Sigma Force members are recruited based on both their military and intellectual prowess. Once drafted from the military, recruits are given crash courses on their chosen fields of study.
Map of Bones: Raoul de Sauvage, Imperator of the Dragon Court. It's actually General Rende
Black Order: Sir Baldric Waalenberg, with his many children as a collective of dragons
The Judas Strain: Two Guild operatives — Amen Nasser (Gray, Pete, Seichan and Vigor) and Devesh Patanjali (Monk, Lisa and the passengers of the Mistress of the Seas)
The Last Oracle: General-Major Savina Martov
The Doomsday Key: Krista Magnussen and Wallace Boyle, member of "Echelon", a higher-up of the Guild
The Devil Colony: Rafael Saint Germaine
Bloodline:First Lady Teresa Melody Gant
Bilingual Bonus: Although most foreign phrases are translated for the readers' convenience, some are left up to the reader to figure out, such as "svoloch", a Russian word for "scum", featured in The Last Oracle.
Chickification: Kat Bryant, sadly. After being introduced in Map of Bones as a Badass Knife NutAction Girl with a penchant for slitting throats with aplomb, she is quickly thrown in a relationship with Monk, knocked up, slapped with a desk job and left Out of Focus for many of the following books, to the point that Painter, the aging director of Sigma, sees more field time than she does. Subverted come Bloodline, fortunately, where she and Lisa get to join in on the action by investigating a fertility clinic in Charleston before being tasked with securing William, Amanda's genetically-altered newborn son.
Cool Pet/Right-Hand Attack Dog: Kane, Tucker's dog. Unlike most examples, however, Tucker treats Kane with respect and care, and even had literal Pet the Dog moments with him (such as comforting him after he had to kill what he thought to be a dog (actually a robotic drone)).
Creepy Child: The four Gypsy children from The Last Oracle: Konstantin, Pyotr, Kiska, and Sasha. Justified because they are autistic and the product of psychic experimentation.
Dan Browned: Averted. Rollins' disclaimers instead always state that any historical/scientific errors are entirely his own and for the sake of Artistic License.
Darkest Hour: The middle of Bloodline, when President Gant orders Sigma shut down after his daughter Amanda was apparently killed during her rescue attempt. Fortunately Painter turns the situation around when not only does Tucker bring the real Amanda, alive and well, but also convinces the President that someone in his own family may have staged her "death".
Early-Installment Weirdness: Sandstorm very much different from later books in the series, in that only Painter is shown from Sigma (besides Cassandra). Afterwards, he is promoted into a cushy desk job, and more Sigma operatives are brought in as main characters.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Many of the novels have this for the Sigma team, but the biggest example is Bloodline.
Enforced Method Acting: Fiona (The Chick from Black Order) gets shot in the middle of a crowded amusement park, so what does Gray do? He scoops her up in his arms, tells her to play up her pain by screaming, and he starts yelling "BOMB!" at the top of his lungs.
Happens again in The Judas Strain — to create a distraction, Gray jumps off a scaffold in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia. He actually does hurt his ankle in the fall, prompting the museum director to call an ambulance.
Expy: Gregory Metcalfe, (The new DARPA Director since The Doomsday Key) seems like one of Leon Vance.
Evil Plan: Many of the books involve Sigma trying to stop the Big Bad from precipitating a possible disaster that could lead to a Class 5-6 catastrophe.
Sandstorm:Antimatter destruction, precipitated by a sandstorm currently ravaging Oman.
Black Order:Quantum devolution of all living things.
The Judas Strain:A disease that attacks the brain and causes a wide variety of symptoms, almost invariably ending in death.
The Last Oracle:The radioactive waters of Lake Karachay being unleashed to the world.
The Doomsday Key:A fungal mutation attached to genetically modified corn.
The Devil Colony:Nanites eating the landscape and essentially wiping out vast pockets of land.
Bloodline:The eponymous Bloodline, an even more mysterious group than the Guild, attaining immortality and the power to have their way with the world.
Guile Hero: Painter, more so in Bloodlinewhen he decides to keep silent about his suspicions about the Gants even to Gray. The latter, initially confused, ultimately understood that with so influential a family they can't afford to blow their cover.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: Seichan seems to switch allegiances with reckless abandon until around The Devil Colony, by which point she has defected to Sigma for good.
Map of Bones:Raoul had this moment after his exposure to the blinding light of antimatter, where he is left a paralyzed, mumbling mess apologizing for his atrocities before Seichan shoots him out of his misery.
Bloodline:By the time Gray met him, Robert Lee Gant, the man behind the Guild, is already beginning to show genuine remorse over the atrocities he has done, such as ordering the bombing at Gray's house that killed his mother Harriet — all because he cannot turn his back on the Deal with the Devil he had made with the Bloodline when he was very young and very naive.
Heroic Bastard: Seichan is the product of Robert Gant's dalliance with a Southeast Asian woman, making her a highly-sought prize by the Bloodline, which have been manipulating Robert's ambitions for presidency, forcing Robert to recruit Seichan as an agent, Hidden in Plain Sight from the Bloodline's prying eyes.
Incest Is Relative: In Map of Bones, Rachel's nonna tells her that she was forced to carry two children fathered by the Baron de Sauvage (grandfather of Raoul, The Dragon of the story.) This means that Rachel is expected to marry her step-second-cousin.
The Man Behind the Man: The Guild's (or rather, the Bloodline) principal modus operandi is manipulating any ambitious people into unwittingly giving them what they wanted through sleeper agents before making off.
The Doomsday Key: Krista was sent to seduce the head of Viatus Corporation, a Norwegian GM food company, into giving her (and the Guild) the mutant fungi which can instantly kill people who eat food infected with them as well as the antidote, with which they can control human population as they will. Once they're done, they can dispose of Viatus and pin the blame on the plague they are about to unleash on the disgraced company before making off.
Bloodline: It turns out that there is a Bigger Bad to the entire series — the eponymous Bloodline, a race of world-domination seekers who, tired with the Guild's repeated failures, decide to personally go into action by seeking immortality, manipulating the Guild's scientists into experimenting with women who can carry children with triple-helix DNA before assassinating both President James Gant, who is married to one of their own — Teresa — as well as as his brother, State secretary Robert Lee Gant, allowing Teresa to exploit national mourning and sympathy into becoming the President and thus the Bloodline's external arm.
The Mole: Featured in Sandstorm.It's Tony Rector, director of Sigma at the time, who's replaced afterwards by Painter after the former chose to shoot himself rather than face trial.
Obfuscating Disability: In order to get the drop on the Guild agents holding him and his wife hostage in The Judas Strain, Jack, a retired soldier with Alzheimer's, starts acting extremely agitated, as if his dementia is getting worse. But he's faking it — he's still fully in control of his mental faculties, so he and Harriet work together to escape. The fact that he's an amputee helps the Guild underestimate him further.
Papa Wolf: A principal theme in Bloodline. President Gant is apparently very concerned for Amanda, to the point that he swears to Painter that he will turn the lives of whoever kidnapped Amanda into a "living hell". Likewise, Robert is this to Seichan, shielding him from the bullets of Bloodline agent Petra.
Playing Possum: Bloodline's climax is the staged "assassination" of President Gant, who already knew that someone in his own family may be responsible for Amanda's kidnapping, with Gray as the "killer" sniper and Tucker detonating small explosives meant to make the President bleed as part of the ruse. After that, Sigma would only have six hours to uncover the source of their troubles before the President is to be stated to have "miraculously survived" the attempt.
Poirot Speak: Averted. Most foreign dialogue from foreign characters consists of either muttering (Ryan's father in Black Order), giving orders (Baldric and his children, again in Black Order), and/or swearing (Nicholas in The Last Oracle is particularly fond of yelling "svoloch").
Red Herring Twist: The Devil Colony ends with Painter coming to the conclusion that President James Gant may have had a hand in the Guild's operations, and Bloodline apparently begins with a fast-forward to Gray, who has more than enough reason to be angry following his mother's death in a bombing meant for him, apparently about to snipe the President. Except the "assassination" was actually a ruse (with Gant himself as a willing participant) meant to distract the Guild while Sigma roots out its higherups — among which is President Gant's own wife, Teresa, a member of the eponymous matrilineal clan desirous of world domination.
Redemption Equals Death: In Bloodline Robert Lee Gant, older brother of President James, is outed as the apparent leader of the Guild. By the time Gray met him, however, he is already showing genuine remorse over his past actions (such as indirectly killing Gray's mother). So he finally decides to do the right thing — by shielding his daughter Seichan from Bloodline assassin Petra. Quote his final words...
Scenery Porn: Occasionally, but most prevalent in Black Order, where Rollins describes in great detail the decor of the meeting hall in Copenhagen where the auction is being held... except he actually uses it as an opportunity to criticize Scandinavian design (which he calls a "total lack thereof").
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Gray used to be an Army Ranger, but when his superior made a bad decision with an unnecessary human cost, he was so enraged that he struck the man, earning himself a court-martial and a sentence in Leavenworth, during which time he studied philosophy and religion and was afterwards recruited by Sigma.
Shock and Awe: From beginning to end, Map of Bones is all over this trope. Sandstorm too, and also Black Order, but to a much lesser extent.
Sir Swears-a-Lot: Fiona. Mostly in British English, but American readers should get the gist.
Rafael Saint Germaine, Big Bad of The Devil Colony, to Raoul de Sauvage of Map of Bones being both French Jerks with a savage taste for bloodshed, though Raphael lacks Raoul's predilection for rape and leans on being more of a Noble Demon.
The Stinger/Twist Ending: Starting The Judas Strain onwards, the novels end with a tantalizing preview of the next one.
The Judas Strain: An SOS signal from Monk, who apparently drowned while on a rescue mission off the coast of Indonesia.
The Last Oracle: A drawing of Seichan's dragon pendant, shown by one of the recuperating autistic savants to Gray.
The Doomsday Key: A tattoo of a divider, a crescent and a star on Wallace's back, which is a portent to Painter.
The Devil Colony: Doubles as a Sudden Downer Ending — Gray's mother, Harriet, is killed in an explosion at their house meant for him, while Painter comes to the conclusion that President Gant may have had a hand in the Guild's operations.
Bloodline: Robert Gant's dying words to his daughter Seichan that her mother is still alive, and a poem about how the Bloodline, which manipulated the Gants from the shadows and thus the power behind the Guild's operations, may rise once more to haunt Sigma Force.