James Rollins

Crucible

William Morrow 2019

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Science FictionNew Books Network February 18, 2019 Rob Wolf

James Rollins’ books are usually categorized as thrillers, but most of them could easily be labeled science fiction. An instant bestseller, his latest novel, Crucible...

James Rollins’ books are usually categorized as thrillers, but most of them could easily be labeled science fiction. An instant bestseller, his latest novel, Crucible (William Morrow, 2019), is no exception, revolving around the effort to control Eve, an artificial super-intelligence.

On one side of the conflict is a secret sect, the Crucibulum. The spiritual descendants of the Spanish Inquisition, the members of the Crucibulum consider female scientists—like Eve’s inventor, Mara Silviera, a Portuguese graduate student—to be heretics and witches. On the other side is Sigma Force, a group of former soldiers working for the Defense Department’s research and development arm. This is Rollins’ 14th novel featuring Sigma Force.

When the Crucibulum steal Eve and order her to destroy Paris, the only way Sigma Force can hope to prevent disaster is by unleashing Eve’s equal: a second Eve.

The two Eves represent the risks and rewards of the singularity, Rollins says. The bad Eve is a super-intelligence run amok, one who will do anything—including destroying its human inventors—in a fight to survive. The good Eve, who sides with Sigma Force, represents the hope that “the singularity will be a boon to mankind,” Rollins says.

Rollins concedes that genre categories are sometimes arbitrary. “When I wrote my first novel, Subterranean, I thought I was writing a science fiction novel,” he says. “My editor … said, ‘Hey, we’re going sell this as a modern-day thriller,’ and I said, ‘What about those telepathic marsupial creatures that live under Antarctica?’ and she said, ‘You set your story in modern times, and you have enough scientific basis for those telepathic marsupial creatures, so therefore we’re just going to pitch you as a thriller writer.’”

Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.