Education: B.A. – History & Classics
Thriller Sub-genre: Science Fiction/Techno-thriller
Future of the series: The next and last in the series, Extinction Crisis, is expected to be released sometime this Fall.
The Simon Review
Ohhhhh aliens. I tend to avoid doing reviews on series that involve aliens mainly because my blog focuses on thrillers that have a more scientific slant and the concept of the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life forms is still very much in the area of speculation as there is no scientific evidence to support their existence. Oh, I know, there are hypothesis, such as the Drake Equation, that shows that the probability that life existing somewhere else in the universe is pretty high. And there are bona fide institutions, such as SETI, that look for life on other planets. But the reality is that we have yet to prove that even the simplest life form exist beyond planet earth, let alone highly intelligent beings that have capabilities to travel great distances across space. Then there is also this little problem that involves Einstein’s special theory of relativity that indicates that nothing can go faster than the speed of light and with the closet star to our solar system being over four light years away, the possibility of us connecting physically with another intelligent life form is pretty slim. Of course it is fun to speculate, and speculation is abound in James D. Prescott’s Ancient Origin series.
The series delves into the possibility that it wasn’t a meteorite that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but was instead an alien ship from outer space. Not only did they kill off the dinosaurs, but it seems that they had a hand in the evolution of Homo sapiens. The alien ship was discovered by physical geologist, Jack Greer, who was investigating an anomalous finding located at the impact zone of the ill-fated meteorite that resulted in what is known as the fifth extinction. Once this discovery was unfolded, a whole set of events started to take place which included an activation of a genetic anomaly, an uprising of an anti-alien group known as the Sentinel, and the discovered alien ship sending out a SOS to its creators. Let’s just say that a whole lot of action takes place.
Prescott is writing this series as a trilogy with the third in the series, Extinction Crisis, to be released sometime in the near future. Even though I am not a big fan of alien fiction, I did find the Ancient Origins series an enjoyable and captivating read and I really look forward to reading the next book when it comes out especially to find out whether the aliens are good guys or bad guys. The only downside is that Prescott made the aliens to be insect-like creatures. Evolutionary Paleobiologist, Matthew Wills, at the University of Bath is dubious that aliens would be insects because; “Although insects are the most species rich group on Earth, it would be too difficult for aliens to look like these creatures, as it entails periodic shedding and regrowth”. The scientist in me just wished that Prescott chose a life form that would have been more plausible.
Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Extinction Countdown- it ended with an exciting cliff-hanger which really makes me look forward to the next book
Least Favorite Novel in the Series- Extinction Code- only by default
What about the science? As I was reading the series, I thought to myself that Prescott must have some kind of background in genetics as his discussion on genes and chromosomes were a bit more sophisticated than the average techno-thriller. I was surprised to find that Prescott’s background isn’t in science but in history. He did tell me though that he has a keen interest in biology and physics with an additional passion in archaeology. To prepare for writing the Extinction Code, Prescott took a crash course in genetics and obtained some advice from a geneticist, so I have to give him a thumbs up for going the extra mile on trying to make the science in this series believable. So, what about the science? Prescott pulls a James Rollins, as some of the science is real, such as some of the genes that are mentioned, while other parts are undoubtedly in the realm of science fiction. And, of course, there are the aliens and after reading my review, you know how I feel about them.
The Mia Ward Technical Word in Review: Dsup- is short for damage suppressor protein and is not found in humans, but, in fact, can only be found in a little creature known as tardigrade. There are over a thousand different species of tardigrade, also more commonly known as ‘water bears’, but only a few species of tardigrade, including one known as Ramazzottius varieornatus, are remarkably tolerant to extreme conditions. R. varieornatus has superhero abilities that include surviving almost complete desiccation, tolerating temperature extremes from as low as -321°F to as high as 194°F, being doused in organic solvents, exposed to high doses of radiation, and even being subjected to the vacuum of outer space and still live to see another day. It is the protection from what would be exposure to lethal doses of radiation that Dsup plays a role. DNA is the most susceptible molecule to radiation which can result in mutations that lead to cancer, and with high doses of radiation lead to massive cellular death. R. varieornatus can survive being exposed to over 500,000 rads (a lethal dose for humans is about 500-1000 rads). Researchers believe that Dsup somehow binds to DNA and acts like a shield, blocking it from harmful radiation. So the bottom line is if we, the human race, decide to commit suicide by launching a nuclear war, little water bears will take our place.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
“The four genes from the 48th chromatid are vastly different and in many cases, behave in ways that are downright astonishing. Some we’ve already come to know well. Like the gene LRP5, which encodes a protein that greatly increases bone density; SOD11A and the powerful protein Dsup, incredibly helpful in shielding us from radiation; MRE11, which repairs errors in our DNA; and finally, HOK3, perhaps the most mysterious of all. Far more testing remains to be done, but here’s what we know about it so far. The gene seems to affect the parahippocampal gyrus in the cerebral cortex.” –Extinction Countdown
Books in the Series by Order:
Most Favorite in the series: Extinction Countdown with a score of 4.20
Least Favorite in the series: Extinction Code with a score of 4.08
Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)
Chief Scientist Dr. Jack Greer watched through high-powered binoculars as the helicopters drew nearer.
Jack Greer: Physical geologist that discovers the alien ship
Mia Ward: Geneticist that is an expert in the Salzburg Syndrome
Ollie Cooper: A ‘supposed’ photographer for National Geographic but is so much more
Anna: ‘Artificial Neuron Network Algorithm’, a robot
Rajesh Viswanathan: Anna’s creator
Gabby Bishop: An astronomer and second in command on the meteorite expedition
Off the Yucatán coast & Brazil
We were wrong about the origins of our species.
For eons, the truth has remained hidden.
Geophysicist Jack Greer believes he may finally have found the resting place of the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago. A few miles off the Yucatán coast, Jack and a team of scientists tow an aging drilling platform over the impact crater with the aim of securing a sample. But buried deep beneath the earth lies a shocking discovery that threatens to shatter everything we think we know about the origins of our species.
A world away, geneticist Dr. Mia Ward receives a mysterious delivery from her former boss and mentor, Alan Salzburg. In it are clues of a dire warning hidden inside the human genome, one which foretells man’s very extinction.
His instructions to Mia are simple: keep the information safe and, above all, trust no one–words all the more chilling after Alan turns up dead. But who wrote the message and what does it mean? Jack’s recent discovery just may hold the answers, but can she reach him in time to save the human race?
Looking for a review of Extinction Code? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.30 out of 5 stars based on 274 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.01 out of 5 stars based on 9 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.04 out of 5 stars based on 1334 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.67 out of 5 stars based on 3 ratings
Total Score 4.08
The nineteen members of the Senate Intelligence Committee scowled down from the lofty heights of the oak bastions.
Jack Greer, Mia Ward, Ollie Cooper, Anna, Rajesh Viswanathan and Gabby Bishop
Kayza Mahoro: A journalist
Washington, D.C., Greenland, Kolkata, India, and Rome
Dr. Jack Greer’s startling discovery beneath the Gulf of Mexico proved to the world we were not alone in the universe. But when images from the Voyager One space probe reveal an alien doomsday ship hurtling toward the earth, the human race seems marked for extinction.
As news of the approaching ship spreads panic around the globe, signs of a sinister plot begin to emerge–one that threatens to unravel the already fragile fabric of society and everything Jack and Dr. Mia Ward have fought for.
But could a mysterious signal emanating from inside Greenland’s ice sheet unlock the secrets hidden within our genome and prevent humanity’s destruction?
From the frozen fields of Greenland to the bustling Indian subcontinent and the cobbled streets of Rome, the race is on to stop the deadliest countdown to extinction the human race has ever known.
Looking for a review of Extinction Countdown? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.48 out of 5 stars based on 86 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 3.75 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.16 out of 5 stars based on 500 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings
Total Score 4.20