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Friday, April 30, 2010

Another great series from Cussler

Serpent by Clive Cussler

The book begins in the prologue with a story based on a real shipwreck, the Italian luxury liner SS Andrea Doria, off the shor of Nantucket. Cussler devotes several pages to describing the events up to the collision with the MS Stockholm through the sinking of the Doria, building suspense and creating sympathy for the victims and survivors.

Cussler then whisks us away to Morocco to an archaeological dig including an underwater site. Here we are introduced to Nina Kirov--a tall blond diver who is the owner, president and sole employee of her marine archaeological consultancy firm called Mari-Time Research. While exploring the shoreline and a hidden lagoon, she discovered a carved head with unusual, yet familiar features. She returned to the main camp, reported her findings--except the carved head. That she saved for a friend of hers back home for further research. Nina sent a sketch to her friend at the University of Pennsylvania. Early morning of her third day at the site, Nina narrowly misses being massacred with the rest of the dig team. She escapes by way of the water and is then rescued by ...

Kurt Austin, the Special Assignments team leader in NUMA (National Underwater Marine Agency), is tall with blue eyes and nearly while hair. While rescuing the beautiful Nina Kirov from certain death, Austin unfortunately invites the assassins to finish her off and everyone else aboard the Nereus (a NUMA vessel). With odd of three to nine, Austin, his buddy Joe Zavala and the Captain of the Nereus manage to win against the ninja trained assassins.

Finishing up an assignment in the Yucatan of Mexico, Dr. Gamay Trout--another member of NUMA--has finally arranged a meeting with a VIP from the national anthropological museum in Mexico City. She asked Dr. Chi if there were any archaeological sites in the Yucatan that depicted marine life. Gamay expected to look at drawings of scallops, Dr. Chi showed her instead a nautical scene. While exploring the ruins, they stumbled upon chicleros who loot Mayan ruins and sell the artifacts. These chicleros didn't want their looting business interrupted by curious gringos.

So what does an Italian luxury liner, archaeological dig in Morocco, and chicleros in Mexico have in common? That's what Kurt Austin wants to know.

Enter Don Halcon. He is the owner of Halcon Industries which is an umbrella corporation with many divisions. Halcon is also apparrently a descendant of The Brotherhood--a group of fanatics formed in the 1400s to protect the honor of Christopher Columbus. A rumored artifact on the Andrea Doria, the carved head in Morocco and the nautical scenes in Yucatan all suggested pre-Columbian relations between the East and West. Don Halcon wanted it all eliminated and anyone who got in his way.

Clive Cussler is an excellent writer. I've only read the first two Dirk Pitt adventures, but I think I might prefer Kurt Austin and the NUMA files series. While Dirk Pitt comes across rough around the edges, Kurt Austin seemed more of a gentleman. Don't get me wrong, I will definitely read the rest of the Dirk Pitt series, but then will promptly move on to the NUMA files. I found Serpent hard to put down. Cussler's great style shines through even in a new series.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I think I need a second ...

... read that is. I just finished Clive Cussler's Golden Buddha. Golden Buddha is from the Oregon Files series. I though this was just another series written by Cussler. It is actually a spin-off of the Dirk Pitt adventures. As I read, it seemed as though Juan Cabrillo and his crew may have been introduced at least once if not more in the Pitt series. It seems less James Bond and damsel in distress, and more ethical mercenaries. So though I had some trouble following all the characters and all the action (storyline jumped around alot with simultaneous events), there was plenty of action and kept my interest. Afterall, I had to figure out what happened to two Buddhas, the Dalai Lama, and what was hidden in the secret compartment.

I will finish the Dirk Pitt adventures, then revisit this book in its turn and give it a proper review.

One thing did bug me: if you discover you need batteries, ask for them instead of ham and cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rough around the edges, but a great read

Becoming a Clive Cussler/Dirk Pitt fan, I researched to discover all the titles in the series and in which order I should read them. Though Mediterranean Caper was the first published, and the first one I could find to read, it was not the first Cussler wrote. Though Pacific Vortex was not published until years after Mediteranean Caper, it is supposed to be Dirk Pitt's introduction. Yes, I'm the type of person who wants to read a series in order, so I hunted down the first of the series. Even Cussler himself admits in the foreward to Pacific Vortex that it is still rough around the edges and he wasn't sure if he even wanted to publish it. I read several reviews that said Pacific Vortex was not as good as subsequent Clive Cussler books. Keeping that in mind, I dove in.

Everyone has heard of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. The Pacific seems to have a mystery of its own--the Pacific Vortex. It has been swallowing ships for years, yet was counted as an unsolved mystery of the sea until a communications canister appears off a beach in Hawaii where Dirk Pitt is relaxing. A former Major in the Air Force, now with NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency), Pitt seems to be an expert of transportation of air and sea--planes, helicopters, boats, submarines--which makes him the perfect go-to guy for the assignment of finding the Starbuck. The Starbuck was an experimental nuclear sub on a test run when it went missing in the Pacific Vortex. With nuclear technology on board, Pitt is asked to help find and recover the sub before someone else does and uses the technology against the United States.

I'll admit that there were a couple scenes in the beginning of the book that were a little cheesy, but I pressed on and I'm glad I did. Though a little rough to start the rest of the book was great. The imagery is fantastic. Another adventurous thrill-ride. In fact, it reminded me of things I loved in my childhood--deep sea explorations, discovering sunken ships, a twisting and turning mystery. Just when you think you know what's going to happen next, Cussler adds another twist that keeps you reading.

I really enjoyed Pacific Vortex and look forward to reading the rest of Dirk Pitt's adventures.