Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3)

0425197387-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Iceberg by Clive Cussler
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

A missing luxury yacht is found encased in an iceberg by a Coast Guard air patrol, but within a week of the discovery that bizarre sight won’t be the only thing that isn’t what it seems. Iceberg is the second published book of Clive Cussler’s series featuring Dirk Pitt, taking the U.S.A.F Major to the north Atlantic and Iceland then to Disneyland.

Taken away from his California vacation and dispatched by NUMA Director Admiral Sandecker to the titular iceberg in the North Atlantic, Dirk Pitt takes Dr. Bill Hunnewell to search for the ship before heading to Iceland. The two commandeer a U.S. Coast Guard cutter as a base of operations along the way, which proves fortuitous as the helicopter is low on fuel after a wild goose chase for the iceberg. Finding a way into the ship, they find it burned along with the crew as well as the owner, Kristjan Fyrie who is identified by Hunnewell who worked with him. As they head for Iceland, the two are attacked by a black jet and Hunnewell is mortally wounded while Pitt uses the helicopter to take out the jet before crash landing just off shore. Pitt survives an attempt on his life by two thugs disguised as local Icelandic police before eventually getting to the American consulate in Reykjavik. Sandecker offers to send Pitt back on his vacation, but as he suspects Pitt wants to find who killed him. The Admiral then orders Pitt to get close to Kristjan Fyrie’s twin sister who is now Iceland’s wealthiest person and who has shied away from the working with the U.S. government on a state-of-the-art probe, but Kirsti is engaged to fishing magnate Oskar Rondheim and Pitt decides to play a homosexual so as not to pose a threat to the man. After several escapes with Sandecker and a National Intelligence Agent respectfully, Pitt and Sandecker’s secretary are invited to party at Rondheim’s home which is a trap for several wealthy and politically important men from around the globe so they can die while a cabal of wealth businessmen that include Rondheim and Fyrie play to take over all of Central and South America. Rondheim beats the presumably gay Pitt and leaves him and the others to die in a remote part of Iceland. Pitt is able to find help and save nearly everyone, while in the hospital the head of the National Intelligence Agency swindles Pitt from NUMA to Disneyland so stop a duel assassination of Latin American leaders. Pitt gets revenge on Rondheim and then makes a deal with Fyrie, who had been Rondheim’s puppet after he learned Kirsti was actually Kristjan after a sex change.

Like The Mediterranean Caper this was a quick paced book, but this time there was a larger cast of characters instead of a tiny one that was present in both Pacific Vortex and Caper. Iceberg improved in narrative flow over its predecessor as well as making the characters a little more rounded, but still the one-dimensional characters were still prevent. While Dirk Pitt wasn’t as big of a…“jerk” as in Caper, he still wasn’t the same character that appears later in the series and what bad qualities he loses from Caper are negated from the over-the-top homosexual clichés that he displays as part of his act. Besides Pitt’s gay act, the transsexual-sex change angle and the misogynistic comments by numerous male characters could be called typical clichés of the mid-1970s but age really badly over the last 40 years. However the biggest hole in the book is the missing of Pitt’s best friend, Al Giordino, a mistake that Cussler never made again.

Iceberg shows improvement in narrative and characters to an extent, but some of the choices Cussler made negated them. Overall I can’t give this a lesser or better rating that the first Dirk Pitt book, but if there is anyone interested in getting into this series I don’t recommend starting with some of these early books. Read books later in the series and then come back to these early ones.

Dirk Pitt

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The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2)

5b2a8a55b5bc20e597750735951444341587343The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

A lazy Sunday afternoon at a U.S Air Force base on a quiet Greek island is shattered when a WWI-era German fighter attacks and then finds itself in a dogfight with a WWII-era seaplane. The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler was the first published book featuring Dirk Pitt and started off a four decade long series of books that sold millions of books and multiple times on the bestseller list.

Dirk Pitt and his best friend Al Giordino, heading to the Greek island of Thasos on a special assignment to a NUMA vessel, fight off a WWI German fighter attacking a nearby U.S. Air Force base in a WWII-era seaplane. The next morning Dirk takes an early morning swim and meets Teri von Till, niece of a reclusive shipping magnate who lives on the island. After meeting with the NUMA vessel’s captain, Pitt goes to meet Teri’s uncle Bruno for dinner and finds out he was a German pilot in World War I with a model submarine in his study. Von Till attempts to kill Pitt with his dog, but Pitt escapes and the next day with Giordino invade von Till’s mansion and kidnap Teri only to be detained by a member of an INTERPOL drug task force. Pitt and Giordino learn that von Till is a suspected drug smuggler and are ordered by the NUMA director to aid INTERPOL in stopping a massive shipment of heroin from reaching the U.S. After boarding the suspected cargo ship with the heroin, Pitt figures out how von Till hasn’t been caught. Pitt then leads a group of scientists to look for and find a massive cave in which they find several submarines, though caught by von Till and a mole from the INTERPOL task force it’s an elaborate trap as Giordino, several INTERPOL agents, and military personnel had raided von Till’s mansion and listened in on Pitt explaining to von Till everything he had figured out including that he was actually a Nazi war criminal which von Till didn’t deny.

This is a quick pacing book and has numerous cliché elements that one would expect to find in an early 1970s adventure novel with the main character notably inspired by James Bond. While I could knock the disjointed narrative flow or the weak character development of some of the other characters given the time period it was to be expected, the biggest eyesore is Dirk Pitt himself. The term “jerk” is a cleaned up way to describe Pitt’s interacting with anyone in the book including his best friend, Al, and his way to make a woman interested in him, slapping her for still mourning her late husband. This is not the same Pitt that appears in Pacific Vortex! or later in the series and would be a definite turn off for anyone encountering the character for the first time.

The Mediterranean Caper is a quick adventure that is sometimes fun, but today has a lot of problems. Though Clive Cussler’s portrayal of Dirk Pitt has improved over the last four decades, I would not recommend this book for those either interested in reading or listening to a Dirk Pitt novel. If you have read or listened to later books then be warned this is not the same Dirk that you’ve encountered.

Dirk Pitt

Pacific Vortex! (Dirk Pitt #1)

0553276328-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A mysterious area at sea just off the coast of paradise, a missing advanced Navy submarine, and a dashing Air Force pilot that loves the sea and women just seems like adventure. Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler was the sixth Dirk Pitt book published, but was the first story written by Cussler featuring Pitt that he finally relented in having published and as all the classic elements that signify a book in the series.

A new advanced Navy submarine is taking its shakedown cruise when its commander decides to investigate an anomaly of both weather and sea floor, the sub disappears and resulting search finds nothing. Six months later, Dirk Pitt is on vacation in he spots a communication capsule from the missing submarine and after delivering it to Naval base is seconded from NUMA to 101st Salvage Fleet and learns of titular Pacific Vortex in which 38 ships have disappeared. Bringing both a fresh expression and information he’s learned from a local native Hawaiian, Pitt deduces that everyone has searched in the wrong area and a potentially lost island might be near where the ships are. In the resulting search, Pitt and the Navy find the sub but can’t begin salvaging because they are attacked forcing them to retreat. The attack continues on Oahu as the daughter of the admiral heading the 101st is kidnapped and Pitt almost murdered by the leader of the mysterious group. The Pentagon decides to strike the area with missiles to destroy not only the sub but any threat from the area in the future, but Pitt mounts a rescue mission for the admiral’s daughter and the sub before the strike. Unfortunately his plan fails, but luck allows both the rescue of the sub and admiral’s daughter to workout but not without a sacrifice on Pitt’s part.

Overall this is a quick paced book that keeps the reader engaged with its action and doesn’t slow down even when exposition occurs in the text. While Pitt himself is fleshed out, other characters are for the most part two-dimensional though given the type of book this is. Obviously there are a lot of clichés throughout the text, but even Cussler is smart enough to flip some on their head especially when book’s antagonist chides Pitt for thinking he can trick him into telling him his evil plan. The classic car and legendary location that connects to the sinister plot are the primary motifs that this series is known for that make major appearances showing that from the beginning were always there. The biggest flaw is that given what occurs later in the series about events taking place in this book, there is a major plot hole.

Pacific Vortex! is good adventure story that has shades of James Bond, but is very much something completely different. This first adventure of Clive Cussler’s character Dirk Pitt, it does not have to be read first or sixth but whenever you decide to if you’re reading any books in the series. If you’re into adventure, thrills, and quick books to read this is one to consider.

Dirk Pitt

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This classic story of wrongful imprisonment, hidden treasure, and revenge is truly a masterpiece. Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel The Count of Monte Cristo has seen life not only in print but in film and television, but one cannot appreciate the novel unless you read it in its entire unabridged length.

Edmond Dantes is wrongfully accused of a crime and thrown in prison without trial to be forgotten, after overcoming both mental and physical anguish and befriending a fellow prisoner, and finally he is able to escape. Thanks to his friendship Dantes knows where a potential hidden treasure is located and finds it to be real, and using it begins finding out why he was thrown into prison and chart is path to revenge through fortune and hidden identities. Yet what this quick synopsis omits is the numerous and fascinating major and secondary characters that Dantes interacts throughout the narrative.

Originally published in serial form, Dumas was paid for how much he wrote and one would think that The Count of Monte Cristo might be riddled with meandering subplots that never go anywhere and/or have nothing to do with the central plot. But Dumas instead wove a tapestry of beauty with every word he wrote; instead of making meandering plots he described scenes and events in rich detail that it brings the story even more alive in the reader’s imagination.

If pressed to find anything negative to say about this book, the easiest answer would be cultural references that are almost 170 years old. The only other negative was the completely different societal norms that were in Parisian society in the 1840s compared today’s. However both of these ‘negatives’ can easily be put down to a piece of fiction that was contemporary when it was written but now can be seen as historical fiction with the passage to time.

The Count of Monte Cristo needs to be read in all its unabridged glory to fully appreciate why it is a masterpiece and classic. Dumas’ literary tapestry is a delight to behold once finished with the last page and makes the reader think about when they’ll have time to reread it in the future.

View all my reviews

The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings Prequel)

054792822x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hobbit, and subsequently The Lord of the Rings, is the book that is chiefly responsible for the fantasy genre today; either in influencing or reacting against it.  Nearly fifteen years after reading The Hobbit for the first time, I returned to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth to find the experience just as fun as I did back then though my memory of events turned out to be incorrect as I followed Bilbo Baggins on his adventure.

For mature readers like myself, getting into the rhythm of the text can be tricky as one has to remember that the story was originally based on from bedtime stories Tolkien told his children.  Plus the text feels like it was transcribed from an oral telling like around one told around a campfire or a warm hearth in a hobbit hole, but this only helps enhance the adventurous aspect of the story Tolkien tells.  The vivid descriptions of locales and fantastic creatures adds great detail to the story that in a way sets the stage for the more grown up tale of The Lord of the Rings.

While this particular edition does seem to have some strange word choices that forces the reader to go back disturbing the flow in a few spots, it doesn’t diminish the overall book.  Others might decry The Hobbit being childish, but that’s who Tolkien was aiming for in 1937 and anyone who thinks this is A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) or The Wheel of Time or The First Law needs a reality check before they begin this book.  For any fan of fantasy, if you haven’t read The Hobbit I whole recommend that you do but only with the perspective.

Tolkien

Jurassic Park

741017791cc976b593855645367444341587343Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had Jurassic Park on my shelf ever since the film adaptation appeared in theaters, sadly it took me this long to actually attempt to read it after my first attempt twenty years ago when I was still in elementary school.  After finishing Michael Crichton’s novel of a theme park with living dinosaurs gone wrong, I have to say I waited too long before read it.  The story, the characters (with development), and the thought-provoking scientific/philosophical dialogue are top notch combination that sinks the hook into the reader with each page they turn.

Since I’ve rated the book only 4 stars, there are obvious flaws that I felt detracted from the enjoyment of the overall piece.  While the majority of the characters were well rounded, a few characters that for sections of the book were prominent felt flat especially Hammond.  The lack of explanation of how the larger dinosaurs were getting off the island at the end as opposed to the boat being used by the smaller species and juveniles after how everything else was figured out left the ending a tad less wrapped up  However, even though the scientific knowledge was 20-25 years it didn’t turn out to be a hindrance to the enjoyment of the book.

After reading Jurassic Park, I am very much considering getting my hands on another Michael Crichton book.