Shock Wave (Dirk Pitt #13)

0671000306.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Shock Wave by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Around the Pacific Ocean zones of death are springing up with animals and humans the victims with NUMA racing to find out what is responsible and learns it is greed. Shock Wave is the thirteenth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, the titular character races from islands off the coast of Antarctic in the South Atlantic to various points across the Pacific to stop a greedy businessman who aims to destroy the diamond market at whatever cost.

While investigating the deaths of a large number of marine animals in the Antarctic Ocean, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino encounter a group of stranded tourists lead by guide Maeve Fletcher on Seymour Island. Their Australian cruise ship—the Polar Queen—disappeared after a mysterious “disease” three of the tourist group. After the tourists are ferried to NUMA research vessel Ice Hunter, Pitt and Giordino find the Polar Queen going in circles while the current is moving it on a collision course with a group of jagged islands. Pitt is able to board the ship manages to narrowly avoid the crash then explores the floating coffin as the crew and passengers are lying dead across the ship until he finds only one survivor on board Deirdre Dorsett, one of Maeve’s estranged sisters. After a skeleton crew from the Ice Hunter takes over the Polar Queen, Pitt and Al uncover evidence that suggests extremely high-powered soundwaves were the cause of the deaths. This is latter backed up by more outbreaks of mass deaths on a cargo ship, a Chinese junk, and a Russian whaling fleet. Spotting leaving one of the scenes is a futuristic yacht belonging to Dorsett Consolidated Mining Company, a gemstone mining company head by the ruthless Arthur Dorsett. He is also the father of Maeve—who took the name of a great-great grandmother when she cut ties with her family—and Deirdre as well as their older sister Boudicca. Due to her leaving the family and giving birth to twin sons out of wedlock with a young man Dorsett disapproved of, Maeve was set up to die on Seymour Island by her family only for the fact she was in a cave at the time of the attack did she survive. Based on the yacht and borrowing the US Navy’s sonar net in the Pacific, NUMA discovers that the acoustic plague is caused by a convergence of soundwaves from four sources around the Pacific all owned by Dorsett Consolidated including the family’s privately owned Gladiator Island near Australia. Pitt is sent to investigate the Dorsett mine off the coast of British Columbia, enlisting the help of Mason Broadmoor, a local First Nations fisherman. Broadmoor and others from his tribe, help smuggle Pitt onto the island and is given a tour of the mine by a disgruntled employee which includes the revolutionary mining method that uses soundwaves to dig through the clay to find diamonds. As he attempts to leave the island, he is discovered by Boudicca and learns Maeve’s sons are being held hostage in return for her to spy on NUMA and mislead them if necessary. Broadmoor rescues Pitt and the two use jet skis to escape the island. Pitt, Al, and Maeve travel to Wellington to another NUMA vessel with the plan to infiltrate Gladiator Island to save Maeve’s sons. However, Dorsett finds out and his security team is able to capture the trio after a chase around the docks. The next day, the three are abandoned in the southwest Pacific Ocean in a small craft away from the shipping lanes in the path of a tropical cyclone. Through, luck and deciding not to die without a fight they make it to a small island that has a wrecked sailboat. Using material from both craft, they construct a new ship and head to Gladiator Island. Upon arrival they infiltrate the island, discovering Maeve’s twins are in the main house they break in. While Maeve and Al get the boys, Pitt encounters Dorsett and kills him. Before Boudicca can kill him, Al bursts in and the two fight before Al kills Boudicca who turns out to be Maeve’s brother not sister. Unknown to the trio, NUMA discovered a future kill zone right off the coast of Honolulu and through blood, sweat, and guile are able to obtain a giant reflector from a government agency, dismantle it, load it on the famous deep-sea recovery ship Glomar Explorer, and take it to the convergence zone. Just in time, NUMA gets the reflector into the sea and send the soundwaves to Gladiator Island with the knowledge it’ll set off the two volcanos on the island. Just after the successful operation, Sandecker gets a call from Pitt and tells him to evacuate. Pitt’s group races towards the Dorsett yacht and the helicopter on it, once onboard Deirdre shots Maeve, mortally wounding her, as well as Pitt who is wounded but snaps Deirdre’s spine. Al takes the twins in the helicopter while Pitt launches the yacht and gets far enough away to survive the pyroclastic ash cloud. Pitt is later found by Al and Sandecker on the derelict yacht, taken to a hospital to mend, and returns to D.C. sad that he lost Maeve.

Like Inca Gold before it, this book’s main plot has stuck with me for over twenty years since I listened to the audiobook. Overall, the book has held up well in fact the megalomaniac Arthur Dorsett who cares only for profit even at the expense of family—in fact willing to kill some members if they aren’t with him—comes off as really believable especially today. Cussler’s writing of Dirk was mostly good but there were times were he came off as “too good to be true” in abilities that while not stretching believability giving it a lot of tension. Maeve as the “lead” female character was alright for the most part, but in general the descriptions of actions, physical characteristics, and thoughts of female characters were stereotypes and caricatures in an effort to paint Boudicca as different for the reveal near the end of the book. Unlike the previous book, the subplots didn’t tie in very well with the main plot of the book the main culprit was the knockoff Trilateral Commission group aiming for a “One Economic Government”, it felt like Cussler was unsuccessfully tapping into conspiracy theories in the mid-90s for a little boost when he could have just had it be the DeBeers-led diamond monopoly group be the subplot and tie in better with the rest of the novel.

Shock Wave was a very good follow up installment in the series, while not at the level of Inca Gold it still showed that Clive Cussler was creating quality stuff on a consistent basis and looked like he would be for a while.

Dirk Pitt

Inca Gold (Dirk Pitt #12)

0671519816.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Inca Gold by Clive Cussler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The vast amounts of gold the Inca possessed at the time of Pizarro is legendary, yet even as the Spaniards plundered the riches they began wondering if they had found everything. Inca Gold is the twelfth book in the Dirk Pitt series by Clive Cussler as the titular character and his ever faithful friend Al Giordino begin their adventure with going on a rescue mission in the Andes only to end up needing rescue at the end in the Sea of Cortez.

In 1532 a fleet of ships sails in secret to an island in the middle of an inland sea. There they hide a magnificent treasure vaster than that any Pharaoh would ever possess. Then they disappear, leaving only a great stone demon to guard their hoard. In 1578 the legendary Sir Francis Drake captures a Spanish galleon filled with Inca gold and silver and the key to the lost treasure, which includes a gigantic chain of gold, a masterpiece of ancient technology so huge that it requires two hundred men to lift it and a large pile of diamonds worth more than 200 billion dollars that belonged to the last Inca. As the galleon is sailed by Drake’s crew back to England, an underwater earthquake causes a massive tidal wave that sweeps it into the jungle. Only one man survives to tell the tale. In 1998 a group of archaeologists is nearly drowned while diving into the depths of a sacrificial pool high in the Andes of Peru. They are saved by the timely arrival of the renowned scuba diving hero Dirk Pitt, who is in the area on a marine expedition. Pitt soon finds out that his life has been placed in jeopardy as well by smugglers intent on uncovering the lost ancient Incan treasure. Soon, he, his faithful companions, and Dr. Shannon Kelsey, a beautiful young archaeologist, are plunged into a vicious, no-holds-barred struggle to survive. From then on it becomes a battle of wits in a race against time and danger to find the golden chain, as Pitt finds himself caught up in a struggle with a sinister international family syndicate that deal in stolen works of art, the smuggling of ancient artifacts, and art forgery worth many millions of dollars. The clash between the art thieves, the FBI and the Customs Service, a tribe of local Indians, and Pitt, along with his friends from NUMA, two of whom are captured and threatened with execution, rushes toward a wild climax in a subterranean world of darkness and death – for the real key to the mystery, as it turns out, is a previously unknown, unexplored underground river that runs through the ancient treasure chamber.

This is the book that originally got me into the Dirk Pitt series—via audiobook—and over twenty years later it very much holds up as a fun adventure yarn that keeps the pages turning. While the book isn’t perfect for various factors, the first being that the “main” antagonist went from being clever conman that kills when necessary to a raging would-be killer in one scene in the middle of the book that was jarring especially since his main henchman was already a wanton murderer who took pleasure in it. Cussler switches with his female “lead” with Dr. Kelsey being replaced mid-book with Pitt’s on-off flame Loren Smith, but for once Smith is fully fleshed out and not giving off damsel-in-distress vibe like previous books. The main positive of the book is that all the subplots are not only intriguing but have good characters like Billy Yuma that tie into the main plot as the book reaches its climax.

Inca Gold is the book I personally feel that the Dirk Pitt series began hitting its stride at least what I remember from the late-90s to the mid-00s. Clive Cussler mixes characters, plot, and action to create a real page-turning adventure that will make you take a look around for more of his titular character.

Dirk Pitt

Sahara (Dirk Pitt #11)

0671521101.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Sahara by Clive Cussler
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Within the vastness of the Malian Sahara hides numerous mysteries, some like the desert itself are deadly and some will change history. Sahara is the eleventh book in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series as the titular character traverses back and forth across to save the world from a threat created from chemical pollutants.

A week before the surrender at Appomattox the ironclad CSS Texas runs the gauntlet of Union ships and artillery down the James River then heads out to the Atlantic after displaying their prisoner, Abraham Lincoln. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sets up a hoax assassination with the murder of an actor at Ford’s Theater by setting up John Wilkes Booth. In 1931 Kitty Mannock is flying over the Sahara in quest of a new aviation record when a sandstorm takes out her engine and she crashes in the desert; she dies ten days later but after finding an iron ship. In the present a convoy of tourists crossing the Sahara reach a scheduled stop at a village in the country of Mali where they are attacked by red-eyed savages who kill and eat them, with only the tour guide escaping. Meanwhile, working in Egypt on an archaeological mapping of the Nile, Dirk Pitt rescues Dr. Eva Rojas, a scientist working for the World Health Organization, from assassins sent by the military dictator of Mali Zateb Kazim with the backing of French businessman Yves Massarde. Eva’s WHO team flies to Mali investigate a mysterious disease while Pitt, Al Giordino, and Rudy Gunn are ordered up the Niger River to find a pollutant that is causing red tide to mushroom out of control and where that pollutant is coming from. The WHO team and the NUMA trio run afoul of Kazim and Massarde with the former captured and sent to a unknown gold mine as slave labor and the former running around Mali to find the source of the pollutant that Gunn has identified and escaped the country to report on. Pitt and Giordino find out Massarde’s detoxification facility is the culprit but are captured and sent to the gold mine, but escape over the desert and only saved by finding Kitty Mannock’s plane and salvage the parts to escape to Algeria via land yacht. Once in Algeria, Pitt and Giordino lead a UN rescue team on an assault on the gold mine to rescue foreign nations then battle the Malians in an abandoned French Foreign Legion fort until US Special Forces arrive in relief and kill Kazim in the process. Pitt and Giordino capture Massarde, poison him with contaminated water so he dies as a savage madman. The two then venture out into the Sahara using Mannock’s journal to locate the CSS Texas and find Lincoln.

The Lincoln subplot—including everything connected with it—is the major reason this book barely gets the rating it does, it’s bad and ruins an otherwise good book. The next complaint is the “happy ever after” type ending which features the secondary characters introduced in the books, which along with the previous subplot soured the ending of the book. Cussler’s female characters were an assortment of good and bad, the tertiary characters like soldiers in the UN rescue team who were actual soldiers not medics stood out because the major female character (Rojas) might have been a doctor but was two-dimensional. The main plot with Pitt, Giordino, and the major antagonists was actually very good as well as the Kitty Mannock subplot, however everything else just brought it down the overall book.

Sahara is a book that was good but could have been better if not for subplot and characterization choices that Clive Cussler made. Pitt is at his action-packed adventurer best, but it was fringe features that distracted me from enjoying things.

Dirk Pitt

Dragon (Dirk Pitt #10)

0671742760.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Dragon by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cold War seems to be winding down, but a new economic war appears to be on the horizon with the added element of nuclear blackmail. Dragon is the tenth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series as the titular hero finds himself sucked into a espionage war between the U.S. and fanatical ultranationalist Japanese businessmen and criminals looking to create a new empire.

On 6 August 1945, a B-29 Bomber “Dennings Demons” takes off from the Aleutians with an atomic bomb headed for Osaka without knowing the “Enola Gay” is headed for Hiroshima and vice versa; however a Japanese pilot shots down the bomber which lands in the water not far off from a little island off the Japanese coast. Forty-five years later a Norwegian cruise ship in the Pacific finds an abandoned Japanese cargo ship and find a car leaking radiation moments before it detonates destroying the cargo ship, takes out of the cruise ship in the shockwave as well as a British research vessel. Underneath the surface a British submersible is also damage from the nuclear shockwave is found by an experimental NUMA ocean floor crawler—piloted by Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino—from an underwater research facility that must be evacuated due to earthquakes caused by the nuclear explosion. After getting to the surface, Pitt and Giordino are flown to D.C. and are “volunteered” to join a task force to tackle the nuclear threat from Japan due to them smuggling nukes in the country in cars. The two go outside the process and give the task force big clues that tips off the Japanese that their plan has been found out. Undercover agents in both Japan and the U.S. take on security forces with both sides, but things hit the fan when the Japanese kidnap Pitt’s on-off love interest Congresswoman Loren Smith along with an influential U.S. Senator. Thanks to a British undercover agent, the task force is able to locate the Japanese command center and launch a two-prong attack with Pitt & Giordino acting a decoys to let the rest of the task force get in and destroy the command center but both teams are surprised by robots upsetting their plans. The five task force members are forced run for their lives in a human hunting game, but Pitt as the first to be the prey tricks his hunter and turns the tables on him. The task force escapes with Loren, the Senator, and the mastermind behind the Japanese plot but their attempt to cause damage to the command center doesn’t work. The Japanese decide to set off a nuke in Wyoming, but the task force has found the wreckage of “Denning’s Demons” and plan to use the NUMA crawler to get the atom bomb and set it off in a nearby fault to take out the little Japanese island that the command center is built in. Pitt keeps Giordino from joining him and is able to fulfill the plan to detonate the bomb, but the escape route doesn’t workout making everyone think he doesn’t make it until a month later when the crawler comes up out of the ocean on a little island in front of a resort with a haggard Pitt asking for some fresh food.

At the time of publication (1991) the Cold War was over and with it the clichés of earlier Pitt novels, so Cussler compensated with Japanese business takeover on steroids. Overall the plot was solid with none of the scenes really dragging the book down, unlike the previous book. Of the characters, the main antagonists were a tad on the cliché side but were written well enough to still be a little rounded. Dirk Pitt was less of a lady’s man this time around, but to offset that Cussler made Pitt be perfect at everything including beat the author himself in a classic car race. Though I’ll give credit to Cussler for having Pitt referencing Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game before he was hunted and doing homage to it in his own book.

Dragon is a product of its time, an overall fine book that kept the reader hooked but also not the best in the series in my opinion. Clive Cussler keeps on going back and forth in how to describe his main character from book to book, but at least he isn’t the jerk he was in the earlier books in the series.

Dirk Pitt

Treasure (Dirk Pitt #9)

0586074724.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Treasure by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A late Roman ship locked in Greenland ice changes history, but a wax tablet describing its journey could bring the treasures of the Library of Alexandria back to the world. Treasure is the 9th book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series as the titular hero goes from searching for a sunken Soviet sub to searching for a missing cruise ship with foreign heads of state and then looking for the fabulous remnants of the Library of Alexandria in Texas near the Rio Grande.

The last head of the Library of Alexandria finishes his inventory of the treasures he’s taken to be preserved in an unknown land only for his mercenaries to anger the local barbarians that attack and kill nearly everyone, except for the librarian and one ship that didn’t trust him cast off leaving him behind. Almost 1500 years later, archaeologist Dr. Lily Sharp finds a Roman coin in Eskimo village in Greenland while off the coast Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino help the U.S. Navy find a sunken Soviet sub when suddenly a commercial airliner with the UN Secretary General onboard flies overhead and crash lanes into the ice. The archaeologists, Pitt & Giordino, and the Navy personal launch rescues but find three survivors with most dead by poison but the 1st and 2nd officers killed by the missing pilot, one of the best assassins in the world. Using the equipment on the Navy ship, Pitt finds a late Roman vessel trapped in the ice with the crew preserved along with a log of the ship’s journey and why they were there. But Pitt, Giordino, and Dr. Sharp are sent to Colorado to talk with a Library of Alexandria expert and end up in a car chase after rescuing the UN Secretary General Hala Kamil from another assassination attempt, though an inept one, wanted by an Islamic cleric in her native Egypt because of her popularity. The Egyptian cleric, in an alliance with a Aztec religious fanatic in Mexico, orders his expert assassin to abduct the Presidents of Egypt and Mexico from their cruise ship at a Third World economic conference in Uruguay. The addition of Kamil who wanted to confer with both Presidents and Senator George Pitt, Dirk’s father, which the expert assassin views as both finishing his airplane job and leverage against the United States in the search. Pitt, Giordino, and Rudy Gunn takeover a NUMA ship in the south Atlantic and figure out that instead of sinking the cruise liner, a Mexican freighter was sunk and the cruiser made to look like the freighter for the benefit of satellites then wrapped in plastic that was covered in water so as to look like an iceberg to hide in the Strait of Magellan. U.S. Special Forces raid the ship, killing the Mexican terrorists who had secretly left with the VIP hostages to an old mining operation on a nearby island that the NUMA people were left only to be defeated by Pitt and others barely though the hostages saved. The expert assassin, blinded thanks to Pitt, wanting revenge kills the Egyptian cleric for setting him up for failure while he sends his deputy to kill Pitt. The NUMA computer using a map outline from the Roman ship and the journey log’s description locates the landing spot in Rome, Texas near the Mexican border. The Aztec religious fanatic inspires the poor citizenry of Mexico to gather at the border then invade the town of Rome only to be confronted by Pitt at the dig site then killed along the deputy assassin in a three-way fight before an explosion supposedly destroys the treasure and sending disappointed Mexicans back across the border. It is revealed that treasure was buried in another of the seven hills around the Texas town and that the Egyptian and Mexican religious fanatics were brothers from mixed race marriage of a three generation old crime family with tentacles around the world along with another brother who was being groomed to takeover Brazil.

Cussler takes a cue from era of the book’s publication, late 80s, and eliminates the Cold War cliché subplots instead going for Third World populism as well as religious fanaticism subplots that worked better from a story standpoint, yet the White House political and policy scenes felt like a drag to the story as a whole. If anything the Library of Alexandria element was probably the weakest subplot since beginning with Julius Caesar’s accidental partial destruction of the Library nothing from the original was left by the time Cussler’s “last librarian” buried the treasure in Texas and Alexander the Great’s mummy had probably been moved to an Alexandrian church under the false belief it was the Apostle Mark—and is probably in St. Mark’s in Venice if it was smuggled out by merchants centuries after the Muslims took over. As for the characters, the main antagonist was the expert assassin who was very formidable and almost got Pitt killed from the grave while the two religious fanatics were the typical “evil overlords” who were more secondary villains than anything else. Pitt was an over-the-top ladies’ man, having sex with both Kamil and Sharp, but got beaten up with all the fighting done over the course of the novel. However just because they had sex with Pitt doesn’t mean Kamil and Sharp weren’t interesting characters and showed an improvement of Cussler’s writing.

Treasure improved in areas over the previous Pitt installment through went back in another, but it’s overall quality was on par with Cyclops and the overall story was better. This a great adventure story with everything from treasure, assassins, political intrigue, and daring feats which is well worth your time if you’re interested in a light read over a few days.

Dirk Pitt

Cyclops (Dirk Pitt #8)

0671704648.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Cyclops by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Off the coast of Cuba is a small isle and a shipwreck unconnected with one another until a wealthy financier off treasure hunting in his blimp disappears, soon they’ll connect everything from the moon to a lost Amazonian treasure. Cyclops is Clive Cussler’s 8th Dirk Pitt book in which his titular character flies the skies in an antique blimp, escapes then returns to a secret Soviet base, and save the city of Havana from a fiery fate.

A U.S. ship named Cyclops is carrying a legendary gold statue from a fabled Amazonian city when a rogue wave sinks the vessel in 1918, roughly 70 years later financier Raymond LeBaron with his two men crew goes searching for the ship in his antique blimp and disappear. Several weeks later, Dirk Pitt’s sailing race is ruined when LeBaron’s blimp reappears on a crash course towards a beach front hotel that Pitt stops thanks to help from people on the beach. But instead of LeBaron and crew in the blimp, there are three dead Soviet Cosmonauts that Feds quickly get from the Miami police after they learn from Fidel Castro that he put them in the blimp in a secret communique because he wants to separate from the Soviets. This is just something more on the President’s plate as he has just learned that a group of industrialists, government officials, and military officers had for two decades planned, constructed, and ran a colony on the moon with the colonists about to return after six years. Unfortunately for the secret group, the Soviets have found out about the colony and attempt to capture it only for the colonists to kill the Soviet soldiers who had only five days to prepare. Pitt is recruited by LeBaron’s wife to find her husband, but Mrs. LeBaron plans to fly to Cuba to give Castro the President’s answer but the Cuban military attacks the blimp resulting it in crashing into the sea close to the site of the Cyclops demise but they find the treasure is missing after diving the wreck but find a body of a old time diver. Pitt, Mrs. LeBaron, Al Giordino, and Rudy Gunn then make their way to a nearby isle off Cuba only to stumble upon a secret Soviet base. This base is a top secret listen station as well as the headquarters from a planned Soviet takeover the Cuba to install a puppet Communist government while planning the Americans. Pitt escapes, but the CIA spreads the story that he is dead as disinformation to the Soviets as they plan to attack the base and knock it out. But they move up the timetable after they learn the Soviet government wants to use the base to get a suddenly stuffed Space Shuttle to land in Cuba to take all the information from the moon colony. Pitt and the CIA capture and destroy the base just in time for the Shuttle to land in Keys though Raymond LeBaron dies, but on their return to the CIA transport Mrs. LeBaron puts a gun in Pitt’s gut and forces him to head to Cuba and Castro. The two make their way to Havana and the Swiss Embassy where they’re informed of the Soviet plan to assassinate Castro but they can’t find the supposed low yield nuclear, but after learning what the cargos of the three ships the Soviets sent to Havana were Pitt figures out the plan to firebomb the city. Pitt and roughly two dozen CIA agents hijack two of the Soviet ships and get them out as far as they can out of the harbor before the Soviet’s destroy them hours early that results in roughly 3000 casualties instead of essentially the entire city. Castro survives and kicks the Soviets out while accepting aid from the U.S. under the Red Cross then gives Pitt a ship with a crane after figuring out where Raymond LeBaron, who had found the Amazonian treasure to start his financial empire and killed his partner 30 years before, left it.

Unlike the previous two books, Cussler steered clear of Constitutional issues which was a welcome development however there were major chronological issues in connection with events in the last two books but that didn’t really matter much overall. Although due to the time period when this and other novels in the series were published, the Cold War aspect along with the horrible cliché Soviet characters and Communist world takeover agenda just drags down the enjoyment of the novel especially since real life showed that this was a paranoid American idea. Cussler’s characterization of women improved overall, though there were one scene which was gawd awful, with Mrs. LeBaron especially in relation with Pitt. As to the main character, Dirk came off as incredibly lucky throughout the novel though did have moments of brilliance that didn’t come off as Gary Stu.

Cyclops improves in quality over its predecessor as Clive Cussler works together three different story arcs into a fun, intriguing novel. Though the Cold War aspect and associated stereotypes connected with it got annoying, it didn’t ruin the book. Overall this is a fun action-adventure novel for anyone wanting to spend a few days reading.

Dirk Pitt

Deep Six (Dirk Pitt #7)

0736622756.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Deep Six by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Death is stalking the coastline of Alaska and on the Potomac River the President and the first three men in succession are kidnapped, these two events have thing in common and soon Dirk Pitt will figure out what. Deep Six is the seventh installment in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, featuring the titular protagonist racing to stop a deadly nerve agent on one coast before getting wrapped up in a constitutional crisis when the President is kidnapped and subjected to mind manipulation leading to a race to find the missing Vice President.

A ship from San Francisco to Auckland is hijacked in 1966 by Korean seamen resulting in the deaths of the crew and the lone passenger, a female former bank teller who embezzled $120,000 from her employer. Twenty years later a deadly biological weapon is seeping into the Gulf of Alaska from an unknown point of origin, killing everything—man and animal—in its path. Dirk Pitt and NUMA is called in to find the vessel along with an EPA senior scientist, who Pitt bets a date on if he can find it in less than a day. True to his word, Pitt finds the vessel emerging from the upheaval of an island with an active volcano but as they begin clean up the volcano wakes up and the trimer causes the death the EPA scientist which leads Pitt to seek vengeance on the people responsible for stealing the biological agent in the first place. Meanwhile, the President tries to convince his own Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader to support his aid package to the Communist bloc but the four are kidnapped with the Presidential yacht replaced with a lookalike. Pitt is pulled from his investigation into finding the yacht, finding it sunk in the Potomac with the crew dead as well as Korean bodies as well. The kidnapping is sponsored by an international shipping corporation and the USSR to mind manipulate the four leaders into following policies friendly to the USSR with the President being the first subject. For 10 days the White House hides the fact the leaders are missing until the President returns with a story about a secret conference with his USSR counterpart then begins acting like a dictator due to instructions received from his Soviet doctors. Pitt links his Alaskan ship to the missing 1966 ship and the fake Presidential yacht to Bougainville Maritime Lines but is sidetracked when his on-and-off flame Loren Smith is abducted on a Soviet cruiser line. Pitt mounts a rescue and finds the Speaker and Majority Leader on the ship as well, but Bougainville’s black ops head sabotages the ship and almost kills Pitt while abducting Loren while the Speaker is finished out of the Caribbean by the U.S. Navy and heads to Washington wanting to impeach the President and become the new President. Pitt, saved by best friend Al Giordino, searches for where the Bougainville’s are holding the Vice President, and mostly like Loren as well, focuses on Louisiana. With the FBI, Coast Guard, and Navy helping Pitt and Giordino discover the barge the Bougainville’s are holding the Vice President. In desperation, Pitt convinces a captain of a riverboat and a regiment of Civil War reenactors to mount a rescue and in the nick of time save before Loren and the Vice President, who makes it Washington just after the conviction of the President to take the oath of office. Pitt and the father of the woman who died in 1966 go to Bougainville headquarters and kills Matriarch of the clan—the black ops head being her grandson—to end their criminal activities.

Like the previous book, Cussler’s total lack of understanding of the Constitution once again rears its ugly head once the mind control President begins becoming a dictator with an assist from the Pentagon until he attempts to leave NATO. Frankly what he has the military due would never happen because of being unconstitutional and the military takes an oath to preserve the Constitution not the President. The fact that the Soviet leadership has the President do these unconstitutional things makes sense as not understanding the American government, but Cussler having the military brass be ignorant is just bad. Besides one complaint, this was a fun mishmash of action-adventure and political thriller book. Pitt takes a beating but has just enough to survive and outwit the Bougainvilles to save the day and get vengeance. The main protagonist in the person of Lee Tong, the Bougainville black op head, is probably the best straight-up evil villain in the series so far with a plan for everything that is only foiled by the combined efforts of Pitt, the military, and the Civil War reenactors at the end of the book. The female characters in the book are good for the most part with one passage of Cussler going back to the attitude of his earlier books, but the quality of the female characters is showing improvement. Pitt’s best friend Al Giordino is given more to do and is followed more than in previous books.

Deep Six improves a tad over the previous installment, though it could have been better if Cussler had thought out the Constitutional issues and had not taken a tiny step back in his attitude to female characterization while still getting better at writing them. Personally, I can’t wait for the series to get beyond the Cold War spy thriller aspect in later books because it results in some bad elements being written into the book which detract from interesting plots.

Dirk Pitt

Night Probe! (Dirk Pitt #6)

0553277405.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Night Probe! by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Months before World War I consumed Europe and brought Britain’s Empire to the fields of France, a historic treaty could have changed everything if not for two accidents. The sixth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, Night Probe!, finds the series protagonist on a historical and internationally significant hunt for a Treaty that sold Canada to the United States even as the aforementioned nation is on the verge of splitting and the United Kingdom is sending it’s great secret agent to stop him.

On the same day, a railroad disaster along the Hudson River and a ship sinking in the St. Lawrence kills two diplomats from the United States and Great Britain heading from Canada to their respective capitals with signed treaties that sells Canada to the United States. After both men die and the treaties presumed lost, President Wilson communicates with his British counterpart to forget that it ever happened. Three-quarters of a century later, Heidi Mulligan finds a unknown letter by Wilson communicating to Prime Minister Asquith about the North American Treaty setting off a chain of events that discovers evidence about the unknown treaty and makes it’s way across the Pond to the British archives sending 10 Downing Street into a panic and getting out of retirement it’s greatest secret agent, Brian Shaw (not at all James Bond, but is basically an older James Bond). One of those Heidi tells is friend (from Vixen 03) Dirk Pitt who doing his own research on top of Heidi’s gives his circumstantial evidence to the new President, who was previously in the Senate with his father. The President uses the information as part of his plan with the embattled Canadian Prime Minister threatened with Quebec secession while recovering from an assassination attempt by a Quebec terrorist group headed by his own right-hand man in his cabinet, who is also having an affair with his wife. Shaw seduces Heidi to learn everything she does and then attempts to prevent Pitt from getting either copy of the treaty but comes just short. Pitt gets the Treaty to the President, who is speaking to the Canadian Parliament and announces the historical find while inviting the provinces to apply for statehood.

Before anything else, the biggest issue with this book is Cussler’s total lack of understanding of the Constitution, Canadian history, and the Commonwealth of Nations. Of the three it’s the Constitution as all treaties must be approved by the Senate, which a President that had been a sitting Senator would know as well as Pitt’s father who is still a Senator, and after 75 years attempting to bring it to a vote would probably result in a Supreme Court case. The second is the Commonwealth of Nations are all self-governing and not the British Empire under a new name, so while it would have been embarrassing to Britain it wouldn’t result in what happened in the book. Now let’s get to the story; overall, it’s a good overall adventure tale with a good spy subplot and some good political intrigue (Canadian) and not so good (President). Pitt was able to get more nuisance and Heidi Mulligan was the best female character in the series so far, Brian Shaw as the older not-James Bond but basically is was a nice touch and good way to segue into so many plots. The Canadian political intrigue, if fleshed out more, could have been its own book but just added to the overall quality and somewhat makes up for the lack of understanding of various things on Cussler’s part.

Night Probe! is a very good installment of the Dirk Pitt series that is unfortunately undermined by Clive Cussler’s intentional or unintentional lack of understanding over various political and historical factors. The various adventure, spy, and political intrigue subplots work well together to create fun book to read if you don’t think too much.

Dirk Pitt

Vixen 03 (Dirk Pitt #5)

055358944x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Vixen 03 by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A deadly biological weapon thought long-lost is suddenly out in the world and a South African-planned black-op terrorist attack on the United States meant to discredit an insurgency to white rule intertwine with only one man finding himself at the crux to stop them. The fifth book of the Dirk Pitt series, Vixen 03, by Clive Cussler finds the intrepid NUMA Special Projects Director racing to first solve a mystery and then racing to save the nation.

An Air Force transport plane takes off in a January Colorado blizzard carrying a deadly cargo, but the storm results in the plane crash landing on top of a snow covered lake then sinking. The Pentagon, under orders from Eisenhower, alters the records of the plane to hide its deadly secret. Thirty-four years later in South Africa, Scottish naval captain-turned-farmer Patrick Fawkes goes to a meeting with the South African Defense Minister and discusses the feasibility of a black-op, which Fawkes explains is impossible yet during the meeting his family is murdered during an attack seemingly by the African Army of Revolution run by an American-born black against the white South African government. As a result Fawkes talks the Defense Minister into letting him do the black-op, which the AAR finds out about and gets the info to the American government though they regard it highly unlikely to take place. Meanwhile in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountains, Dirk Pitt is at the cabin of his current girlfriend, Congresswoman Loren Smith, when finds parts from an old aircraft in the garage that Loren believes her deceased eccentric father found while hiking. Bored while not having sex, Pitt begins investigating and stays at the cabin after Loren returns to Washington where she runs afoul of a black congressman who supports the AAR for his own political ends and attempts to blackmail her after getting racy photos of her and Pitt sleeping together. Pitt’s investigation results in him identifying an aircraft that shouldn’t be in Colorado but in the Pacific and along with his friend Al Giordino and an Air Force Colonel Abe Steiger investigate a nearby lake and find the wreck along with the body of Loren’s father—he supposedly blew himself up. Steiger is stonewalled in Washington while Pitt heads to his assignment raising a Union ironclad, but travels to Virginia to talk with the man who assigned the plane’s mission and finds out it carried a deadly biological weapon. Pitt finally informs his boss Admiral Sandecker and NUMA raises the aircraft but find that 8 out of the 36 shells are missing. Pitt, Giordino, and Steiger confront Loren’s neighbors who killed her father and sold them to an arms company for extra money. After conning the arms company Pitt and Steiger track down six of the eight, but the last two were accidently purchased by the AAR but really the South Africans for their terrorist attack. Fawkes with his unwitting black crew and the kidnapped AAR leader in an overhauled battleship go up the Potomac to within range of Washington and start bombarding the capital on December 7. The U.S. government “warned” by the South African Prime Minister launches an attack on the battleship since Fawkes doesn’t know he has two biological weapons. Pitt is able to get onboard the battleship and neutralizes one of the weapons, but the other was already loaded into a tube. The shell is fired, but do to it being a biological warhead it parachutes and a helicopter piloted by Steiger intercepts it and flies it out to the Atlantic. Pitt travels to South Africa to bury Fawkes and meets with the South African Defense Minister, who orchestrated the murder of Fawkes family and who sent the Prime Minister warning, is killed by a member of his own staff and a member of the AAR then buried in Fawkes’ grave.

Set a 1988, Cussler’s guess at the overall situation in the world was off but still made for interesting alternate history in which to set his book’s narrative. The two main plots following Pitt and Fawkes were well written while the two main subplots of the AAR and Loren Smith were underwhelming. Fawkes as a good tragic figure who setup by the Defense Minister was easy to guess, while Loren Smith’s first appearance as Pitt’s on-and-off girlfriend was just showing off Pitt’s sexual greatness and given his characterization in these early books isn’t surprising. The science behind the biological weapon was a little farfetched if one really thought about it, but overall it wasn’t the worst thing in the book. Critically nothing was bad, but there were a lot of things that alright.

Vixen 03 is a nice next installment in the Dirk Pitt series by Clive Cussler, building up on Raise the Titanic! Overall it’s a good book with only a few bits that were unfortunately off putting but nothing compared to earlier books. While the not the best book of the series I’ve read so far, it’s shows a lot of improvement on Cussler’s part.

Dirk Pitt

Raise the Titanic! (Dirk Pitt #4)

067172519x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Raise The Titanic! by Clive Cussler
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Deep in the North Atlantic is the rarest radioactive mineral on the planet that can power a strategically redefining missile defense shield, the problem is that it’s in vault of the most famous shipwreck in history. Raise the Titanic! is the third published book of Clive Cussler’s series featuring Dirk Pitt, who accepts the challenge to bring the most famous shipwreck in history only to find himself in the middle of a shadowy Cold War encounter in the middle of a hurricane.

A secret U.S. government think tank, Meta Section, sends a mineralogist to Novaya Zemlya in the Soviet Union to look for byzanium that will power their new antiballistic missile defense system. Unfortunately the scientist is discovered by Soviet security until he’s saved by Dirk Pitt whose “interference” of Meta Section’s plan upsets its chief, Dr. Gene Seagram who is married to a NUMA colleague of Pitt’s. The mineralogist how has both good and bad news, Novaya Zemlya does have byzanium but only a tiny fraction that did because it was mined earlier in the century by Americans from Colorado. Gene Seagram and his closest friend in Meta Section begin hunting down this new lead while Captain Prevlov of Soviet Naval Intelligence begins investigating the American incursion of Soviet territory both the recent and newly discovered mine from the turn of the century. Meanwhile Gene Seagram’s quest to get his secret project completed results in his wife Dana leaving him just as he learns that large amount of byzanium was found on Novaya Zemlya by Coloradan miners who spirited from Russia to Britain and loaded it on the Titanic. Gene Seagram finds Pitt and convinces him to lead the salvaging of the shipwreck. Over the course of the salvage, both American and Soviet intelligence agencies have a shadowy back and forth that Pitt only learns about close to the end of salvage which comes to a dramatic end when they raise it to save one of their submersibles. In preparing to tow the now risen Titanic, Pitt and crew learn that a mid-May formed hurricane is barreling towards them which for Prevlov is prefect for his plan to steal the ship and its “secret” cargo. Prevlov and his strike force board the Titanic while it’s in the eye of the hurricane and take the crew hostage, save Pitt, who confronts the Soviet captain before several minutes before Navy SEALS take out the Soviet soldiers except for Prevlov. The Titanic makes arrives in New York to fanfare, but Meta Section and NUMA learn that their efforts were for not because in the ship’s vault were only boxes of normal stones. Gene Seagram, who had slowly been losing his sanity, has a complete nervous breakdown and attacks the mummified remains of the last American miner who by coincidence was also insane by the time he boarded Titanic. Pitt travels to Scotland and makes his way across Britain until he finds a tiny village where one of the American miners was buried, with the bzyanium thus allowing the U.S. to create its missile defense system.

Written almost a decade before the Titanic was discovered, in two pieces, Cussler writes an intriguing narrative of underwater discovery and salvage with some nice Cold War intrigue thrown in. The main plot was basically really fun to read even with the knowledge that Cussler’s details were wrong in every regard to the shipwreck. While the Soviet spy subplot was completely fine as was Gene Seagram’s slow mental breakdown, the other subplots in the book were complete trash. First was Dana Seagram’s independent woman angle in which was asserted herself and also bashed women’s liberation (which went hand on hand with the usual chauvinistic streak of these early books), the second was the President of the United States being persuaded by the CIA and NIA to let Meta Section’s secret project get leaked to the Soviets which was completely unrealistic (even in a story about raising the Titanic!). Even with those I would have been fine, but Cussler for some reason had Pitt bed Dana Seagram after going the majority of the book seemingly like the Pitt later in the series.

Raise the Titanic! for the most part is a good book, which could have been better, but it’s better than The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg especially since Dirk isn’t a complete jerk. Cussler did write a solid main plot, but the biggest problems were some of the subplots which undermined the work plus some poor decisions around Pitt close to the end. However, after Pacific Vortex this is the best early Pitt book so far.

Dirk Pitt