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.