2019 Reading List Retrospective

Another year older and another year of reading. I set myself the entirely insane goal of 120 books this year–10 a month–almost one every three days. And for most of the year, I was actually hitting that goal. And then October hit, with a pile of birthdays. And November, with NaNoWriMo (still going strong at just over 120k words; I should be done in the next day or two). And then the holidays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Not really an excuse. More of an explination.

Alltogether, I read 113 books this year. One of those I finished today…

I don’t think I’ll do that again next year. Perhaps we’ll go for 100 again and try to hold to ten books a year up through October. That seems much more manageable now…

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Raise the Titanic!

Raise the Titanic! is one of the Dirk Pitt books that I remember reading years and years ago. It’s a fascinating story, mixing secret government espionage with the underwater salvage details that are one of the reasons I really do enjoy this series on the greatest salvage mission you could expect: The Titanic.

It’s fascinating to realize that this book was published 10 years before the remains of the Titanic were discovered–and yet it’s set in 1987, 2 years after. As such, you realize now that there are a few details that aren’t entirely correct (such as the ship breaking in half). Also we’re near the fall of the USSR, but they’re quite the villains to be reckoned with hereabouts. Still, from the point of view it was written, it all seems reasonable enough. Otherwise, just treat it as a parallel universe and you’re good to go. And both the salvage mission plus the harrowing account of Russian agents and a hurricane once the Titanic is raised makes it a solid action book.

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Rise of the Alliance

With Rise of the Alliance, we’re really getting towards the end of the series. The stakes are getting higher, the enemy ships are getting bigger, and the battle jargon is getting denser.

At first Aurora and Celestia are all beat up again (of course), but for the moment, they have time. By the end, battle has escalated heartily. The Alliance fleet is growing, there are even more jump capable ships, and even more Ghatazhak. They’re going to win eventually, that’s to be expected, but it’s still interesting to see how they get there.

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Iceberg

Iceberg opens with a solid enough set piece/action scene: a burnt out wreck of a luxary yacht, long since missing, found melted into an iceberg. One thing leads to another and Dirk Pitt stumbles into a cadre of billionaires with a plot to take over not only businesses but countries. For that–plot and set pieces–Iceberg is a solid enough read.

And then… you get to the pretty terrible sexism and homophobia. Pitt finds out the woman he’s supposed to be getting information out of is in a serious relationship (which for plot reasons he must not threaten), so decides in the spur of the moment to play a caricature of a gay man and… oof. You can tell this book was published in the 70s and not the particularly progressive sort of 70s either. On top of that, you have sexism wrapped up in a neat little bow with how Pitt and his boss Admiral Sandecker treat Tidi Royal (the latter’s secretary). They all treat it so normal that Tidi exists to make coffee and should be yelled at for spilling it on a tossing ship… oy.

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The Mediterranean Caper

The first Dirk Pitt book published and the second chronologically, The Mediterranean Caper is kind of ridiculous. It’s 70s action at it’s finest, with more of a focus on old airplanes (the novel opens with a dogfight between a World War II flying boat against a World War I fighter plane) and smuggling than ocean salvage, but it’s still a enough fun read. I miss the ocean focus and salvage we saw in Pacific Vortex! and later books though.

The sexism is … pretty ridiculous in this book, wherein early in the book, Pitt meets a woman, finds out she’s a widow of several years, slaps her and tells her to move on with her life, and has sex with her–all within minutes of meeting her. Add that to all manner of comments about ‘feminine’ so and such. It’s maddening. We’ll see how that changes as the series continues to advance through the years.

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Born of the Ashes

Getting a bit harder to find things to say. The Aurora/Celestia/their crews may have kicked the Jung off the Earth for now, but there’s an entire fleeting coming their way and not nearly enough time to do everything they really need to defeat them.

All sorts of ridiculous (both in the crazy and the awesome sense of the word) space battles and of course eventually the Aurora will save the day–but at what cost. The idea of the Jung bombing entire cities out of existence out of little more than spite and to deny them to the Terrans escalates the scale of battle yet again.

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Pacific Vortex!

Every ocean takes its toll of men and ships, yet none devours them with the voracious appetitive of the Pacific….Despite all this, the world’s largest ocean tends to be a tranquil place; even its name means peaceful and mild of temper.

Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and NUMA Files are two more series, much like Ben Bova’s Grand Tour which I remember reading years (more than a decade now) ago, borrowed from the local library whenever I could find them and often in no particular order. I remember enjoying them then, so let’s see how they hold up! I’ll be listening to them on audiobook as I go.

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Dead Man's Hand

This is a strange book. Rather than the previous format of two short story collections and a mosaic novel, this subseries has two collections and now two mosiac novels (Ace in the Hole being the other). What’s strange is that it continues the same plotlines of the first two books and mostly takes place at the same time as Ace in the Hole. Rather than focusing primarily on Puppetman and the political plotline in Atlanta, Dead Man's Hand is set mostly in New York and deals with the death of Chrysalis, the investigation of Ti Malice.

As a stand alone or complete alternative to Ace in the Hole, I think it would have been a lot stronger. Once the stories merge and start replaying events we’ve already seen in Atlanta (albeit with a different point of view), it feels a lot more repetitive.

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Liberation

This was a pretty crazy book so far as progressing the story. The Aurora, Celestia, and their crews and allies have a long slog ahead of themselves to free the Earth from the Jung, but they all have one huge advantage: nine books worth of experience in using the jump drive in combat!

There are battles galore, some people die, we get a few new allies and piles and piles of ‘five minutes to impact, three to jump’. Everything you’ve come to know and except from a Frontiers Saga book. :D

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Resistance

After Celestia CV-02, I was worried that the Aurora and her crew would take the backseat for the rest of the series. Luckily, from Resistance, this appears to not be the case. We still do get a wider selection of points of view–on the Aurora, the Celestia, on the Jung controlled world Tanna, and even back on Earth–but the Aurora is once again the core of the story.

Things are really moving along now, with various space battles and intrigue. I do appreciate the focus on the Aurora, but the mechanics of living on a barely functional Celestia, where you can’t even get between the two sections of the ship are fascinating. I’m curious to see if the Celestia can be finished, especially without the resources and allies the Aurora had a thousand light years away.

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