Okay, Cussler really jumped the shark (over the moon?) in Cyclops . After the mind control plot of Deep Six , I figured things would stay a bit more grounded this time around.
Nah. Moon colonies. A plot to take over Cuba. El Dorado (or rather La Dorada!). Conversations with Fidel Casto. It’s all here. And it’s completely ridiculous. I wish there’d been a bit more focus on one or two of the plotlines (particular La Dorada, that’s the Pitt I prefer), but so it goes.
With each Dirk Pitt novels, the world Clive Cussler is building seems to get more and more intense and diverge further from the world we live in. We started with simple salvage and simple enough (although extensive) smuggling and drugs. And then they raised the Titanic. And found a treaty to add Canada to the United States.
Deep Six is certainly no exception, with a primary plot essentially resolving around kidnapping and mind controlling the President of the United States. As one does.
One one hand, wow can you tell that some of these books were written in the 80s. The energy crisis is top on everyone’s mind and the USSR still stands.
This lays the groundwork for a bizarre alternate reality where a North American Treaty was signed between the UK and the US with the former selling Canada to the latter for $1 billion
. It’s a fairly ridiculous premise for a series that otherwise more or less takes place in our world, but that’s become something of par for the course for Dirk Pitt. And it doesn’t matter (in universe) anyways, since after the treaty was lost, two of the three copies were mysteriously lost: one in the (real life) ship wreck of the RMS Empress of Ireland (only 465 survivors out of 1477); the other lost when a train–The Manhattan Limited–falls through a bridge into a river.
Vixen 03 was a surprisingly good listen. From the reviews, I expected something far worse. It’s Pitt to the core, with crazy action scenes, ocean (more lake really) salvage, weird ships where they shouldn’t be, and Pitt getting himself mixed up in situations he has no reason to be involved in. Oh, and a sprinkling of racism and misogyny. At least it’s getting better?
Plotwise, the story of the doomed Vixen 03, it’s discovery, and the involved salvage mission is the best part of the book. The final conclusion with a retired battleship, retrofitted, and sailed up the Potomac to train their guns on Washington DC
is ridiculous and would make an excellent blockbuster sequence. The plot about the African revolutionaries feels… rather racist and bizarre? I’m not actually sure, but it certainly feels very strange. That level of hatred between races and peoples is something that I thankfully have little personal experience with and felt odd in the story. It probably could have been traded out for any sort of terrorist group with little change to the plot.
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.
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.
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.
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.