Clive Cussler with Graham Brown
In the middle of the Indian Ocean, a NUMA research vessel is taking water samples at sunset, when a crew member spots a sheen of black oil ahead of them. But it is not oil. Like a horde of army ants, a swarm of black particles suddenly attacks the ship, killing everyone aboard, while the ship itself goes up in flames.
A few hours later, Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala are on their way to the Indian Ocean. What they will find there on the smoldering hulk of the ship will eventually lead them to the discovery of the most audacious scheme they have ever known: a plan to permanently alter the weather on a global scale. It will kill millions . . . and it has already begun.
I’ll openly admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve read a Cussler novel and in that regard, I enjoyed this one, although to a lesser extent that I was expecting. I remember opening a Cussler book and losing track of all time and space until I turned the final page, but that didn’t quite happen this time around and I don’t necessarily think that it’s due to the intervening years. Initially I thought it was due to the co-authorship of the novel, but after a little bit of research, I don’t believe that to be the case. Through my research (Megalith, Kill Zone), I learned that this story is primarily written by Brown, in which case, I’m impressed by Brown’s ability to hold true to Cussler’s style. Knowing that the story isn’t necessarily written by Cussler makes it make a lot more sense, in that there are one or two stylistic departures that one wouldn’t normally expect from him. I will say this: I do intend to hunt down more of Brown’s work because now I’m curious.
This is the first Kurt Austin novel I’ve read, so please forgive my ignorance of what he and Joe are normally like. I did very much enjoy the byplay between the two, but I found myself stopping just shy of suspending all disbelief, which has never before happened during a Cussler book. When Joe confused being on a boat with vertigo, I was baffled. Wouldn’t a person who’s spent a large portion of their life on a boat immediately recognize the motion of one, even in pitch black darkness? Although this happened rarely throughout the book, it had the rather unfortunate effect of pulling me out of it.
The action is superbly well wrought, making the pages fly by at an incredible speed. And even though it felt like the reveal on the Big Bad came early, it only meant that it was the action driving the story, not necessarily the mystery. The characters were well done, though admittedly some more so than others. I found the Trouts to be delightful and I devoured Joe’s portions of the story.
This is one instance wherein the bad guy is done very well. He has this undercurrent of immaturity that made him both compelling and truly horrifying. It felt a lot like watching a bully tease the little kid in school. You cringe and wonder why on earth that kind of person would be given that kind of power. One of the awesome things Cussler and Brown did in this book is the back story they provided for Jinn. They give you the exact moment when the innocent child takes that first step down the path of evil mastermind. It might not qualify as good parenting, but it certainly hits the mark for quality exposition.
In the end, it boils down to this: this book is a fast paced tale of death and a few people’s quest to save the world before it gets eaten alive. You won’t just read it. You’ll consume it.
4 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 4 Buffys
Character Investibility: 4 Doctors
Pacing/Tension/Urgency: 4.5 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 4 Snyders
Language: 4 Feegles
Mystery: 2.5 Sherlocks