▸ action adventure

Read: Black Order

With now having read the third book in a series by James Rollins, he is now officially part of my rotation.

Black Order is a nice mix of action adventure, thriller, and science fiction. It is certainly not (high brow) literature but it is good for relaxing a couple of hours. Even though the characters (within a given book) still remain a bit flat, over the course of several novels in the series there is now some noticeable character development.

And even though I did not want to think (much) while reading the (such a) book, there was an interesting take on intelligent design.

Two things annoyed me.

First, the publisher should spend some money on a foreign language editor before a book is printed. There are some foreign language words and phrases (as it happens, most of them in German) that are just plain wrong. At least once I could only get the meaning after trying to conceive how an automatic translation would translate that phrase. At any rate, the title of the book should be translated correctly: And no, “Black Order” is not “Schwarzer Auftrag.”

Second, the book could have ended one supernatural experience earlier.

Read: Medusa

The nice thing about Cussler novels is that you get exactly what you paid for (The novels are pretty cheap). There are rarely (bad) surprises. And even though the characters from the NUMA series are generated from the same template as the characters from the older Pitt series I prefer the newer, slightly fresher ones.

The plot follows the usual archetype. Despite there being no surprises, or maybe because of it, the novels offers some good hours of quiet relaxation. No active thinking needed. The books has served its purpose.

Read: Arctic Drift

Within a period of 25 years there is remarkable little change in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series of novels. There is always the same, predictable structure and basic plot: A successful, entertaining recipe. In the more recent novels, next the the historic introduction, environmental issues have become more prominently featured. Arctic Drift, however, very clearly shows a significant change that began a couple of novels earlier.

Dirk Pitt, Sr. is getting old, tired, and hurt. He is not the (only) larger than live hero who saves the day any more. He is not the one who makes sure that the evil (greedy capitalist turned) villain is not going to hurt anyone any more. While still in the field much of the action that in earlier novels defined his character is now happening without him.

This change entails that other characters get more space. Yet, these “new” character are substantially less well development. There is a considerably smaller emotional attachment, less excitement. The Pitt series may slowly (or pretty fast) loose its appeal if this change continues.

Read: Map of Bones

A fast paced story, a plot twist that is well planned and despite its development is not obvious, and a set of characters that (even though they are far from being fully fleshed out) indeed has some characters that are not perfectly exchangeable with standard cut-outs make a good action adventure, entertainment. Map of Bones has all this.

Compared to the first Sigma Force novel, Rollins has substantially improved the character development. There are no strange coincidences piling up on each other that are needed to cover up plot holes. Plot development has improved as well. Hence, even though the story is no less “fantastic” this time it seems much more credible.

I am not sure the (modest) romance is needed. Yet, it also does not distract. In the end, do not all action thriller have a little romance so the hero has someone to rescue, to prove his valor, and to be attracted by?

Read: Sandstorm

While Sandstorm started strong – its female protagonist feels truly alive – it soon seems to change into a script for a TV movie that tries to combine too many tropes at the same time. There are too many coincidences, shootouts with increasingly heavy artillery, “surprising” reunions and family ties.

As a movie this would still result in an entertaining, action packed 90 minutes flick. The novel, however, loses much of its appeal. The characters become uninteresting and uni-dimensional. You struggle through the book. You still kind of enjoy it. Yet there is the lingering feeling it could be better with a little less.

Read: The Navigator

Good solid pulp fiction. Cussler and his co-author Kemprecos follow their standard recipe. So, no surprises. The novel is perfect for just winding down…

Read: Altar of Eden

Despite its title James Rollins' Altar of Eden is not even close to the religiously themed novels of Dan Brown and others. It is a science thriller, an action adventure, no supernatural mysteries here.

Rollins is a seasoned writer and there is very little about the novel that I did not like. The pre-story is too short. It should have been much longer, going into greater depth (Cussler seems to have found a good length for his setting of the stage), or it shouldn’t be there at all. There is also one sub-plot and its villain, in particular the villain, that I am not fond of. The sub-plot adds nicely to the character building of the heroine. The re-appearance of the sub-plots villain, however, is too much of a coincident and it does not add anything to the entertainment value of the novel.

That said, the novel was highly entertaining, gripping as a thriller should be.