▸ dirk pitt

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: Crescent Dawn

While Cussler’s Cresent Dawn is well, or rather fast paced and, surprisingly, was not going over the top as many Cussler novels do the character development is going all wrong. At least as far as Dirk Pitt Jr is concerned.

The whole subplot of the loss of Pitt Jr’s love interest and its violent conclusion is non-credible. The parallelism between father and son with respect to their lost love is unnecessary. There is no reason for “cloning” Dirk Pitt. The figure is easily exchanged without copying every little feature as the other Cussler novel series prove. The bonding time between Pitt and his lost love is too short to justify his actions and, I guess, the emotional scars in later novels. His vengeful violence depicted in the novel is excessive and does to seem to fit the earlier impression I had.

Overall, the novel seems to suffer a bit from the rather large number of main characters. The too many protagonists lead to less room for character development and to too many subplots. Each of these subplots may be interesting, all of them are, however, under-developed and thus too shallow.

All in all, Crescent Dawn is neither Cussler’s worst nor best.

Read: Treasure of Khan

It’s just a matter of knowing the secret of all writing serial novels: At the end of the book everything is back to normal.

A little bit too long (600 pages that could have been 400, maybe 500) and a few parts a bit too forced, just included because they have become part of the author’s signature and the character has to be mentioned to make the story ‘complete’. Otherwise, Treasure of Khan is good entertainment and a necessary balance to the other books on my reading list…

Two things I noticed. Again: Cussler should write history-adventure novels. I really like the preludes. For the first time (maybe he did it before and I did not notice): An interesting stylistic device to create more momentum and intensify the plot. While the earlier chapters stay in the same context and the reader stays with the same protagonists, later chapters switch between scenes and characters more frequently. Interesting does not, however, imply that I liked it particularly. It may have been an unintended consequence of squeezing in one more of the Cussler-novel usual characters.

Read: Black Wind

I just noticed, it is more than a year ago that I have read a Dirk Pitt novel (and more than half a year ago that I read any Cussler novel). I used to read them in a more rapid succession. Visiting more bricks and mortar book stores seems to help with diversifying my readings a little bit.

Black Wind continues the slight change in the general tone of the Dirk Pitt novels. There is less explicitly described violence and more intelligence gathering. I guess this is a result of the co-authorship with Cussler’s son. Cussler senior just turned eighty. It would not be a big surprise if much of “his” writing nowadays is actually done by his co-authors and he just is the brand mark that signals what the reader will get. Yet, there are still plenty of moments that are pure Cussler senior, e.g. many of the dialogs between Dirk Pitt and his colleague and brother in arms Al Giordino. Though not especially of extraordinary high-literature quality they are one ingredient that made the Dirk Pitt series such a long running success.

Thus, there is definitely no reason to stop reading Cussler now…

Read: Trojan Odyssey

Clive Cussler’s Tronjan Odyssey marks a small break in his successful Dirk Pitt series. After the introduction of Dirk Pitt’s offspring in the last novel it is time for retirement from the adventurous escapades of Pitt senior’s former life. Thus, there are two interwoven plot lines installing Pitt junior as his father’s successor in future installments of the series. Neither Pitt is on a personal vendetta, rescue missions and intelligence gathering are the central elements of this novel.

This time Cussler is going a bit farther out on a limp than usual, hinging his background plot on a rather obscure theory of the location of Troy advanced by a lay historian, Iman Wilkens (Where Troy Once Stood).

Nevertheless, entertaining as ever.

Read: Valhalla Rising

not something far beyond current technology. But please, teleportation? This really spoils everything. Especially, if the technology is used for one thing and subsequent explanations for why teleporting living beings is not possible are totally bogus given the explanation for what is done with the non-animate matter. Cussler, stick to your last.

Read: Atlantis Found

My problem with Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels is that even though they all follow the same basic structure I cannot stop reading them. And as long as there are still some unread volumes on my bookshelves there is no reason to – except of course that I also like some diversity.

Atlantis Found invokes two different opinions in me. First, it is once again a superb, tantalizing adventure. Second, Cussler becomes too practiced. There are some phrases you have to read more often than you would like them to read in one single novel. There are a few plot elements that appear too often in this series and that hurt the credibility of its characters. Luckily, Clussler also breaks with some of his traditional story elements in Atlantis Found and thus introduces a new twist. Finally, the series' protagonists mature. Their social relations change what may open the door for new developments.

Read: Flood Tide

Given that Cussler’s business is to entertain, writing fictional novels that are a mix of adventure and mystery, it is quite astonishing how he almost always embeds his indestructible hero Dirk Pitt in a plot of international political, ecological or economic crises.

This time he broaches the issue of illegal immigration, its probable social and political consequences for the United States on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the ecological and economic issues related to a dynamic, even skittish natural environment like the Mississippi river. The usual love interest, mayhem and personal vendetta are thrown into this mix, too. The result: one of Cussler’s better Dirk Pitt novels.

Read: Shock Wave

I think I have not noticed this before but with Shock Wave it became rather clear. One of Cussler’s strengths is setting up the historical backdrop of his novels. Once in a while, I would really like to read only these parts if they came as a full fledged novel on their own.

Or do I become a little tired of Dirk Pitt? Always the hero, indestructible and with his luck never running out. Maybe Cussler felt the same. Two years after Shock Wave he published the first NUMA Files novel that features a different protagonist while still taking place in the same timeline and universe he created with Pitt. Actually, these novels got me started with reading Cussler.

That being said, Shock Wave was fast paced and exhilarating as ever. A new evil (economic) super power is introduced, almost Bond-like I dare say. I wonder whether they will re-appear in the next novels as a more active ingredient to mix of adventure, science, global politics, and secret agents.

Read: Inca Gold

It is already two months since my last Clive Cussler novel. Given the backlog on my to-read-shelves I should read one Cussler novel per month so that I will get a new truck load of books as presents this December. Yet, there are so many other books. Luckily there are some weekends when I have more time to read than otherwise. Easter weekend is one of these relaxing reading weekends. It’s really nice to spend all day sitting in the garden enjoying the sun and reading an enthralling novel.

Inca Gold is another of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventures. And this time it’s a real treasure hunt as a second party is also searching for the old Inca’s Gold. As most times there is a little (accurate – at the time) political background information. I really was pleasantly surprised to find the Shining Path who are mentioned in the book also mentioned in this week’s Economist. So Cussler really does a little research for his tantalizing novels to inflict some knowledge on his readers.

I guess by now I am already used to the sometimes rather brutal violence in Cussler’s novels. There are a few inevitable deaths. Though, this time I was not as repelled by them as when reading some of the earlier Cussler novels. Indeed, they felt kind of right.

Since this novel was rather absorbing, more than Sahara I think, I wonder why they did not adapt this book for film instead of Sahara.