on July 8, 2004
When the Eskimo villain captured our hero, Kurt Austin (or is it Austin Powers?), I expected him to say, "Welcome to my evil lair." He even had his own form of ill tempered sea bass! I'm sorry, but this thing read like a farce. Dog sleds in downtown DC? Mutant fish that may take over the world? Give me a break. Furthermore, the book was just plain boring. The action was only compelling in a few sections (unlike most of Cussler's books).
on June 24, 2004
Yes, that is Clive Cussler's name in enormous letters, but one needs to merely read one page to know he isn't the author of this book (of course, we all know that already).
Paul Kemprecos is an adept author, but lacks the flair and word flow Cussler has. As a result his book feels a bit stiffer, yet is still worth reading to someone familiar with Cussler's work.
All the pieces of the Cussler world are there. Links to past worlds, history coming alive in modern times, events happening a small amount in the future to allow for more powerful technology, death-defying stunts that are over the top yet not nauseously so, a smart-alec sidekick - you'll find it all. To some people this is all too much of a formula to enjoy, but if you're sitting on a beach, boat or inflatable raft, well, this is the perfect way to read without thinking.
If you enjoyed James Bond or, more accurately Indiana Jones then you'll enjoy this novel. It isn't the best in the Cussler world, though it's likely the best Kurt Austin book to date.
Worth reading, just take it all with a grain of salt. Or a salt-lick, whichever you need.
on May 27, 2004
"White Death" is another of the NUMA franchise books - stories written by Cussler and Paul Kamprecos which star characters from the "National Underwater & Marine Agency". NUMA was originally created to showcase Cussler's hero, the deep-diving, globe-hopping and mystery-solving Dirk Pitt, but grew to include a stable of characters who carry the show in these newer books. Though the story follows the formula of just about every Dirk Pitt novel, Pitt never makes an appearance in this one. In "White Death", NUMA hero Kurt Austin runs afoul of Oceanus - a vast corporate hydra that markets genetically modified fish across the globe. In true Cussler tradition, the initial confrontation is perfectly accidental - Austin volunteers to save the crew of Danish warship accidentally sunk by a ship belonging to a fringe group of whale-huggers. Too late, Austin learns that the Whale-huggers - led by an opportunist named Marcus Ryan - were set-up by Oceanus to distract the world from a nearby fish-processing plant. Sneaking into the unusually secure commercial fishery owned by the company on the remote Faroes Islands, Austin finds clues to a darker secret than Albacore. On the other side of the Atlantic, Paul and Gamay Trout - married NUMA marine biologists - investigate the waters near an Oceanus fishery in North America. For those who live nearby but don't work for Oceanus, times are tough. Not that there isn't any fishing, only that there's something in the water that has replaced the normal catch, and it demands a really bigger boat...
Connecting the dots on each side, Austin and team link Oceanus with a mysterious and legendarily violent tribe of outcast Inuit known as the Kiolya. Led by a figure known as "Toonook", the Kiolya and Oceanus are poised to unleash a horrifying genetically engineered eco-weapon of mass destruction that will give them a stranglehold on the oceans of the world. On their side, Austin falls back on a wealthy but mysterious Spaniard - a Basque who traces his roots to a 15th century explorer persecuted by the Inquisition. But will they be enough to stop Oceanus?
This is only my second "Kurt Austin/NUMA novel - the first being "Serpent". It's still not up to the quality of the Pitt novels, but "White Death" is still quite good. If it holds few surprises, it's a fast read, and the characters seem to come alive much better than they did in the other book. Best of all are the villains - Toonook and the viscious Kiolya are utterly evil, but so formidible that you know they won't go easily. Kamprecos/Cussler gather the respective forces together for a slam-bang finish that gives you faith in the future of the NUMA novels.
on December 3, 2003
In all honesty, I have to start out by saying I'm a little prejudiced toward Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels as they were the genesis of NUMA and all are really good books. On the other hand though, the NUMA Files series are making a continually impressive push to level the playing field and they offer almost as much reading pleasure. Cussler's addition of White Death is no exception.
NUMA's men of action on the Special Assignments Team, Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala are faced with confronting and eventually stopping a massive, global corporation whose aims are bent on manipulating and destroying a vast amount of marine life in the oceans. Along for the ride and offering token assistance to NUMA is a radical environmentalist group who has already tasted the wrath of this rogue corporation that stops at nothing to eliminate competition and silence anyone who pries into their activities. Using the ever familiar combination of daring, improvisation, and death defying feats of skill only James Bond could love, the NUMA team defies obstacles and mayhem around each and every corner to ensure victory in their quest.
The above synopsis is the brunt of the plot without giving too much away. There still remains quite a bit of history and adventure that is decently satisfying throughout the novel. White Death is generally well written and moves along at a good pace making for a quick and exciting read. Clive Cussler seems to have his finger on the pulse of his fans and continues to generate a nice amount of appeal in his NUMA Files series. Dirk Pitt is still the man to beat but Kurt Austin is closing in.
on December 2, 2003
Kurt and Joe are back for their fourth installment in White Death. This time Cussler and Kemprecos have them called in to save a sunken Danish cruiser that was apparently deliberately rammed by the environmental group SOS during a protest against a grind by the Faroe Islanders. After rescuing the crew and determining the 'accident' was caused by an act of sabotage Kurt ends up investigating a fish farm owned by the Oceanus corporation and discovering a hostile reception during his visit.
The story runs two themes: the first of the bio-engineered fish (and all the ecological morality issues it entails) that seems to be the deadly guarded secret of Oceanus that SOS - personified by the overly melodramatic Ryan, the stoical Nighthawk (whose village was enslaved by Oceanus near the Canadian Great Lakes) and the beautiful Therri, the SOS lawyer, who provides Kurt's love interest The second theme, tying in the prologue is personified by Aguirrez, a descendant of the same named sixteenth century sailor who fled the Inquisition bearing the relics of Roland. Aguirrez becomes a good ally for Kurt whilst he is searching for the relics. Aguirrez aids NUMA with his personal floating armoured ship, the Navarre, allowing Austin and Zavala to use the boat as a point with which to infiltrate the Canadian 'fish farm'. What follows is the usual mayhem as Austin and Zavala destroy the restored German pre-WWII blimp, feed the evil Professor to his genetically engineered fish, kill all the bad guys from the Eskimo Kiolyas and generally save the day.
I must confess I do like the Austin novels. People will invariably compare to Dirk and have a favourite, but the writing style for both heroes runs a similar vein and it's a formula that works.
However, of the Cussler/Kemprecos efforts this is the weakest to date as it suffers from a plot that never intrudes upon the reader as even faintly plausible, emphasized by Kurt's big dog-sled race through central DC which is ridiculous. The climatic end isn't really and the supporting characters are sketches. Having just read Trojan Odyssey straight after this, the gulf between the two novels is vast and can only favour Dirk, in the Pitt/Austin debate. Nevertheless, the previous three joint offerings were good and hopefully the fifth can return to those grandiose ways.
on November 26, 2003
I admit it, I'm a Dirk Pitt fan through and through and I'm not sure any series and/or hero will ever measure up to those standards. However, I am enjoying the Kurt Austin series more and more. And although this book lacked the non-stop action of the Pitt series and previous Austin fares, it's still a very entertaining novel.
In White Death, a corporate conglomerate is attempting to monopolize the fishing industry by killing fish with genetically altered salmon. I know, reading this first sentence causes you to roll your eyes (it did me too), but the adventure of Kurt and his Numa co-horts Joe Zavala and Paul and Gamay Trout, along with cameos with Pitt regulars Rudi Gunn, Hiram Yeager and St. Julien Perlmutter kept my interest for the entire book.
Many adventures do occur in the book, including Kurt and Joe's rescue of trapped passengers in a sunken Danish cruiser, the rescue of Canadien wilderness villagers from blood-thirsty Mongol-like killers, to the dramatic climax aboard a German zeppelin. This is vintage Cussler, and as such, keeps the pages turning at a fast-action pace.
As I said, I'm not placing Kurt Austin into the Dirk Pitt stratus yet, but his stock keeps rising with each tale.
on October 24, 2003
This book is one of a series of thrillers featuring Kurt Austin, a near-superhero who works for a mysterious government organization called NUMA. Austin uncovers a plot to wipe out the ocean's fish species, replacing them with vicious, genetically engineered salmon (the economic theory behind this is never made very clear). The corporation behind the plot kills off people who get in its way, using stereotyped bloodthirsty Mongoloid men as shock troops. The plot involves a dirigible reconstructed from the wreckage of one that crashed in the Arctic during the 1920's (would you fly in this thing?) This zeppelin is housed in a huge structure in the Canadian wilds that makes itself invisible by adapting its exterior to its surroundings. When Austin and his sidekick are caught on board the airship, does the chief villain kill them on the spot? No, of course not. He keeps them alive to see how the plan will be carried out, and to escape. This wasn't very believable when Goldfinger decided not to cut James Bond in half with a laser. While the writing is generally competent, the story stretches credibility a bit too far. Austin's romantic relationship with the only significant female character is a perfunctory throwaway. Is it any surprise that she has to be rescued by our hero?
on October 22, 2003
I just finished Clive Cussler's new book White Death.
I own every one of the books written by Clive Cussler, all in hardbook editions. Clive has always been my favorite writer, without question. Dirk Pitt or course being my favoite of Clive's characters, but certainly Kurt Austin has been coming along as a good replacement.
Clive's books have always been a fast read with lots of twists and turns in his story lines. As you read his books, you always say to yourself, how are you going to tie up all of these story lines? But in the end you know Clive will do it with a bang,and the entertainment with will be great.
I can tell that Clive did not write this book. It is too wordy with so much side explanitation that at times you want to take his by the shoulders and shake him and say, "Get on with it". Clive's books are a fast read, this one is not.
If Clive is trying to train Mr. Kemprecos to take over writing his books when he retires, he needs a lot more work on shortening his chapters and getting on with the story line.
Don't get me wrong, I will continue to read his books, I still enjoy reading every page. I just wish Clive would edit them a little better the next time before he puts his name on them.
on September 14, 2003
If I have a must read author, then I suppose it would have to be Clive Cussler. His plots are outlandish and ridiculous, his dialogue is...well, laughably pathetic and his heroes are annoyingly sanctimonious, but I'm still hooked on them all. They're worth their weight in gold just for the action and head-snapping pace.
And so it goes with WHITE DEATH. In this book Kurt and Joe are up against an environmental disaster thanks to some genetically modified "frankenfish". Starting on the Faroes Islands and then zipping over to the Canadian wilderness, there seems to be a lot of unusual behavior and unaccountable missing fish in the vicinity of certain fish farms, and these fish farms all seem to belong to one mysterious conglomerate, Oceanus. As with many of Kurt Austin's opponents, these "evil-doers" prefer to take the aggressive form of defense and merely succeed in arousing Austin's wrath. This is always a serious mistake when dealing with a Cussler hero.
Of course, there is the usual evil megalomaniac who makes the usual cliched mistakes. Of course, there are the usual last-minute death-defying escapes. Of course, there is the usual stunningly gorgeous, though exceedingly brilliant woman who just happens to fall for Kurt. Of course, I zipped through the book and will be lining up for the next one (ain't I a tragic?)
So yeah, nothing's changed, substitute Dirk for Kurt, Al for Joe and whammo, you've got yourself a new series. This is one of the weaker NUMA Files adventures, going a little heavier than usual on the cheesiness, but if you're a Clive Cussler fan, I think you'll be satisfied, if you're not I would suggest starting on the Dirk Pitt series instead.
on September 6, 2003
I have every Clive Cussler book, most in first edition hardback, and all in audio. I love this stuff: for the story and the magic. This book is a huge disappointment. I kept reading; waiting for some subtelty to appear as in the Dirk Pitt novels: to no avail. I was expecting the heros to combine their creativity and technology to pull the rabbit out of the hat. If it happened it was crude, left out of the story, or glossed over. Previous stories have the heros use the new technology against the bad guys, and to show you how to do it. Not here, just a bunch of cultural side jokes. Some are funny, most are misplaced; and if not in your culture, totally irrelevant.
This story centers around genetic engineering and global economics. But is does so at the level of a six year old. The details that would explain the story are as lost as a grain of sand in the sea: bring your own background information.
This book introduces some critical issues, but does nothing to explain their importance. With the reputation that Mr. Cussler and Mr. Kemprecos have, one would expect a better result. They missed the boat as surely as the bad guys in their book did. (Where is Michael Crichton when you need him?)
OK, so this is just an adventure story. Even in that genre it falls short. You can tell who wrote which sentence. It was a very uncomfortable book to read. Next time I will get it from the library before I decide to spend the money on a personal copy.