Lost City Hardcover – Jul 26 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Kurt Austin, leader of the National Underwater and Marine Agency's Special Assignments Team, battles international evildoers again in the fifth installment of this excellent series. There are several parallel plots: a mysterious aviator has been found frozen in a massive glacier; a mutant seaweed is threatening to choke the world's oceans; a giant submarine is roaming the thermal vents of the deep sea area known as the Lost City; and the secretive, arms-dealing Fauchard family, run by ruthless black-widow Racine and her homicidal son, Emil, is up to no good. Also there's a mysterious 16th-century helmet, a search for the philosopher's stone and an island of filthy, mutant cannibals. Austin's love interest is lush, sensual Skye Labelle, an archeologist specializing in arms and armor ("She had a good body, but it would never make the cover of Sports Illustrated"). Kidnappings, hair's-breadth escapes, fierce battles, strange science, beautiful women and plenty of action add up to vintage Cussler. Of course, one of the secrets of the genre is to waste no time on ancillary details: "Before long, a cigar-shaped object came into view"; "Before long, they were stepping out of the cockpit onto the deck." Readers will find that, before long, they're racing through the pages as Austin and his band of merry men fight to stop the Fauchards from reaching the ultimate evildoer's goal: world domination.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–The Fauchards, successful developers and sellers of weapons, keep their place as a major power in the industry through many centuries. Kurt Austin and his crew of trained scientists and elite fighters from the National Underwater and Marine Agency begin investigating nefarious activities of the powerful Racine Fauchard and her son. Their dastardly project involves scientific experiments on humans in order to find an elixir of eternal youth. They are also leading a team of mercenaries who are melting down a massive glacier containing the remains of a Fauchard ancestor and a metal helmet on which is recorded the formula for the elixir. At the same time, the oceans of the world are under siege from a mutant strain of algae, one of the vile spin-off plots by the devilish Racine. Myriad subplots weave together until they form the ending. Along the way, the action fluctuates from a steady pace to racing forward when they intertwine. The story is set in the present, and historical events are added to help explain elements of the complex plot. Settings range from under the Atlantic Ocean to the French Alps and Greece. The Fauchards' creepy castle, complete with dungeon and torture chamber, increases the feeling of science fiction that often accompanies Cussler's stories. Interesting and entertaining reading.–Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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And there are additional elements of the story still to be introduced. First, Kurt and his associate Joe Zavala are called upon to save Skye and several others trapped by an explosion deep underneath the glacier. The focus then shifts to Kurt's colleagues Paul and Gamay Trout, who are asked to join a NUMA team investigating an infestation of Gorgonweed threatening to choke the world's oceans and upset both the world's ecology and commerce. This threat has apparently originated in an area of the Atlantic named the LOST CITY due to the confluence of huge underwater towers and the microbe communities that have become attached to them. The microbial action and an enzyme found in the region have caused the seaweed to mutate into a species that has the potential to create immense havoc by clogging the oceans to the extent that all life on the planet might be seriously disrupted. In addition, it appears that the enzymes produced by these microbes are being secretly harvested by unknown predators. The plot will also be further complicated by the actions of the Fauchard family, many of whom are truly villainous and yet have wielded immense power for centuries.
Several segments of this book are very informative and truly fascinating, especially when dealing with subjects that demand the provision of detailed technical background information in order to make the story believable. I found some of the information on glaciology, oceanography and deep sea submersibles very interestingly presented. And such exotic topics as the features of the Morane-Saulnier N aircraft, ancient weapons, and early trade routes certainly added to the believability of the plot.
So, WHY JUST THREE STARS? Because inexplicably large sections of the book read like an unedited first draft. I have no idea whether there was a belief that the plot and the series' popularity were enough to make the book successful, whether there was a tight publication deadline, or if there is some other explanation, but the overall effect was very disappointing. Specifically, my criticisms are fourfold. First, a lot of the dialog is either stilted, childish, cliché filled or just plain ludicrous. (Most high school students could have made it more realistic.) Second, in several instances the characters actions make no sense. Individuals act with total disregard of the obvious dangers which they face, taking not even the most obvious precautions. Third, much of the backstory is provided by conversations which seem totally unlikely. I cannot go into detail without providing spoilers, but at one point one the villains (apparently fueled by egotism) willingly and totally superfluously engages in an extended dialog with one of her adversaries the only purpose of which is to enlighten the reader. Last, many of the escapes and much of the action, while wildly exciting and entertaining, are totally lacking in credibility, even for a novel of this genre.
In summary, the story has a hugely imaginative plot, full of the type of intrigue and conspiracy favored by readers of the genre. And there is certainly plenty of heartstopping action. But it is poorly written and obviously manipulative of the reader. In retrospect this is probably a book that will appeal much more to speed readers and individuals who are willing to just quickly skim through the sections to which I objected and concentrate on the action. So, a frustrating three stars, almost five stars for the plot and barely two stars for the authors' execution.
One of these enzymes has turned folks into "half-human" monsters (it's so B-grade nutty that it's almost good) who then go about attacking "normal" people. A sub-sub-plot involves destroying the oceans for some nefarious reason. Of course, something goes wrong and the helmet's powers are reversed - sorta like a nuclear bomb that builds a city instead of destroying it. Old widow dies of old age prematurely (is that a contradiction?) and our forgettable hero goes on to new adventures.
What's pitiful is that there only a slight attempt to connect these hairbrained tales. And, of course, everything connected to the story is larger than life - eternal life, monsters, ruling the world, destroying the oceans. Absurd, ridiculous, poorly written - to be read only if one is trapped on a desert island.
Cussler always gives me a topic to research. In this case it is the Minoans.
Fortunately, we fans of Clive have been given the Kurt Austin books as a way of "atoning" for the lackings of the most recent Pitt books. I have heard the arguments that Austin is just a rip-off of Pitt, but the fact of the matter is thst this is not such a bad thing. While the first two entrants in the NUMA Files series, Serpent and Blue Gold, were adequate thrillers the line really hit its stride with 2002's Fire Ice. (The first one for which the publishers abandoned the "trade paperback" format in place of the more conventional "Hardcover" first printing. Coincidence? I think not.) That last two, White Death, and the new, Lost City, both feature outstanding plots that harken back to some of the classic Pitt storylines. If I had to guess, I would venture to say that Clive develops the plots for these books and at leasst lays out the Kurt and Joe parts while Kemprecos is the driving force behind the Trout charactes.
In any case, if you are feeling like Clive let you down with Trojan Odyssey and may be losing it, I would encourage you give one of the afforementined Kurt Austin books a read. By the way, I noticed on Amazon that there is a new Clive "solo" book, "Black Wind" due to be published at the end of November. I don't know if it is a Pitt novel of something different but it looks like I'm still gonna be rushing out to the bookstore on my lunchbreak.....