I am an unabashed fan of Clive Cussler's work. I remember him pitching Raise the Titanic on a radio show last century and went out and bought it. And subsequently, everything else he's written in novel form, and the two non-fiction books too.
Granted, I'm a little fatigued with his main series star, Dirk Pitt. And Kurt Austin, star of his secondary series is really Pitt with a slightly different supporting cast. The tertiary series, The Oregon Files, however is still young and vibrant. And the latest in that series, Plague Ship, was a pleasure to read today.
The Oregon Files are about the good ship Oregon and it's black ops company of good men, led by the Chairman Juan Cabrillo. The one-legged Cabrillo is every bit the superman that Pitt and Austin are, but the cast is more diffusive than those surrounding Cussler's main series stars. This book is as much about Max Hanley as it is Cabrillo. He gets the last line of the book. Hanley's role is normally Scotty to Cabrillo's Kirk, but he has to step away from his engines to rescue his son, who's joined a cult.
Like all cults, there's a veneer of reasonability behind Responsivism. Dedicated to cutting down the explosive population growth its founder figures will lead Earth into ruin, the cult acts like a passing fad amongst Hollyweirdos and liberal do-gooders. Like many cults, the veneer hides a rotten core, one determined to unleash a modern-day plague upon Earth, rendering half the world population sterile, forever.
The means for doing so is simultaneously brilliant and yet clumsily handled. A timer-released set of their viral bombs would have worked perfectly fine. But no, Cussler had to construct one of those Bondian strongholds for the villain to push a button and launch death and destruction. There also had to be the requisite hero-capturing and escape from said stronghold before it's destroyed. Contrived? Yes. Still a page-turner? Absolutely yes!
There isn't much missing from the stock Cussler surrounding material. There's a brutish Serbian thug who gets his in satisfying fashion. Plenty of underwater theatrics. But, and this is a BIG but, this not being a Pitt or Austin novel, NO sudden appearance to save the day in some fashion by a character called Clive Cussler. I had that little peccadillo we've seen from Cussler over the last half of his career more than words can communicate. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.
So, in the absence of it, or any other major blemishes, I have to save, liked it, liked it, liked it!