Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BOOKS: Lost Empire by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood

As I continue to read everything Clive Cussler writes, with or without co-authors, I find myself dreading that moment in most books he's associated with these days when HE, Clive Cussler, will show up in his own book to offer vital information or succor to the main characters in the book. I dread that moment, that ARRRGGHH! realization that, once again, he couldn't resist the temptation. I imagine he sits in his chair before his computer and chortles with glee as he writes that scene (or scenes) into his latest opus. I wish SOMEONE would tell him it stopped being cute and clever about the second time he did it. Which was years ago. SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, please tell him to STOP!!!!

The trigger for this latest attempt to restore sanity to the Cussler writing factory is Lost Empire, the second of the Fargo Adventures novels featuring husband and wife adventuring team Sam and Remi Fargo. This is, the fifth Cussler series creation, following the better known Dirk Pitt, Kurt Austin, Oregon Files and Isaac Bell series. When the first book, Spartan Gold, came out, I actually thought briefly that Cussler had spun out the Gamay and Paul Trout characters from the Kurt Austin series. But Sam and Remi certainly aren't supporting characters. They are their own team, traveling about the planet, diving and spelunking, digging up lost treasure and solving ages-old mysteries.

Just like every Cussler series, save the Isaac Bell one.

Okay, I've got the familiarity over with. If you like Cussler, you will like this book. But I think there are enough flaws to prevent loving the book. And I'm just not referring to Cussler (AKA The Kid in this one) showing up. There's a certain recklessness that permeates this book. At least twice, Sam intentionally crashes whatever he's in, a car once and then a plane, into the water to escape the bad guy. Ahhh, THAT'S BELIEVABLE. Not! And then there is the sheer unwillingness to involve the constabulary, either by the Fargo's or their inside man at the alphabet organizations. Sure, most of the action in this book takes place in Zanzibar, Mozambique and Indonesia. But surely an honest cop isn't THAT hard to find, even there!

But those are the nits that I'm going to pick anyway. What remains is a great travelogue and a pretty decent mystery. WITH graphics to boot. Because there are old treasure maps. Everywhere it seems. On paper, on metal and in the most surprising places. Sam and Remi act just as tough as Dirk and Giordano or Kurt and Zavala, while making lovey-dovey conversation. But they dive, climb and spelunk into the oddest places to gather evidence about the true origins of the Aztec peoples of Mexico. All the way, trailed and threatened by the right-hand henchman of the fictional President of Mexico.

Cussler never fails to cleverly connect the dots (literally in this book) and draw events from years, centuries before, into the modern day and get that satisfying Eureka! moment late in the book. Ships find their way to the most surprising of places in his books. And this one is no exception.

I like this book and am looking forward to the next Fargo Adventure. I just didn't love it.

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