Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BOOKS: The Jungle by Clive Cussler

The first of two review today, both books coming from the best-seller production line overseen by Clive Cussler. I'm out and about tomorrow and experience has taught me I won't feel like doing too much when I get home. Ergo, the two reviews in a day idea.

This first Cussler book follows the now familiar Cussler formula. Start eons in the past and have something of value vanish in the mists of time. Cut to the present, or the close to the present, and have one of Cussler's stable of heroic teams go on an adventure, mostly totally unrelated to the opening prologue's events. The thriller continues until near the end, the two stories coalesce and the sudden appearance of the first story's thing of value saves the day. Along the way, Cussler inserts himself in a way that ALMOST costs him a star by itself. I've raged against the self-indulgent practice for years. Cussler ignores me. (Guess the other several million readers who don't complain sway him).

Down to brass tacks. The Jungle starts in ancient China where Marco Polo is an ambassador to the camp of General Khenbish, a hulking Genghis Khan flunkie. The Mongols use a raygun in their attempts to raze a village. An honest to goodness raygun. Cut to present times.

And the heroes of this particular book are The Company that sails on the Oregon, under the leadership of one-legged Juan Cabrillo, the Chairman. This is my favourite ongoing series and that has more than just having Jack DuBruul as co-author. Despite my railing about the Cussler appearances, he doesn't show up in this book. Or any of the other Oregon Files books, if memory serves me right. So, given Cussler's proven ability to churn out page-turning thrillers and minus my one bete noir, sight unseen, The Jungle's probably a five-star book.

The threads are all there in this one, if you really need details to make up your mind. Somebody's killing people who are too interested in Polo scholarship from his Chinese days. There's also a kidnap victim to retrieve and possibly a new Company man. And a double-crossing would-be victim turns out to be a real bad guy.

Most of the action occurs in southeast Asia, starting in the moutainous regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Cabrillo and company are there to rescue a kidnap victim. Along the way, MacD Lawless steps in to help Cabrillo, Linc and Eddie get away with the former hostage. Impressed with Lawless's timely intervention, the Company extends an invitation to join.

Almost immediately, Cabrillo, MacD and a team head into the jungle on another search and rescue. Which ultimately leads to a prison in Myanmar. By the time some of The Company's good guys help effect an escape from the hellhole that is a Myanmar prison, the sides of the concluding battle have been drawn. There are large stakes involved and the double and triple crosses need to be resolved. The crystals from the ancient raygun are a needed component of a quantum computer, probably the world's most powerful. And the good guys need control of that computer when everything is said and done.

No surprise here, the good guys do win. But, it's a close call and a thrilling ride to get there. The Jungle is highly recommended, with an extra sixth star for not having Cussler IN the book.

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