My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I picked this book up at a charity book swap for a dollar. After that last book, I figured I needed something fun and easy on the brain. I mean, Dirk Pitt is Indiana Jones + James Bond + water! Several Dirk Pitt books have made an appearance as family road-trip fodder, because, while basically predictable (What, this story involves a secret treasure that’s probably in the ocean somewhere?! Who would guess!), it’s fun. What’s not to like?
So when I tell you that I basically enjoyed this book until I hit one completely abhorrent scene 3/4 of the way in and considered dropping the book completely–and that that one scene so disrupted my positive feelings for the rest of the book that I never enjoyed it again from that point onward–you know we’ve got problems.
Now the book is 30 years old, so I’m not going to bother with spoiler tags (plus I don’t think you should really bother with it anyway), but if you don’t want to know what happens, turn back now.
Okay. So the book somehow manages to combine a secret moon base, a massive lost golden statue (La Dorada), a missing millionaire, CIA agents, and a terroristic plot against communist Cuba and Fidel Castro personally.
It’s important to note that this was written in 1983 and set in 1985.
Essentially, these plot lines aren’t actually at all related, except that it made the President pretty damn unhappy and almost killed our hero Mr. Pitt at least a half-dozen times. This is one of the reasons I almost dropped the book; once one plot line was resolved, there wasn’t a lot of reason to continue. Plus it’s hard to believe Pitt made it most of the way through the novel without requiring serious medical attention. But he’s Aquaman meets Harrison Ford, so that’s not such a big deal.
What was a big deal was the way Cussler treated his ONE female character (seriously. There are, like, 8 prominent male characters. There is one woman with a name who is important; one other appears briefly to give background and returns to her retirement home).
If you think I’m just being melodramatic, consider this scenario:
You’re an incredibly beautiful, intelligent woman married to a millionaire (her only fault is her inherent woman-ness. Gag). You can speak 5 languages, are a skilled SCUBA diver, and, oh, yes sure, you can fly the extremely rare and challenging blimp your husband managed to get kidnapped from. You make the mistake of traveling with Dirk Pitt. In the process, you are captured by evil Soviet KGB agents and tortured (the details are fuzzy, but you’re naked and thoroughly bruised). Then, your husband is killed in front of you and you make a mad dash for escape. You end up on a beach in Cuba, wearing the wet and stinky uniform of a Cuban militia. You spend the night hiding in a storm drain with Dirk Pitt. What would you do next?
…If your answer isn’t “have sex with Dirk Pitt, a man who maligned your dead-not-even-12-hours husband for his adultery,” then you clearly are a sane person and not in this book.
There are so many things wrong with that scene!
I threw the book across the room when I read it. It was less than 2 pages, but that scene ruined the entire book for me.
But I’m not one to abandon books, generally, so I finished the danged thing, but wow, it never got better, and Jessie LeBaron (Ms. Richy-Rich herself) just got more ridiculous and whimpering helpless woman the farther I read. If this were the only Cussler book I had ever read, I’d think he’d never met an actual woman.
Now, there were some great things writers could learn from this book. For example, the level of detail for ships and cars was incredible. You can tell where Cussler’s real interests lie. That was super! …it did become a failing when he screwed up some really fundamental information about the moon (like that the “back side” never faces the Earth. And that people couldn’t hang out on that side anyway, because it’s really freaking cold). I don’t know if that information just wasn’t available in the 1980s, but I feel like maybe it was; the US had been on the moon for nearly two decades at that point.
Another thing I think I could learn from was the level of brutality that Cussler is willing to throw at his main character. Seriously, Dirk Pitt got hit with everything under the sun. It reads like something out of a soap opera when listed out, but in the book, it’s great for keeping things exciting.
But all in all, there are far better Cussler books out there. If you’re interested in his writing, go read one of those instead. This one would be better off on the bottom of the sea.