Clive Cussler has a long string of hits on his hands. He seems to have a very loyal, intense following. So I decided to join the crowd and see what all the hullabaloo was about. After reading Sahara, I consider Cussler a cross between Tom Clancy and Harry Turtledove. His books contain the same adventurous plots and political intrigue that Clancy’s do, while also working in the alternative history themes favored by Turtledove.
Most of Cussler’s novels (except several of his very latest ones) revolve around Dirk Pitt. Dirk is an oceanographer/adventurer who works for a fictional US government agency (NUMA). Somehow, he always manages to be in the middle of a crisis that is often precipitated by some odd historical event. Although there is some revisionist history in Sahara, it doesn’t figure directly into the crisis du jour.
When NUMA discovers that the world’s oceans are being polluted and the entire population of the Earth is in jeopardy, they naturally call on Dirk Pitt to investigate and save the day. Tracing the source of the pollution up an African river, Pitt is quickly drawn into a web of intrigue involving a "banana republic"-type dictatorship in the heart of Africa. As Pitt seeks to solve the mystery of the pollution he finds a gold mine manned by slaves and a hazardous waste disposal facility that may not be what it seems. He also investigates a few odd mysteries along the way, such as the last flight of a long-lost Australian aviator and a civil war gunboat that disappeared in 1865. It’s a race against time as Dirk and his long-time pal Al must solve these mysteries and save humanity from a horrible fate… the total depletion of oxygen on the planet Earth.
The novel has an engaging action plot (if not particularly inventive) that held my interest throughout the book (despite being 568 pages, I read this in two days). Except for Dirk and Al, the characterization is a bit weak, but the showpiece for this type of novel is clearly the plot. The villains are sufficiently decadent and evil, which gives us something to cheer about when Dirk saves the day (as we know he must). Cussler interjects a bit of humor now and again, which works effectively as a foil to the grim plot. The civil war plot is totally unrelated to the main plot and could have been left out entirely, but it was inventive scenario which Cussler fans have come to expect in these novels.
All in all, a satisfying read. I will definitely read another Dirk Pitt novel (I’ve been told Treasure is particularly good) even though I know that Dirk will end up saving the world once again. Well, we always know that James Bond is going to save the world too… what’s the harm as long as we are entertained. And Cussler does deliver entertainment.
Reviewed by: Alan
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