Book Review: Zero Hour (NUMA Files #11)

Book Review

Zero Hour (NUMA Files #11)

Clive Cussler & Graham Brown

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 Stars)

Thriller

Zero Hour by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown features Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala on a mission to save Australia, and the world from a mad scientist bent on destroying entire continents.

This book is SO classic-era James Bond. Daring action from the opening pages to the end. Locations from the most remote parts of the Australian desert to the most remote reaches of the southern oceans. There are nukes involved. And dangerous Russian agents. The mad scientist behind it all even has his own secret underground lair in a volcano.  I’m not even remotely exaggerating. Unfortunately, it was not shaped like a skull or Dr Evil, but it’s still pretty cool. With a lineup like that, how can you not like this book?

The story is typical Kurt Austin fare. Slick action that saves the day. Lots of stuff blowing up. Getting the girl. Cool gadgets and experimental science. And because it’s NUMA, stuff with big boats. If you’re a fan of the NUMA files, or any of Clive Cussler’s works, you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a quick, easy, fun read.

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Book Review: Nano (Pia Grazdani #2)

Book Review

Nano (Pia Grazdani #2)

Robin Cook

⭐️ (1 Star)

Medical Thriller

After a harrowing adventure in the novel, Death Benefit, Pia leaves New York for Boulder, Colorado. There, she hopes both to flee the demons of her past while researching a cure for her injured friend using the latest nano technology. Everything seems wonderful and Pia is immersed in the most exciting work of her career, until, one day, she comes across a dead man outside her corporate headquarters. Unable to let mysteries go by unsolved, Pia passionately throws herself into an investigation of her own company, uncovering dark secrets within the suspect organization.

The book offers an interesting look at the blooming nano technology field. It accurately points out some of its inner workings and draws attention to the fact that there’s no oversight at all with what these companies are doing, and that they’re essentially playing with fire that could have disastrous consequences for us all. It also depects that, in a very competitive world, people are going to use technology advances to give them an unfair advantage in any arena they can.

Pia Grazdani is an interesting, multi-faceted protagonist. She’s not typical in any way, neither friendly nor charming, yet her intelligence, tenacity, passion and struggle captivate us. It’s nice to have a protaginist outside the norm and I enjoyed her character farm more than any other in the novel.

Actually, I didn’t really enjoy any of the other characters. They were generally weak and boring, even silly or pathetic. The big bad guy turned out to be less sinister and really just something of a greedy, obsessed idiot. He was actually quite a realistic character, sure, so that was good. But he could have been more sinister to add to the suspense.

I found the plot ok, sometimes, but lacking in real drama. I didn’t find the pace or events particularly thrilling, though they were interesting. Maybe it was the writing style, which felt a little dry or even awkward at times, but I wasn’t as caught up in the mystery as I should have been. It’s billed as a medical thriller, and there’s some of that, but there wasn’t any real crisis or drama on a medical level, no real scare or clock to beat. The company was simply doping some atheletes with nano tech.

SPOILER Even the big ‘cover up’ that was going on wasn’t so shocking. They were using death row inmates who volunteered to be lab rats. So? I didn’t find that particularly a bad thing. Sure, it should have been done in some official capacity, but if criminals sentenced to death can earn some sort of redemption by voluntarily donating their bodies to science, isn’t that a good thing?

I found the dialogue a little strained and unnatural at times, as if I were reading someone whose English was a second language. It was a little too formal and stilted. There were also times when comments seemed inappropriate and there were exclamation points where there probably shouldn’t have been.

SPOILERS To me, the ending felt unfinished. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was supposed to be mysterious or tragic or something. I did like the twist with the Chinese at the end, but I felt that Pia was left unresolved. After following her so closely for the whole novel, she becomes nothing more than a princess in a tower for secondary and tertiary characters, then disappears. Was it supposed to be a dark ending? If so, then why weren’t we subjected to her horror at the end? Instead, we had defiance and hope of rescue, then – nothing. The climax of a thriller needs to deliver a bigger payoff, I think. And people generally like stories to have some kind of resolution or proper cliffhanger. It felt as if the story were set up for a book 3, but one never materialized.

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Book Review: Blue Gold (NUMA Files #2)

Book Review

Blue Gold (NUMA Files #2, A Kurt Austin Adventure)

Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 Stars)

Thriller

Blue Gold starts out with Kurt Austin and partner Joe Zavala in the middle of a high-octane, high-speed boat race. As their fragile craft fly over the water, a hair’s breath from death, they encounter a pod of dead whales. This sets them on an investigation that takes them up against what is perhaps the largest and most secretive and ambitious corporation on the planet, who’s evil aim is to control the world’s water supply, and then, the world.

As Kurt and Joe track down leads, the Trouts are having their own adventure in South America, where they discover a mysterious white goddess ruling a legendary tribe of Indians deep in the rainforest. This was actually my favourite part of the book. I love the idea of tracking through the rain forest and beautiful waterfalls and discovering beautiful women amidst the glorious green foliage. And when I read about how she’d engineered the village, I was like: that’s me! I love the idea of building things like that.

I like the idea of evil corporations. I think the truth is, they’re the number one real life bad guys out there right now. People who care more about personal profit and power than each other. But I guess I downgraded the book to 3 stars because it was a little over-the-top, 60’s Bond style villainy. Now, this was cool as far as the evil twins were concerned, and the giantess overlord. But something about the water theme came off as exaggerated, and we didn’t get nearly enough of the evil leader doing her evil thing.

The other reason I only awarded 3 stars was the ending. No spoilers here, but I would personally have gone a different route. But I’m a romantic. A different ending and I would definitely have upgraded to 4 stars.

Overall, the book was solid, a good read and typical of the NUMA Files. If you like Kurt Austin adventures, you’ll like this one.  🙂

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Book Review: The Race (Isaac Bell #4)

Book Review

The Race (Isaac Bell #4)

Clive Cussler & Justin Scott

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 Stars)

Thriller

What a fun book! High-flying fun and adventure that really brings the rip-roaring early 20th century to life! Isaac Bell just might be my favourite Clive Cussler series. It even rivals the early Dirk Pitt novels.

The Race by Justin Scott (with Clive Cussler) is an Isaac Bell detective adventure. The story centers around a race across America with newfangled flying machines, an invention that’s just as likely to fall apart in the skies as it is to get you anywhere, and that’s half the excitement. The Van Dorn Detective Agency is brought on to protect spunky Josephine, America’s Sweetheart, as she competes in the grueling race across the continent while pursued by her husband, who wants to kill her for witnessing him murdering someone.

There’s sabotage, crashes, fisticuffs, mystery, chases, and countless brushes with death. It’s all set in the early 20th century, where telegrams, phones, flying machines, locamotive trains and cars are all practically brand new technology and rapidly changing the world. The authors bring it all to life with wonderful language that takes us back in time and makes us feel like were’s there. Better read it, “On the jump!”

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Book Review: Riptide

Book Review

Riptide

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 Stars)

Riptide by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child is a thriller based on the real life Oak Island Money Pit, which is a rumoured burial site for hidden pirate treasure. Over the past 200 years, many attempts have been made to excavate the site for the rumoured treasures below, but all have ultimately failed and fallen apart, with lives lost in the process. This is the story of a modern attempt much like those which came before, brimming with overconfidence and even arrogance, all of which turns to greed and foolishness, which result in disaster.

I discovered the mystery of Oak Island many years ago and it is an absoltuely tantalizing one. Sadly, it’s very likely that there is no mystery, no treasure at all, and that it’s just a natural sinkhole. But when the mystery is laid out and all the rumours are there, it makes you itch to get out there and start digging yourself.

Riptide’s intro actually stays pretty close to the real, documented events that have taken place over the last 200 years and sets up the story as the lastest in those arrogant attempts to tackle the deadly island. Being a Preston & Child book, I assumed it was a thriller, and it was, but initial events in the story had me wondering if maybe it wasn’t going to turn into a bit of a horror. Then I got really excited and hoped it would turn into a real supernatural ghost story that would be creepy and awesome. I mean, come on, pirate ghosts are the best ghosts, right?

Sadly, the story tinkered on with a much more mundane storyline, no ghosts at all, and wrapped up in a rather ‘scientific’ ending. Something realistically plausible. Which is fine. But when you’re all pumped up for a ghost story, what the hell, man? Right? I would have totally bumped the review up to 5 stars if there’d been actual ghosts.

Still, the authors keep the story moving and include some nice character driven plotlines which deepen the story so it isn’t all about action. Though there is action, and sometimes it has you on the edge of your seat. Especially when everyone loses their shit near the end and starts wearing their crazy-pants.

It being Preston & Child too, I knew they aren’t shy about killing off characters in their books, so, being a fan of their stuff, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, know what I mean? Ok, you’ve made us root for this one or that one and this love story or that one, at what point are they going to die? Cave in? Stormy seas? Any minute now… Normally, I hate it when they kill off a character I’d rather not lose, but this time they didn’t, so I was happy.

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