By Clive Cussler
Rip-roaring yarn, but also an interesting period piece
Ever since we thoroughly enjoyed the film of Sahara, I’ve been gently working through the back catalogue of Clive Cussler’s “Dirk Pitt”, novels, alternating between the more recent books and the older tales, the latter in roughly chronological order. On that basis, I’ve just despatched Deep Six, written in 1984 and set in 1989.
On the face of it, this is a classic Pitt story: maritime mysteries, strong male and female characters, the gradual disrobing of byzantine plots, heinous villainy committed mainly by an evil family firm, and the side of right held up by Pitt, his NUMA colleagues, and a handful of other worthies. At the climax Pitt and Giodano ride to the rescue against a heavily armed force of Korean villains, who have just destroyed a SEAL taskforce, transported on a confederate paddle-steamer! The book’s a real page-turner, and you won’t want to put it down.
But maybe the most interesting facet of this book, and why I’ve decided it deserves a review, is as a historical snapshot of the world and America’s assessment of it. Some authors deal with contemporary issues and seem to have a remarkable ability to predict real events. Others, Cussler usually among them, avoid the current in order to avoid becoming “dated”. Unusually in this book he’s tried to paint a picture of the near future, and it’s interesting to see what he got right, and what wrong.
The main villains (who have their offices on the 100th floor of the World Trade Centre – some things no-one could have predicted) are motivated mainly by money. The other evil force is a very cold war Soviet Union leadership, even though the cracks were starting to appear by 1984, and in reality by 1989 it was all over bar the shouting. Mere “terrorists” are despatched as possible players early on by the rather dismissive statement “[it’s] Too elaborate. This operation took an immense amount of planning and money. The ingenuity is incredible. It goes far beyond the capabilities of any terrorist organisation.”
Remarkably Cussler does predict a middle eastern war triggered by an invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but he has it happening in 1985, by Iran. However as a counterpoint, at one point the idea of American forces ever fighting in Afghanistan is treated as an example of the impossible. How times change.
The book is a revealing period piece, and interesting for the references which have been overtaken by history. Ultimately, however, it’s a good story and deserves to be read in the spirit in which it was written. Do so and you won’t be disappointed.