Book Review – ‘Vixen 03’ (#5 Dirk Pitt) by Clive Cussler

Great adventure but passé attitudes.

Vixen 03 (#5 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Action, Adventure

No. of pages: 464

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1954: Vixen 03 is down. The plane, bound for the Pacific carrying thirty-six Doomsday Bombs—canisters armed with quick-death germs of unbelievable potency—vanishes. Vixen has in fact crashed into an ice-covered lake in Colorado.

1988: Dirk Pitt, who heroically raised the Titanic, discovers the wreckage of Vixen 03. But two deadly canisters are missing. They’re in the hands of a terrorist group. Their lethal mission: to sail a battleship seventy-five miles up the Potomac and blast Washington, D.C., to kingdom come. Only Dirk can stop them.

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Misogynistic. Sexist. Discrimination. Transphobic. So many times I nearly threw up in my mouth. I figured ‘Iceberg’ as the only one of Clive Cussler’s early works as being problematic in this matter of insensitivity. But ‘Vixen 03’ is giving it a run for its money. Women are objectified just about every time they are in a scene. I hate to say it, but this was fairly typical of this James bond adventurer genre in the 70’s. So I shouldn’t be surprised. Thankfully Clive Cussler evolved as a writer and this kind of writing is left in the past where it belongs.

This was the first novel I read after the news of Cussler’s passing, and I wish it had done a better in service of his legacy. I was really disappointed and searched for some redeeming qualities. ‘Vixen 03’ deals with themes of racism, nationalism, terrorism, and international espionage. And the premise sounds interesting, as do all of Clive Cussler’s novels. They promise adventure, action and intrigue. But to be honest this left the taste of disgust in my mouth.

The pacing terribly slow with frequent tangents around non-essential topics to the plot. So much time is spent building the South African contingent part of the story that Dirk Pitt was featured in less than half of the story. This did not feel like a Dirk Pitt novel, more like he swooped in at the end to resolve the mystery.

The plot itself is a good one, there are plenty of red herrings, heroics and a massively woven web of intertwined actions boiling down to a single event. If it weren’t for all of the inappropriate representation, I would have really enjoyed this fare.

Vixen 03’ was not the Dirk Pitt I’ve come to appreciate. He felt very one-toned. An un-killable saviour, putting his life on the line to save the world (*cough-America-cough*) I would have liked some nuance outside of all this male bravado. Thank goodness I know it gets better in later volumes of this franchise – a bit campier and stereotypical – but better and more entertaining.

The whole reading experience was marred by old-fashioned, politically incorrect attitudes.

I recommend you skip this one.

Overall feeling: One of the first books I felt like burning – I’m using it as an example of the attitudes we thankfully have put behind us in storytelling.

Vixen 03 (#5 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Vixen 03 (#5 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Iceberg’ by Clive Cussler

A clusterf*#k of political incorrectness.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Action Adventure

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

Frozen inside a million-ton mass of ice-the charred remains of a long missing luxury yacht, vanished en route to a secret White House rendezvous.  The only clue to the ship’s priceless-and missing-cargo: nine ornately carved rings and the horribly burned bodies of its crew. 

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I’ve been a fan of Cussler since my teen years, but this singular novel really tested my nerve. I can forgive a little machismo – it’s to be expected in this genre and series, but when Cussler has Dirk Pitt playing a stereotype of a gay man – even so far as to use the word faggot a number of times, I wanted to set the book on fire. It was in such poor taste to read these hate-filled slurs. It highlights all the issues of discrimination that the LGBTQIA+ community face.

Cussler used about every negative trope around this issue in ‘Iceberg’ with the protagonist Dirk Pit undercover as a homosexual artist, staring hungrily at men’s crotches like a sexual predator, acting submissive and weak, wearing over-the-top colourful clothing, and flowery speech. This goes on for half the novel. It is obvious that Cussler adopted this writing style for it to come off as comedic, but it just shows his insensitivity and ignorance.

To compound the issue there are continual cracks about crazy women and menopause, or someone on their period – that was also meant to be jocular. The female characters were irrational tittering things meant to look pretty and fetch coffee. Their only goal to land a good husband. They were diminished to a sexual object, nursemaid, or servant. It came off as highly offensive.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I just don’t understand. Was Clive Cussler on some sort of acid trip writing ‘Iceberg?’ I’ve read over 15 of his novels and never come across such blatant misogyny. Maybe I should stop making allowances for Cussler’s overused tropes and start calling him on them in my reviews… I read his novels for the emphasised adventure, the marine environment, and the espionage. ‘Iceberg’ was overshadowed with such a distasteful display of tropes and writing I am literally gobsmacked. Way to offend half your audience dude.

Looking at other aspects of ‘Iceberg,’ like pacing and plot, it wasn’t so bad, but by no means anywhere near his best. There was a plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, but that too left a horrid taste in my mouth. I enjoyed the surprise, but hated the premise it supported.

In all honesty I do not recommend this book to anyone. If fact Cussler should pull it from his catalogue entirely. I know I would be ashamed to have written a novel like this.

Overall feeling: Anger and nausea.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.