Book Review – ‘Night Probe!’ (#6 Dirk Pitt) by Clive Cussler

A not-so marine focused adventure that returns to Dirk Pitt form.

Genre: Action, Adventure

No. of pages: 369

May 1914. Two diplomats hurry home by sea and rail, each carrying a document of world-changing importance. Then the liner Empress of India is sunk in a collision, and the Manhattan-Line express plunges from a bridge – both dragging their VIP passengers to watery oblivion. Tragic coincidence or conspiracy?

In the energy-starved, fear-torn 1980s, Dirk Pitt discovers that those long-lost papers could destroy whole nations, throwing him into his biggest challenge yet. Racing against hired killers, he launches his revolutionary deep-sea search craft and faces the horrors of the sea bed to hunt for the documents. ‘Night Probe’ has begun . . .

Another of Clive Cussler’s back catalogue under my belt. ‘Night Probe!’ was another international spy action adventure that tickled the childlike reader in me.

I did feel like the first half of the novel was paced slowly. The meticulous efforts to set up all the characters in the game, build the scene was fun to read; but I found myself putting the book down regularly because I wanted to get some story with Dirk Pitt in it, and get to the juicy parts of the story. While I appreciate the efforts to fill in all the threads of storyline that go into ‘Night Probe!’ I would have appreciated that some of this first half was compacted down and some scenes skipped over in favour of a backstory later in the novel.

We do see Dirk Pitt introduced earlier in the story than previous novels in this franchise, and you get a sense of Clive Cussler starting to hit his stride with the Dirk Pitt franchise. Honing the tone and writing style that is a trademark of these adventure novels.

The ending was cheese-ball city. But it always makes me smile – that James Bond/Indiana Jones style shtick that I love on the big screen translates well in this escapist fiction.

I particularly love the scientific elements, the history imbued in Cussler’s prose, and we definitely get it here. I particularly cherish all the maritime elements, and though there are two present in ‘Night Probe!’ this novel felt more like a land adventure and left me wanting.

We don’t get much of Al Giordino and their witty banter. There are only two women in the main storyline: one is killed for being an adulterer (and a villain), and the other falls in love with an antagonist, even though she is an intelligent, independent woman… it still feels all a little bit sexist. But I am getting a sense of a growing cultural ‘woke’ tone. Standard enjoyable fare.

As with most titles in this series, ‘Night Probe!‘ can be read as a standalone… a serial continuation in the Dirk Pitt universe.

Overall feeling: A return to form.

© 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 – ‘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

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© 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 – ‘Listen to Your Heart’ by Kasie West

Worrying West fare….

Listen To Your Heart Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

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Another cute tome from Kasie West. While I like light romance-centric contemporaries which I can digest in a day, I feel like West’s writing is suffering as the last number of her novels have had my excitement wanning. The witty comical banter, the quirky characters, the angst; all these elements seem to be dialled down or completely absent. Now her books read like a direct to tv film for the Hallmark Channel. Predictable, cute, but overall, forgettable.

I’m hoping West starts to stretch her story-telling skills, because the first few novels of hers that I had read started on a trajectory that was headed for greatness. Rom-coms with style and kitsch. Those were the stories I indulged in and could see on the big screen of theatres.

Kate as the protagonist for ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is an adorable clueless teen. A bit too vanilla. No streak of rebelliousness or daring, no style, just an obedient workhorse teen from a big family. And there’s nothing wrong with that… just that there’s nothing particularly interesting about that either. To be honest, I had to flip through the book again to refresh my memory of her name after completing it the day before… that’s how memorable she was. Her character arc consisted of uncovering some misunderstandings and obtaining some courage to explore the world outside of her Lakeside community.

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Her best friend Alana, had a bit of sass to her, and was the most interesting character from the novel. She was competitive, manipulative, and daring – now there’s a character I want to read more about. But even her execution by West was somewhat lacklustre.

Love interests Diego and Frank were on the same scale as Kate and Alana. Where Diego was fairly vanilla and uninteresting and Frank gave attitude and a stuck-up rebellious streak, I found myself wishing for more tension or some event to add something more to the plot.

One of the redeeming features of ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is the slow burn, understated narrative style. It’s as relaxed as the summer locale of the Lake. It really made me feel like I was on holiday – but again, I wanted more substance. The role of family – that of Kate’s extended family, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins – is integrated well into the storyline. It had that feeling akin to Jenny Han’s writing with a sense of love, duty, and safety all rolled up into the home-life that is hard to replicate. Though it still needs a bit of work to have that resounding utz of Han’s writing.

I think I’d only recommend this to West fans – there are better quaint contemporaries that pack a punch out there.

Overall feeling: A quick easy read that is saccharine sweet, but ultimately lacking substance.

Listen To Your Heart Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Listen To Your Heart 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.