I am a Clive Cussler fan - but Clive Cusssler apparently little involved with the writing of the books bearing his name.
There have been eight prior Kurt Austin adventures written with Paul Kemprecos. Now no one really knows how these collaborations work, but the Kurt Austin books have been pretty good. If you've read the Dirk Pitt series (22 in all) you have a feeling for Clive Cussler solo - and with his son, Dirk Cussler, as a co-author (very different).
Cussler's trademark is high-flying plots that strain the reader's willingness to believe. But when Cussler is telling the story, he builds strong heroic characters and his story telling skills are powerful enough to pull the reader through.
In "Devil's Gate", Cussler seems to be entirely absent. The plot is outlandish - and Graham Brown's story telling is simply inadequate. The characters, including hero Kurt Austin, parody their roles in earlier books. The dialog of the bad guys seems to have come together from an accident involving refrigerator magnets. The plot and action quickly move from outlandish to bizarre to completely unbelievable - and I only made it to page 81.
The last Isaac Bell adventure, the fourth in the series after three excellent books, fell on its face as well.
A prolific author with 48 books to his credit, there's going to be a cropper or two. It seems that Cussler is trying to build a factory or farm system to up the number of titles he has in print, which in turn will increase his revenue. Apparently he is farming more and more of the actual writing out to others and, I think, the plotting as well.
The result has been more titles with the Clive Cussler name on them and, in my opinion, weaker stories.
"Devil's Gate" just doesn't make it for me. By page 81, nothing was believable and the characters - familiar from earlier books - felt like parodies.
Not up to what I expect of Cussler.
Kurt Austin returns in a brand new adventure from the NUMA Files. We last saw Austin and Zavala in "Medusa" (6/09). This time around Clive Cussler has a new co-author Graham Brown. Together the two storytellers attempt to pump new blood into a waning franchise. I will miss Paul Kemprecos' contribution to the series, but the move will hopefully prove to be a beneficial one. Having said that, it does not bode well for a novel when there is a proofreading error on the very first page (though instead of through)
"Devil's Gate" begins with the requisite prologue, set on the tarmac in Santa Maria, the Azores in 1951..a mysterious Russian passenger and his luggage are being spirited to the U.S. by an American pilot named Hudson. The passenger is shot before he can reboard the plane and is left for dead. Hudson is also hit and the "Connie" he's flying goes down in the Atlantic. If you are familiar with the Cussler template, you know this incident will eventually intrude on present-day events.
If you're a high-adventure enthusiast, give Cussler and Brown a nod. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with this new-look addition to the NUMA Files.
on November 14, 2011
Cussler brings back Kurt Austin - dropped into a plot from an African dictator threatening the planet.
As most Cussler books do this one opens with a flashback, this time to 1951 when a plane with a suspicious cargo goes down near the Azores. Fast forward and a scientist for the Large Hadron Collider stages his own kidnapping. The scientist is drawn into the dictator's plan for a super weapon that will hold the world's superpowers hostage to his whim.
The dictator tests his weapon on a ship near where Austin's NUMA vessel is sailing. There is the "James Bondesque" quality of some of the characters, plot lines and dialogue - and credibility is strained. Cussler and collaborator Graham Brown add a little international romance as well. But if you enjoy Cussler's regular fare you will find this an enjoyable if "reality-stretching" good vs. evil story.
on June 21, 2012
THE LOWDOWN: Wow. And I mean that in a good way. The Kurt Austin series has a new co-author who tones down the camp and doubles the adrenaline, and I think he is exactly what this series needed. After a number of lukewarm hit-or-miss adventures, the NUMA Files finally delivers a novel that really packs a wallop.
THE PLOT: Kurt Austin rescues the sole survivor of a ship that was mysteriously fried at sea, then raided by pirates. Days later, he discovers a magnetic anomaly known as the "Devil's Gate" during a mini-sub race off the coast of the Azores. From there Austin is pulled into a web of international scientific intrigue involving a belligerent West African dictator with a superweapon, Russian spies, and an old enemy from his CIA days.
THE PROS: Everything I disliked about the previous Austin stories has been improved upon, while the things I did like are still present. First and foremost, the characters feel human and much more three dimensional rather than cardboard cutouts with names slapped on them. Austin has a harder edge to him, he makes mistakes, and actually cares about himself and his friends dying, y'know, like a real person. Paul and Gamay suffer a particularly traumatic event, and have realistic psychological reactions to it, which caused me to actually care about them. The villains were good too. Austin's nemesis Andras is a believable, worthy enemy who tests him physically, intellectually, and emotionally at every turn. The author resists the temptation to make the African dictator an unfathomable monster and gives him realistic motives.
I liked the structure of the story. Brown and Cussler allow Austin to take the spotlight, while limiting Paul and Gamay to a smaller, yet pivotal, role. The plot was simple and unconvoluted, yet had twists and turns that I honestly didn't see coming. The dialogue was thankfully more colloquial and less hokey. Dirk Pitt from Cussler's original adventure series was a significant player in the story, and I loved that touch.
Despite the changes, the typical Kurt Austin elements are there. There is a historical mystery to be solved, an underwater wreck to be explored, a beautiful girl to romance, a villainous scheme to thwart, and of course, plenty of action on sea and land (car chases, mini-sub rescues, shipboard gunfights, a chase through an exotic pet shop, and a large scale battle between the United States and Sierra Leone.)
THE CONS: Very little, but a few things. I am no science expert, but the African dictator's sea-going Death Star-type weapon probably wouldn't really work the way it does in this book. Other minor quibbles: treasure hunt had a minimal role in the story, and the heroine spends a good chunk of the story being captured.
After reading the other reviews, I'm kind of surprised that we could all have read the same book. I've read every Cussler book since the beginning and I have noticed a steady decline since the collaborations began. This one was no exception. I almost gave up partway through. This is the same book written the same way with the same technobabble and unrealistic plot as all the other recent stories. Seems like we change the characters, but the plots remain the same. I notice a definite trend away from the historic mystery elements and research that are a stalwart part of a Cussler book and a trend toward the technology that is a trademark of every other writer in this genre. I think this is the last one of this series I will be readng.
"No weapon formed against you shall prosper," -- Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)
I'm somewhat skeptical of the Cussler books written with coauthors. They vary in quality. I didn't know what to expect with Graham Brown, and the book's beginning seemed less interesting than a typical Cussler opening. From there, a lot of scenes were long, convoluted, and more than a little hard to follow. But after about 110 pages, the book picked up its stride, became more surefooted, and started to entertain in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of the early Dirk Pitt books. I found myself having fun, and by the end I was glad I had read the book. Give it a chance. I think you'll be glad you did. It's a quick read. If you aren't happy by page 225, stop.
To me, the best part of the book came in the many scenes containing tongue-in-cheek humor of the sort that always made the Ian Fleming James Bond books fun to read. I also liked the wide variety of far-fetched technology inserted into the story.
Naturally, the character development wasn't very significant. But it is an adventure story . . . so that's not a fatal flaw.
The plot was well designed to keep the story moving pretty fast after the relatively slow beginning, and nicely picked up pace in the last 150 pages or so to reach a tempo I liked.
I won't go into what the story is about. Half the fun of this book is finding out what Clive Cussler dreamed up.
I'll definitely read the next Kurt Austin book if Graham Brown is the coauthor.
on November 21, 2011
Awesome - couldn't put it down! Cussler is back on track and back on form with Devil's Gate. What a breath of fresh air - a whirlwind read, non stop action, but back to his roots in the Ocean and complex plots - with great nods to the past!!!
on December 20, 2011
In 1951, a Lockheed Constellation airliner disappears with a mysterious Russian Cargo. Sixty years later, a scientist familiar with the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, fakes his own kidnapping. Finally, a rogue African dictator named Djmenna Garand has his sights set on world domination. All of this seems ripe for an adventure, and Kurt Austin, along with sidekick Joe Zavala, are about to be thrust straight into the breech.
Garand, tiring of having his country looked at as second-rate, is developing a super-weapon of tremendous power. With the threat of this weapon, Garand plans to extort all of the world's major nations, while threatening to destroy their largest cities. With the help of Alexander Cochrane, the scientist who faked his own kidnapping, Garand sets about constructing this weapon of terror.
In the meantime, a graveyard of ships and aircraft has been discovered in the Atlantic Ocean. Curiously, a large magnetic force is also coming from this place. Intrigued, many scientists from around the world have come to investigate. But, Garand is waiting for them and soon, he has captured many of the scientists and forced them to work on his super-weapon. But, Austin, Zavala, and the rest of the NUMA crew are on to Garand and his plan. Will Austin be able to stop Garand and his weapon before it's too late?
I found "Devil's Gate" to be an excellent book. Kurt Austin is Cussler's prototypical hero-type character, and it's easy to root for him. His secondary characters, including Russian athlete-turned-scientist/spy Katarina Luskaya, the husband-and-wife team of Paul and Gamay Trout, and Garand's enforcer Andras "the knife" are all well-developed and add to the excitement of the story. The story itself is well-conceived, and is loaded with action from the very start. Fans of good action/adventure stories will want to read "Devil's Gate". Highly recommended.
on December 29, 2011
Devil's Gate is book nine in the NUMA Files Series. The first eight books were a collaboration between Clive Cussler and Paul Komprecos. What I enjoyed about them was the close camaraderie between the four main characters that make up NUMA's Special Assignments Team. Devil's Gate is a new collaboration between Cussler and Graham Brown, and I was sure some of the original characterizations I had grown used to would be lost or changed. As it turned out, while there are some slight differences in the writing style between this book and the original eight, it wasn't enough to stop me from finishing or enjoying the book. The main characters are presented pretty much the way they were before and the story is exciting. Kurt Austin, Joe Zavala, and Gamay and Paul Trout once again save the world, this time from a dictator who has coerced scientists into creating a super-weapon using magnetic super-conductor and particle accelerator technology. A nice touch was writing Dirk Pitt, the main character from Cussler's other NUMA Series, into this story as an active participant, thus tying the two series closer together. I definitely recommend this book. In fact, I have read all of the books Clive Cussler has written solo or in collaboration - Dirk Pitt Series, Oregon Files Series, NUMA Files Series, Isaac Bell Series, Fargo Series - and have enjoyed them all except for the Fargo Series.
on May 20, 2014
Like many of you reading this, you too are a big Clive Cussler fan. We love the mixture of romantic historical events and the modern thrill ride presented by global threat. We love the wonder of the sea and the danger of the desert. We love to root for bond-esk characters along with his buddy as they save the damsel in distress, only to find out later she is no damsel but a strong woman with much to offer the reader. But most of all we love when each of these things come together to form a hodgepodge of good old fashioned kick butt and take names, and while you're at it, take the girl to bed too. So here in Devil's Gate we get an opportunity to relive all the adventures we lived before in other Cussler works. The only thing you will need to know know is whether or not what I mention above will be found in this book as well. So let's find out, shall we?
Okay, so here is the basic premise of the book, and yes there may be small plot spoilers ahead but I'll try to keep them to a minimum. A president of an African country is bound on word and responsibility to bring his once floundering nation into the modern era. No longer can his citizens sit back and be taken advantage of by greedy foreign companies plundering the nation's resources and making them live on a miniscule fraction of the profits. Action must be taken by the state and that action must be severe. But other countries are not going sit back and watch their investments be stolen by a wreckless government, and this African leader knows it. He must insure that no one forces his people back to the scraps they were once given. And the only way to prevent it is to create a weapon of incredible destruction.
This weapon is like nothing ever seen before, but it is not a weapon easily achieved or constructed. Resources will be needed to construct it, materials bought or stolen to build it, scientists with great minds to design it. These things cannot be garnered in his country but in others, and a willingness to participate is not required. And this is where our heroic team of buddies enters the picture.
After a deadly run in with savage pirates on the open sea, Kurt and Joe are tasked to find out the mystery of a sunken ship and a mysterious gravimetric anomaly that causes planes and ships to disappear. But the dynamic duo are not the only ones to seek answers to the mystery as scores of other countries also set out to find a solution to the problem. But scientific discovery isn't the only thing that peaks the interests of those involved, as profit, too, comes into play. With this in mind danger rears its head and pins the team of Kurt and Joe against the bad guys.
With a much larger cast than most Cussler books, the action is spread out over quite a bit of space. Each character seems to have their own bit of time in the spotlight and the fight against danger is as compelling for the rest of the team as it is for the main characters, Kurt and Joe. At nearly 500 pages (HC) the book covers a ton of time, area, and story, and in doing so, Kurt and Joe are not the only ones you'll be inspired to root for. Death and danger can strike from anywhere and threaten any of the characters. Even characters borrowed from other books get a compelling bit of time.
In the end, the book reads well and the events flow naturally. The action is throughout and the characters leap from the page. A few things could have been improved along the way as I found some of the connection between the story and the historical foundation like in most other Pitt books was a little thin here. And although some of the other characters had great story lines too, I felt some could have been scaled down or cut all together. Overall though the book is a good read, perhaps not quite as strong as stories past but good nonetheless.