Book Review: “Medusa” by Clive Cussler (2009)

“Never let it be said that Kurt Austin stood in the way of warm Chinese-American relations.” (Ch. 49)

After being let down a bit with the convoluted plot in The Navigator, I was a bit skeptical of where Kurt Austin and his special assignments team would be heading to next. But as I began Medusa (book 8 in the NUMA Files series), I was immediately drawn into the exciting whale-hunting prologue, a clean and coherent start to the book, and I eventually found that my level of interest in this installment rarely dipped from that point on.

Medusa covers the distant flashes of a global pandemic, a Chinese-borne, SARS-like virus soon to sweep the world. This book’s heroine hails from the rural villages of China itself, but is stationed at a little-known research facility on a secluded American island. Also involved is a secret underwater research facility that’s testing the genetic powers of a glowing blue jellyfish (a fish which plays a surprisingly tiny role in this whole story). But the villains make this book a classic Cussler—a Chinese Triad run by Chinese triplets (the leader of which is nothing more than a hologram) with (you guessed it) green eyes! This story contained far less suspense than most of Cussler’s books. It seemed predictable, almost, as though they laid down their plot structure too well. But none of that takes away from this enjoyable read. I was especially glad to see Joe get into his own unique scrapes on at least three separate occasions here, and it was a bit of a twist to have Kurt Austin chase down the villains one by one in the last few chapters.

Most surprising, though, was to finally see some Chinese antagonists. In all the books that I can remember (except maybe Dirk Pitt’s Flood Tide), Cussler has discretely avoided making any PRC representative his arch villain. They have been assistants to the true villain or have lurked with the villains in the shadows, but they’ve never led an installment’s cause against humanity, and I think that’s worth noting. Even in this case, the triplets are part of a Triad attempting to take over the PRC. As a result, Kurt Austin and NUMA work together to fight against this threat, making the Chinese government an actual friend. Perhaps this is another reason I enjoy this guy so much.

©2015 E.T.

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