“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a few things. One of them is: you get what you paid for, [Kurt]. You and Joe are like one of my cars—expensive, bad for the environment, and often a pain in the backside. But you’re worth every penny.”
~ Dirk Pitt, Director of NUMA (Epilogue)
First breaking into Devil’s Gate, Book 9 in Cussler’s NUMA Files series, I was initially annoyed at the convoluted nature of this global story. An African dictator and a Latin assassin join their evil forces by kidnapping an American scientist, steal some Hong Kong technology in order to wreak havoc by killing some French scientists in the Azores, where a Russian mystery happened to take place some fifty years prior—it was all a bit much, especially when the heroes wind up being the American Kurt Austin and Mexican-born Joe Zavala! But since this type of formula is nothing new for Cussler, I figured I’d stick with the book, and I’m very glad I did.
Because Cussler’s novels are more often based on adventure than mystery or suspense, the layers of unanswered questions in this particular tale really started to draw me in to Austin’s world. The Russian spy—or is she a friend? The untraceable Andras—if truly a recurring character, I can’t remember from where. The fate of Washington DC, in the hands of two diabolical villains—can they really disable the weapon in fifteen minutes or less? Quite a lot going on in this one!
Three particulars to this book stood out to me more than anything, though. First, that Dirk Pitt plays a fairly hefty role throughout the book as the Director of NUMA, an office jockey, sure, yet also as invested as anyone in thwarting the enemy.
Second, I was totally enthralled by Kurt’s newest out-of-this-world vehicle, the Lunatic Express. I have no idea if this thing actually exists, but the 20:1 gliding ratio described and his flight to the ship from 7 miles up was absolutely fantastic. Normally with the submersibles they use in every book, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the schematics, but this glider was straight-up awesome. I hope they use this one again.
Finally, I also greatly enjoyed the final seen where the co-adventurers meet for a quiet beer and barbecue, all for a conversation set up by an earlier Joe Zavala remark that their next adventure better be somewhere “hot and dry.” It was as if Cussler himself were telling his readers: “I’m going on vacation for a while, guys” (which of course didn’t happen, since he followed up Devil’s Gate with the tenth book of the series, The Storm, one year later—and whether that’s set in a “hot and dry” climate or not, I’ll discover when I crack it open tonight).