“Kurt tended toward overkill. If a small hammer could do the job, a sledgehammer would leave no doubt.” (Chapter 45)
So far as I can tell, this is the 46th Cussler novel I’ve read. Hooray for me. While it’s been easy to recognize his plot formulas since practically book second, and while similarities abound across the board, it’s been a lot more fun and challenging to try and recognize any differences between the novels.
Take Zero Hour (Book 11 in The NUMA Files) as an example. Yes, the villain is a wealthy, creepy, nearly inhuman character bent on world domination. Yes the Russians are somehow involved in the evil goings-on, with a 15% chance that they end up helping the good guys (not unlike geopolitical reality, I guess). Yes, Kurt Austin just happens to meet this newest global threat head-on while doing something entirely manly (getting bored in the Sydney Opera House). And yes, Joe Zavala can wile himself away from the ladies just long enough to help Kurt save the planet.
But what’s new about this one? I think it’s Cussler’s first time Down Under! And it’s also the first time I’ve noticed him play a short game with his readers: providing us with a character who fears travel, and then letting us count how many times and in how many vehicles she can survive a horrendous crash. I finally lost count at the snowmobile wreckage.
These tidbits aside, Zero Hour had a much stronger level of intrigue than did The Storm, where the evil was laid out thick and explicit from the beginning. Here, Cussler strings us along for quite a while, not divulging too much of the villain’s evil devices and letting us guess our way through. I was a little worried when I first came across the Tesla tie-in, because anytime he brings Tesla into the mix, I fear he’s going borderline Sci-fi. But for the most part, the pseudo-sciences were kept at bay, and I’ve simply come to accept that Cussler’s weirdness might be something we need to get used to the older he gets.