Book Review: “Iceberg” by Clive Cussler (1975)

“Pitt quickly fell silent….He had come close to falling out of character. He knew now that if there was a slight thread of hope for escape, it lay in his continued masquerade as one of the gay boys.” (Chapter 15)

IcebergNovel.jpgThis is a weird one. Not only is it the first (and, I believe, only) Dirk Pitt Adventure that doesn’t co-star Al Giordino, but it’s also a book that finds masculine and skirt-chasing Dirk Pitt going incognito as a flamboyant, colorful, and grossly feminine homosexual Major in the U.S. Air Force. He flutters over poetry, gets giddy at the thought of watercolors, limp-wrists his handshakes, and whimpers at the mere hint of violence. It’s not at all what one might anticipate when coming to a Clive Cussler novel, and sometimes that’s part of the fun of reading. Just not this time. If I learned nothing else from this book, at least I learned how important it is to have a sidekick with you at all times, lest the situation get the better of you and you lose your bearings. Guaranteed, had Dirk’s kindergarten buddy been by his side throughout this tale, his “masquerade as one of the gay boys” would likely never have occurred. And that wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

This adventure follows the trail of a ship mysteriously melted into the side of an iceberg and the plot of greed that sealed the fates of all aboard, including that of Icelandic adventurer and humanitarian, Kristjan Fyrie. As the story unfolds, we meet Kristjan’s sister, Kirsti, and her controlling fiance, Oskar Rondheim whose greed for power has joined them to the mysterious group, Hermit Ltd. This collection of wealthy old gentlemen is on the verge of toppling the governments of two South American nations with a goal of leaving a legacy of peace and comfort in their wake, one nation at a time.

Iceberg introduces through conversation one of the most consistent themes of any Cussler novel, and that is an emphasis on a character’s eyes. The brief exchange between Dirk and Kirsti during their first meeting over dinner clues the faithful reader in to what might be Cussler’s own philosophy regarding the eyes that make them nearly characters in and of themselves. “The eyes are doors to the secrets a person hides from within,” Dirk says, his green eyes staring in Kirst’s own “mystic” violet eyes. Both sets have unique “rays that spread from the pupil into the iris. They’re sometimes called flashes” and, as Pitt later adds, imply psychic powers. I wouldn’t mind tracking the crazy eye colors that appear throughout the books, as thus far it’s been yellow in Pacific Vortex, auburn in Mediterranean Caper, and now violet in Iceberg.

Though this book ends with the morally dirty feel of an Ian Fleming novel, there were spurts throughout of Dirk’s philosophy of killing and death that Cussler likely used as justification for all the violence in his books. Having already shown some restraint by not killing a would-be assassin, Dirk is warned by a friend that his hesitation could, in a single moment, cost him his life someday. Yet shortly after killing another attacker, Dirk muses.

Pitt should have felt sick, but his conscience didn’t trouble him. Revenge. He and Sandecker had acted out of desire for self-preservation and revenge…Strange, he thought, how easy it was to kill men you didn’t know, whose lives you knew nothing about…Pitt felt a grim satisfaction. The moment had arrived and he hadn’t hesitated. He’d had no time even to think about the pain and death he was inflicting. He wondered to himself if this subconscious toleration of killing a total stranger was the factor that made wars acceptable to the human race.

This wasn’t at all my favorite Clive Cussler novel, though I disliked it for reasons other than writing style or ridiculousness of plot. Instead it’s a moral aversion that shows what kind of “hero” the young Pitt had been. I’m glad that very soon he’ll grow up and settle down. He’ll find anchors through the likes of Loren Smith and St. Julien Perlmutter, and eventually we’ll see behind his home’s closed doors in the secret hanger at the back end of the D.C. Airport. Can’t wait.

©2017 E.T.

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