Thursday, March 16, 2017

Clive Cussler - Serpent

On the bottom of the icy sea off Nantucket lies the battered remains of the Italian luxury liner, Andrea Doria. But few know that within its bowels rests a priceless pre-Columbian antiquity—a treasure that now holds the key to a puzzle that is costing people their lives. For Kurt Austin, the leader of a courageous National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) exploration team, the killing begins when he makes a daring rescue of a beautiful marine archaeologist. The target of a powerful Texas industrialist named Halcon, Nina Kirov was attacked off the coast of Morocco after her discovery of a carved stone head that may prove Christopher Columbus was not the first European to discover America.
Soon Kurt and Nina embark on a deadly mission to uncover Halcon's masterful plan—an insidious scheme that would have him carve out a new nation from the southwest United States and Mexico, and ride to power on a wave of death and destruction. With Austin's elite NUMA crew attacking the murderous conspiracy from different sides, an extraordinary truth emerges; that Columbus may have made a fifth, unknown voyage to America in search of a magnificent treasure. And that the silent, steel hull of the Andrea Doria not only holds the answer to what the explorer may have found—but the fate of the United States itself.

Comment: After some positive recommendations, I decided to try this book because it adds two things I like in the adventure/action genre: interesting historical or scientific facts and smart characters. I got this book last year this month I added it to my reading list.

In this book we meet the NUMA team, a group of people who work to defend archeological sites, to study whatever comes their way, to provide help in scientific explorations, to work in any capacity needed to salvage and help and enhance whatever situation that comes their way.
In this book the team is working near the coast of Morocco when they rescue an archeologist, Nina Kirov. She claims her team and and fellow co workers have all been killed and the important piece she found was stolen. The NUMA team joins the search after several clues point out to an organized action against many other archeological groups in the world. What can possibly be behind killings and steals? How is Nina involved in all this and how did the killers know where to find those also involved?

I read this book in Portuguese, thanks to a special deal I found but I confess I wasn't very aware of this author, apart from knowing his name and what kind of books he wrote.
As with everything, my taste for this type of book has changed in the past years but here and there I still enjoy reading the genre. I was very interested after seeing the prologue dealt with a ship that sunk in the 50s, a real one and it would be great to see a book that would exploit something related to this. Things weren't as simple, though, since the book wasn't the protagonist I thought would be.

This story actually focuses on several historical subjects. We have the ship, the Mesoamerican culture, Colombo and other smaller historical facts that add up to the plot. I really like this aspect, in fact this is the best part of these kind of books, the way we learn new things or how we can have a different perspective on things we hear about but can't really explain and how that helps with the plot and its veracity. Of course, some things are only useful for a while but I always feel intrigued but how many funny details we can learn, from ancient brotherhoods that barely anyone would know about or even theories about things we believe as facts.

The characters are very generic, since their personal development isn't the focus. We know things about them, we learn about their personalities but anyone would have done the same job, had they had different names. I can see that personal relationships' development isn't the interest here, we have just enough to like and support them, to understand why they are driven to work and help but nothing is overdone in this regard. We obviously have a bit more focus on the why behind some actions and in the motives of the villain - which seem very silly in one way.

The plot has a good resolution, meaning we get to learn things but I didn't think the over the top scenario would be accepted as real. This is supposed to be an adventure story but based on reality. How realistic that end was I can't really say I would buy it.
There are also many exaggerated situations, especially when the good guys are trying to survive or get away from a problem or situation. Yes, there is to be expected some dose of incredible accomplishments but I'd hope that such a clever cast would find a more believable course of action in some cases.

All in all, this was certainly enjoyable if not always easy to focus on some nautical information (which was quite a lot, from the ship's descriptions to the machines that exist nowadays the good guys used to recover stuff from the ocean). I don't feel like running to read more right away but I'll probably try another one day.
Grade: 7/10

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