The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

The Mediterranean Caper by Clive CusslerThe cases where the movie is better than the book can probably be counted on the paw of a two-toed sloth. The prime example being the Bourne Identity. Robert Ludlum seems incapable of telling a story without devolving into a European travel journal instead of staying focused. The movie — having little beyond basic inspiration and a few character names in common with the book — is excellent.

The Mediterranean Caper does not have a movie — at least not one that I have seen. If there were it could not help but be better than its source material. I say this with the utmost confidence as one who has watched a Uwe Boll movie, and survived, barely. Also, I know this because there does exist a movie version of a later book in this series and, while it will never qualify as high art or inspire world changing social reform, it is mindlessly fun and endlessly hilarious. My mistake was in hoping that the mindless fun and hilarity were Clive Cussler.

Dirk Pitt starts out this book by getting into a dogfight with a World War II fighter plane — that is shooting up a U.S. Military air field while the military does nothing but cower in fear of ancient technology — while flying an unarmed transport plane. He wins. Then he goes swimming at midnight, forces himself on some random woman he meets on the beech in the dark, calls it seduction, tells her she needed it and she agrees with him. The story goes downhill from there, if that can be believed.

I understand that this book is over thirty years old and times change and sensibilities mature but every word of this book drips with misogyny and the objectification of women. Men become incapable of remaining in control of their faculties when in the presence of women and all women enjoy parading around in front of men, half dressed, while the men ‘admire’ them.

I’m sure there was a story as well but I couldn’t see it because of the red haze of rage that this book inspired in me. There was something about a submarine full of drugs and Nazi patriots and a fish that had never been found before — which, by the way, Dirk Pitt found for the scientists, after overturning the biggest drug smuggling operation in the world, that INTERPOL was unable to figure out, all on three days without sleep.

Then there was the writing. Cussler obviously loves the Mediterranean. His descriptions of the blue water and the rock cliffs and the reefs and caves were the only part of the prose that felt like actual words. The rest was a jumble of barely comprehensible syllables tossed about and stirred into a stew that resembled kibbles and bits more than alphabet soup. The dialogue sounded like it was put together by a computer taking random samplings of phrases and pasting them together. It was so awkward and, frequently, nonsensical that I had to drag my eyes across the burning coals of confabulation several times in order to gain a decipherable meaning from the text. Much of the plot was equally incomprehensible, mostly due to it being incomprehensible but the vague sentences and overwrought verbosity obscured what little meaning was actually there.

It’s like a train wreck. You can’t look away. You want to, but…

Needless to say I will not be reading any more of Cussler’s significant body of work.


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