Corsair (Oregon Files) by Clive Cussler

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Corsair (Oregon Files) by Clive Cussler

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A well paced thriller, with a gripping story. The character development did leave a little to be desired, but didn't spoil the story.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Michael Joseph
ISBN: 978-0718154448

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Having read and enjoyed Cussler's latest in the Kurt Austin series, a character I'd encountered previously, I looked forward to meeting one of his recurring characters I hadn't come across before. Juan Cabrillo is captain of a ship called the Oregon and Corsair is the sixth in the series known as The Oregon Files.

Although Cabrillo is a ship's captain, the story was a lot more land based than much of Cussler's work. Heading for a peace conference in Libya, the American Secretary of State's plane crashes in the desert. Given the terrorist traditions of the area, her government suspect foul play and send Cabrillo to check if she may have survived. He arrives at the scene of the wreckage to discover that it has all been staged and the apparent accident may have been nothing of the kind. He suspects that the Secretary of State has been kidnapped to disrupt the peace process.

Other events seem to back up Cabrillo's suspicions, when an unrelated group of American archaeologists are reported missing. There is also a sudden flurry of activity at a couple of points in the desert nearby which had been abandoned for many years until recently. The discovery of a Russian made helicopter that even the Libyan government claim to know nothing about make Cabrillo certain that terrorists are using the area for their base of operations, almost certainly in an attempt to stop the peace conference from going ahead.

As ever, Cussler has a great eye for the pacing of a story. A slow introduction sets the scene and then, once the action starts, the pace is high all the way through until the end. Cussler splits groups of characters into many locations and jumps between them frequently, which also gives the impression that events are moving on swiftly. With so many characters, however, this can get a little confusing, there was one point where he returned to a relatively minor character after a long break, and it took me a few moments to recall who she was and what her part in the story was. Whilst this was a minor distraction, it did only occur the once and it proved to be just a brief interruption rather than a serious issue for my continued enjoyment of the story.

Cussler enjoys his gadgetry as well, which helps make this story a lot of fun. The Oregon itself is built largely on deception, with a weather beaten exterior hiding the secrets of a modern interior with all sorts of gadgets and weapons. This gives the book a slight James Bond feel and means there are plenty of surprises for both the reader and anyone who cares to cross Cabrillo. It does make the book a little less believable, but in the genre that tends to happen a lot and it certainly does nothing to diminish the enjoyment.

The main fault with the book is Cussler's common shortcoming, which is in the character building. With this being the sixth book featuring many of the same characters, Cussler doesn't feel the need to introduce or describe them in any real detail. Whilst this may be less of an issue for someone who has followed the series, it does reduce the enjoyment for someone like me who is coming in fresh, but who does like to build a picture of the people I'm reading about. The relationships between characters are already well set and they come across as quite likeable in their dealings with each other, I couldn't build a picture of them and so didn't feel so close to them.

Where Cussler's descriptive work does come into play, however, is with the machinery. Cussler describes the ship and many of the gadgets and weapons it contains a lot better. This was helpful for getting a feel of the mechanical characters, but as more of a people person, I'd have preferred to have had the balance tipped more towards the humans. That's not to say that the mechanics aren't impressive and, in fairness, the ship and the P.I.G. are as integral to the plot, if not more so, than many of the other characters.

These minor personal concerns aside, however, Corsair was still a very good read. I was particularly delighted to note that the romantic sub-plot that often exists in novels like this to take the edge off the constant action and fill up a few pages was absent here. Part of the beauty of the story is that it was so gripping that this point didn't occur to me until after I'd finished the book, as it was so high paced that I didn't really have time to register its absence.

The focus on mechanical description more than people may have meant I didn't get as involved in the story as I might have liked, but I still found Corsair to be very readable. It helped that there was more land action than is usual for Cussler's work, which I personally prefer. It's a well written and wonderfully paced story and whilst it may not be a gripping read, it's certainly a decent one.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more action and adventure in the desert, try Robert Ryan's Empire of Sand, or for battles against terrorists, there's David Ignatius' Body of Lies.

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