Sunday, October 31, 2010
Lost Empire - Book Review
by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood
G P Putnam and Sons, 2010
I haven't read the first book in this new series from Clive Cussler, the one called Spartan Gold. It's a good thing I haven't. This novel is the second book in the Fargo series starring a treasure hunting couple - Sam and Remi Fargo. This book was not the usual fun. It was very busy and hard to read. Too many things were happening , too many details and at time it was even boring. It is not connected to NUMA - no names from the Numa books or any of Cusslers other books show up at all. No Bell. no Cabrillo. No Austin and certainly no Pitt.
While the premise was good, the story could have been a lot better.
For starters, there were no real descriptions or stories of Sam and Remi Fargo as a couple so it was hard to imagine them. I would love to know how and why a woman was given a name like Remi. I have to assumne that they don't have children as none were mentioned. There were no personal descriptions of them as humans. While there is a brief mention of their backgrounds and how they got into treasure hunting, this description was dry and void of any personal anecdotes.
The story starts out with Sam and Remi scuba diving around Zanzibar, in Tanzania, East Africa. They find a ships bell buried in a sand bar. The bell comes from a ship called the Ophelia. When the Fargos try to bring this bell up to the surface, the enemy comes out, threatening them, trashing their boat and trying to kill them. How could this have happened so fast? This enemy are Mexican. So the next questions is why are the Mexicans so interested in a bell found off the coast of Africa? And why are they willing to kill to cover up whatever is found?
Underneath the name Ophelia on the bell, are letters that indicate the bell also comes from another ship. These letters spell out the name Shenandoah - a confederate ship that did a lot of work during the civil war destroying and sinking yankee (northern states) shipping. This ship and its activities was traced from the 1860s up the 1880s and then it disappeared. The Fargo's found it. It was eventually found in Indonesia where it was perfectly preserved (just like the Pompeii ruins) by the ashes from the Krakatoa volcano explosion in 1883.
In the background is the Fargos researcher - doing exactly the kind of job that I would love to do. The researcher's name is Selma (I hope she was named after Selma Ruete - the last princess of Zanzibar) who lives back in La Jolla, California and who is brilliant at finding out all the answers.
I found the relentess Mexicans to be a distraction. They were always there at every turn and every find that the Fargo's made. Always trying to kill the Fargos. Their presence does not always make sense.
The Mexicans had been looking for something for 10 years. The Fargos found it in just a few weeks. It turns out that the current President of Mexico (Garza) is the leader of the country's Aztec party and he got into power by bringing back the memory and power of the Aztecs (conveniently forgetting the bloodthirsty sacrifices that they made) as a warrior race of people capable of running their own country once again.
Garza had discovered a secret about the Aztecs. And if the people of Mexico knew this secret, he would lose his power and his job as president.
The Fargos trace the Aztecs from Zanzibar to Madagascar to Indonesia. There they discover that the Aztecs did NOT originate in Mexico. Some 1500 years ago they travelled from Indonesia, via Madagascar (or Malagasy as it used to be called) to Mexico where they settled around 500 CE.
When this news is released to the press as a rumour, Garza's party is very quickly overtuned and Garza himself committs suicide.
As I said, the story idea was very good one. But the execution of the story was done in a rushed and hurried manner. Too many details and not particularly realistic.
There is one more thing I need to mention. The Olmec people of Mexico. The people whose statues look like Africans. Well since the Africans travelled from Africa to MesoAmerica, it stands to reason that Aztecs may have done so as well. Also if Heyerdahl can prove that the Inca traveled across the Pacific in small reed boats then the early Indonesians and early African could easily have travelled across the Atlantic Ocean as well.