Friday, December 17, 2010

Crescent Dawn - Book Review

Crescent Dawn - A Dirk Pitt Novel
by Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler
Putnam & Sons November 2010

In previous reviews of Dirk Pitt novels, I have not been terribly impressed with Dirk Pitt's son and daughter, Dirk Junior and Summer. But in this novel they come into their own and as a team they are very impressive. But the novel itself could have done with a lot better editing. In fact there are 2 seperate stories in this novel and each story could have had its OWN novel rather than be squashed together as an afterthought to create a 500 plus page monster.

Three events, distant in time and space. A treasure-laden fourth century Roman galley narrowly escapes a ferocious pirate attack; a World War I British warship explodes mysteriously in the North Sea; and in the all-too-real present-day, a string of coordinated bomb attacks destroys historic mosques in Egypt and Turkey. Something (supposedly) links these violent events and it's up to NUMA director Dirk Pitt to find and tie the deadly threads.

While the novel does get off to a slow start, and with different chapters describing each member of the Pitt family becoming involved in their search, the real action doesn't start happening until chapter 20 and when the team members finally get together in chapter 56, they each contribute their strands of the mystery to get the possible entire story.

BUT it turns out there are 2 different stories here, neither of which are directly connected to each other.

At the beginning of Cusslers novels the author always has a brief prologue about one or two historical ships in action - usually by being sunk. These ships always have something major to do with the main story.

So for this novel (Crescent Dawn) there are 2 boats being sunk in the prologue - and both end up having nothing whatsoever to do with the main story and everything to do with the secondary story.

The main story is about the Celik siblings who turn out to be descendents of Mehmet VI - the last Ottoman sultan of Turkey before Mustapha Ataturk deposed the sultans and took control of Turkey in 1923. The Celik siblings have grand visions of making Islam the major religion of the Middle East and the Mediterranean as it once was, over 1000 years previously. They will kill anyone who stands in their way.

First they blow up a historical mosque in Egypt and then they try to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Fortunately that attempt was partially thwarted because Dirk Pitt junior was in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately his new girlfriend Sophie, died as a result of this botched explosion.

Lastly an Israeli water tanker is hijacked on the high seas of the Mediterranean and the crew is forced to fill it with ANFO and HMX explosives. The crew is then locked in the ship and the ship sets sail for Istanbul - where it is obviously intended to be a huge bomb that could destroy the city of Istanbul and a good portion of its 12 million residents.

Pitt and Giordino and their trusty new high speed submersible and speeder called the Bullet (top speed - 47 knots) race to Istanbul to find and prevent this floating bomb from exploding. They are unable to prevent the bomb from exploding, but they do rescue the crew and prevent the explosion from doing a huge amount of damage. In the last few minutes Pitt and Giordino are able to use a dredge to knock a hole in the ship which sinks it.

The Manifest of Jesus is a papyrus list of items that was discovered in Palestine in the late 1700s and reputed to have referred to a cache of items that belonged to Jesus Christ. On the list is an item called the Ossuary of J. The Church of England (Anglican Church) is terrified that it contains the bones of Jesus which will prove that the resurrection never happened. So the church is determined that this list never see the light of day. The Church sends letter after letter to Earl Horatio Herbert Kitchener (the person who is last known to have held the manifest list) demanding that he give the manifest to the church for "safekeeping".

In the early chapters of this novel. Summer Pitt is in England helping a girlfriend (Julie) to research Kitcheners personal papers. Summer uses NUMA technology to do a search around the wreck of the HMS Hampshire where they discover that the explosion that sank the ship, occurred from inside the ship. The hull plates are bent outwards, not inwards. Kitchener drowned aboard the Hampshire when it sunk in 1916.

Unknown to the girls, a jewish antiquities dealer has hired a shady archaeologist named Ridley Bannister to track down the items from the manifest of Jesus. He ends up shadowing the trail of Summer and her friend as they do all the work. Amongst Kitcheners papers and personal belongings, they eventually find the original papyrus manifest and a translation. Ridley promptly takes the papyrus from them at gun point.

After the fallout from the Istanbul ship bomb dies down, Pitt and his team return to the Mediterranean to complete the search for the items of the Manifest. The trail leds them to Cyprus where they eventually find a Roman galley safely hidden in an old cave. Within the ship are boxes containing the items on the manifest. These items eventually go on display in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

To be honest the religious mystery is NOT related to the quest for muslim domination at all. The two historical ships that were sunk at the beginning of this novel were both directly related to the religious mystery. I think this secondary story is just the authors trying to cash in on the latest trend for novels - religious mysteries ala The Da Vinci Code.

This entire novel is all about religion and terrorism and the middle east - the main story lines still happening in the world today.

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