One of the most prolific authors who passed away last year (and not from COVID-19) was Clive Cussler. With and without credited ghost writers, he wrote over 70 books during his lifetime. These usually involved characters who worked at the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) and tried to save some aspect of the environment. They often utilized scientific knowledge and contained 2 subplots. I can now say that I read my very first Cussler book with Nighthawk – the 14th book in the NUMA Files series. It was a very fun, action-paced novel that one should not read before going to bed.
In Nighthawk, NUMA crew leaders Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala are assigned to locate a highly advanced aircraft, which went missing. The titular aircraft carries antimatter, which was extracted from the upper reaches of the atmosphere and has to remain frozen. If thawed, it will unleash a catastrophe that will have a lingering global impact. The NUMA team along with Russia and China try to find the aircraft before it’s too late.
Before I go any further, I must add that like with Chief Armand Gamache series, the NUMA Files books can stand on their own, but the characters develop throughout.
The book itself is a very easy read. The scenes move at a quick pace like those in an action/adventure movie. I especially loved the first scene between Kurt and Emma Townsend – the scientist turned agent for the National Security Administration – as they try to run from and fight the Chinese agents. I felt like I was in it as a good book should do. I would love to see this book turned into a film with George Clooney as Kurt, John Cena as Joe, and Jennifer Lawrence as Emma. I think it would be a big draw at the box office.
Having a fiancé who reads Clive Cussler helped me a lot to understand his books. For example, he mentioned that every one of them has a main plot with two subplots. In Nighthawk, the main story is about finding the aircraft, while the minor ones are about the antimatter that could possibly destroy the world when it hits a certain altitude and about the implications of governmental actions without properly considering the past, present, and future.
The latter subplot comes into play in the prologue with the Spaniards giving smallpox to the Inca people in 1525, and later when Kurt, Joe, and Emma go to Peru. They are assisted by Urco – an archaeologist studying the origins and disappearance of the Chachapoya people – with finding the aircraft. However, it turns out that he is the villain, but the book portrays his motivations empathically even if it agrees with the readers that his actions would create more destruction.
In fact, I came across Bodacious Bookworm’s review of Nighthawk recently, and I’ll let her explain more about Urco:
“This villain … is motivated by tragedy and anger. He is a scientist betrayed by a government agency. An agency he warned about an experiment he worked on. In the government’s effort to keep him quiet, they try to kill him but end up only damaging him mentally and physically. He then turns the tables of the project he created against the three major superpowers- USA, Russia, and China.” (http://bodaciousbookworm.com/book-review-nighthawk-by-clive-cussler-spoilers/)
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Another plus for this book is the humor. It’s sprinkled with quips and retorts up the wazoo. I especially love the banter between Kurt and Emma throughout it. Also, the ending is one of the most hilarious ones that I have ever read in awhile.
I was also amused by the mention of Dirk Pitt in the book. Pitt is the main character of the first series that Cussler ever wrote. I bet the author has a Marvel universe with his characters since most of the main ones work at NUMA.
The only thing that I noticed while reading the book is that if one is going to read it, don’t do it before going to bed. For some, this may not be a big deal, but to others, it is. It contains so many details that I hate to admit this, but I almost missed the subplot about the antimatter. I will be frank. I read the book right before I fall asleep, and I now realize that I should have read it while wide awake. I had a similar feeling while reading So Anyway by John Cleese and vowed never to read nonfiction before I went to bed ever again.
All in all, Nighthawk by Clive Cussler is a very good book and introduction into the Marvel, uh I mean, Cussler universe. It’s full of great action and adventure with a lot of humor thrown in. I would recommend this book to Cussler fans who haven’t read it yet as well as to those who like marine-based suspense books and action/adventure novels with sharp wit. Also, please read this book while awake and not before sleeping. In the meantime, I look forward to more of his books even if they are completely written by someone else.
RIP Clive Cussler (1931-2020)
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