Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dark Watch Review

Dark Watch by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 3.5 out of 5

I had many mixed emotions about this book and was frankly a little surprised.

A little history lesson before the review. I used to work in a book store when I lived in North Carolina. Since I was in charge of everything that entered and left the store, I managed to see quite a few interesting things, including the early arrival (but not release) of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Each week during our regular shipment, we’d get a special tote that occasionally had some swag in it. Being the good employee I was, I generally took what looked cool. No, I wasn’t stealing from the store, it was swag, thus free. One of those items was an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Deep Fire Rising by Jack DuBrul. The cover looked cool and nobody wanted it. And thus began my Jack DuBrul fandom. I purchased his entire backlist and visited his web site many times. Even had a conversation with another fan via long distance phone call (something I don’t often do).

Then Jack went on a bit of a hiatus. Some family issues arose and he was working on a hardback novel. I think things changed and he was invited to co-author Dark Watch with Cussler. Not to sure of the details behind this book, so I can’t really comment beyond what I’ve already said.

This is where my mixed emotions come in. Being a fan of Jack, I expected some quality writing. And I got some. Key word being some. It in no way measured up to the previous books he’s written. Which can only mean one of two things. Jack has lost his writing touch or Cussler dragged him down. Egads, did I just allude to Cussler being a poor writer? Sure did. Jack’s previous books (currently at 5) about Mercer (the main character) blew this book out of the water like a water-logged boat. Not only were there so many facts and blatant research poured into the Mercer books, the plots and characters were original.

Wait, was I implying Cussler is a cookie-cutter writer? Yes. It’s clear to me that this is nothing more than another Jack Ryan book. Not that I’ve read any, but I’ve seen the movies. And they’re all the same (well, Harrison Ford was a better actor, but that’s another discussion). The good guy, one Juan Cabrillo, fights the bad guys with his team of mercenaries that aren’t quite mercenaries. Everyone has a tactical background of sorts and always shots the right bad guy. The hero has an amputated leg, now that’s creative. The hero ripping a 4 inch piece of skin off his forehead because the blood is in his eyes, now that’s retarded.

And the implied love scenes, why do I see a movie scene in my head again and again and again. Oh wait, was that Dirk Pitt?

So aside from the serial-like feeling of the plot and characters, the action and suspense was well written. Blowing up bags of concrete to create a dust cloud is genius. Using the anchor hoist to help pull a boat is genius. The tactical scenarios were a bit stale at times, but overall kept me interested and kept me reading. Once I got past the first third of the book, it was very hard to put down. Mainly because I needed to find out what happened.

In the end, I was disappointed Cussler’s name was on the book. Jack could have written (and has written) a much better book about Mercer. Cussler’s hero approach was too old-school. I’ve seen enough James Bond, Dirk Pitt, and Jack Ryan to last awhile. A more Indiana Jones approach would have been much better (that’s why I like Mercer better, he’s just a geologist). I decided to go with a slightly higher than average rating because of the action scenes and the suspense (and betrayal) aspects. And because Jack’s name is on the book. Too bad his name wasn’t first.
©2005 Productions

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