Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews



Plague Ship by Clive Cussler




(Mildly Recommended)




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It wouldn’t feel like Summer if some day in the heat, I didn’t escape with a Clive Cussler thriller. This month it was the fifth book in the Oregon Files series titled, Plague Ship. The Cussler formula continues on these pages with a threat to the world that’s met by a competent leader backed up with toys that work. In Plague Ship, a group called The Responsivists hatch a plan to reduce the world’s population as a way of making life on the planet better. Here’s an excerpt, from the end of Chapter 2, pp. 56-58:


He closed to within twenty feet before one of them became aware of his presence. The man snapped to his feet, looking around in bewilderment for a moment before remembering he'd set his AK-47 on the floor next to the table he was sharing with his partner. Juan kept coming as the man groped for the weapon and came up with it pointed straight at Cabrillo's chest. He growled a warning, as his teammate gained his feet, his hands clutching an assault rifle of his own, though the sling had tangled around his hands.

"What is the meaning of this challenge?" Juan asked arro­gantly in pitch-perfect Arabic. "I am Captain Hanzi Hourani, of the Syrian Navy, and a guest of your base commander, Admiral Ramazani."

The two guards blinked at him before one said in halting Ar­abic, "You are who?"

"Captain Hourani," Cabrillo snapped testily. "For the love of the Prophet, I have been in and out of this building a dozen times in the past week. Surely you know I am here to watch the demonstration of your new miracle weapon, the torpedoes that will drive the Crusaders out of our waters once and for all."

Juan knew the Farsi speaker was catching every three or four words of his rapid-fire delivery, but it was the attitude more than the words that were important. He had to get them to believe he belonged here, despite the late hour. There was a walkie-talkie on the table next to an overflowing ashtray, plates of congealed food, and a rumpled heap of newspapers. If they called base se­curity, the jig was up.

"I lost track of time touring the submarine," Juan went on, then gave a trace of an embarrassed smile. "That is not true. I fell asleep in the captain's cabin, dreaming that it would be me to strike the first blow against the American imperialists."

There was still wary suspicion in the guard's eye, but the admis­sion that a superior officer, though from a different navy, could succumb to the same fantasies as they did put the guard slightly at ease. He translated to his partner what Cabrillo had said.

It didn't seem to make much of an impression. He barked at the first guard, gesturing with the barrel of his AK. The Arabic speaker asked to see Juan's identification.

Juan withdrew a billfold and presented it to the senior of the two. As the guard looked it over, Juan plucked a pack of ciga­rettes from his breast pocket and lit up. The smokes were Dun-hills, a vastly superior brand to the cheap local tobacco the men choked down, and he saw that both had noticed the distinctive flat pack. The guard kept the billfold and was turning to grab the walkie-talkie when Juan offered him the cigarettes.

He hesitated for an instant, so Juan thrust the pack closer.

"We must call the main security station," the younger guard told him.

"Of course," Juan said, jetting smoke from his mouth. "I thought you might enjoy a decent cigarette while they yell at you for not knowing I am authorized to be here."

Sheepishly, both men took a cigarette. Juan held the lighter for them. They only had time to exchange a look, following their first drag, before the fast-acting, narcotic-laced tobacco hit their nervous systems like a freight train. Both men crumpled word­lessly to the ground.

Cabrillo ground his cigarette into the floor with his foot. "Usually, boys," he said, crushing out the guards' smoldering Dunhills and tucking all the evidence into his pant pocket, "these things’ll kill you. In your case, you'll be out for a couple of hours. However, I don't envy you when your superiors discover your dereliction."

The Corporation tried to keep their operations as nonlethal as possible. From the earliest planning stages of the mission, Cabrillo made sure the guards wouldn't die doing their job just because Russia was illegally selling advanced military equipment.

That isn't to say there wasn't a lot of blood on Juan Cabrillo's or the rest of his team's hands, but they wouldn't kill if it wasn't absolutely necessary.

Juan was just turning away when the metal door leading to the outside was thrown open and a lab-coated technician flanked by two soldiers strode in. They saw the two unconscious guards on the floor under the table and Juan's unfamiliar uniform. One guard brought his assault rifle up and shouted a challenge. The second said something to the first that Cabrillo didn't need to translate to "I'm going for help" before he turned on his heel and vanished into the night.

In a minute, all three thousand sailors and support personnel were going to be descending on the dry dock like a horde of berserkers.


Juan Cabrillo is the leader whose competence thwarts the plans of The Responsivists. Plague Ship provides reliable and predictable summer entertainment.


Steve Hopkins, July 18, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the August 2008 issue of Executive Times


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