Deciding to try my luck with grocery store novels, I grabbed Shadow Tyrants, a “Clive Cussler’s” book written with Boyd Morrison. It was an Oregon Files novel, and it followed my rule of “go for the most out-there premise.” This had infighting amongst an ancient conspiracy, with only the Oregon and Juan Cabrillo able to stop them. What could go wrong?
The biggest problem is the prose. It’s not unread-ably bad, but still comes across as kind of simple and bland. Thus a premise that could have supported a delightfully goofy adventure ends up being hobbled and coming across as a 51% technothriller. (Although the super-conspiracy is still better and more capable than Casca’s Brotherhood ever was-those guys are the St. Louis Browns of super-conspiracies). There’s headline namedrops and clear “I know the name but not much else” descriptions of weapons systems.
There’s a lot of contrived deus ex machinas in close proximity to each other. I’d be more forgiving if the prose had cushioned it, but it instead amplified them. For instance, what could have been a excellent naval battle (the best use of the Oregon) ends up being just a disappointing clash of the technothriller gimmicks.
Worse, the “historical tie-in” seems even more forcefully shoved in. It’s not like the superweapons had an ancient component. It’s just that these ancient scrolls led to the super-conspiracy, and we get a shoved-in epilogue to remind us that Cussler books are supposed to feature grand adventures with historical artifacts, not just be middling technothrillers piggybacking on his reputation. Unfortunately, that ship sailed decades ago.
This is still a good enough “51% technothriller”, and it’s still more engaging and fun than just a rote “shoot the terrorist” thriller novel. But it, much like a lot of the other Oregon books, doesn’t live up to its potential.