For four novels, Clive Cussler has charted the exploits of the Oregon, a clandestine spy ship completely dilapidated on the outside, but on the inside packed with sophisticated weaponry and intelligence-gathering equipment. Captained by the rakish, one-legged Juan Cabrillo and manned by a crew of former military and spy personnel, it is a private enterprise, available for any government agency that can afford it - and now Cussler sends the Oregon on its most extraordinary mission yet.
The crew has just completed a top-secret mission against Iran in the Persian Gulf, when they come across a cruise ship adrift in the sea. Hundreds of bodies litter its deck, and as Cabrillo tries to determine what happened, explosions rack the length of the ship. Barely able to escape with his own life and that of the liner's sole survivor, Cabrillo finds himself plunged into a mystery as intricate and as perilous as any he has ever known, and pitted against a cult with monstrously lethal plans for the human race - plans he may already be too late to stop.
I had to laugh while reading this one, because it just smacks of being a thinly-veiled tongue-in-cheek poke at a contemporary "honest-we're-not-really-a-cult" organisation made popular by a famous Hollywood star who made an ass of himself when he jumped around on a TV talkshow couch a while back.
This story has all the same hallmarks attributed to it's cult: famous Hollywood stars flocking to it in droves when it became 'trendy' to be seen in such circles, a charismatic founder just as well known for his authorship as his messianic 'founding doctrines', and a total love-affair with 'saving the human race from self-destruction through subtle dominance of thought.
In this tale, Cussler takes us through a series of seemingly-unrelated incidents - including more than a few red-herrings - which all combine and merge into a plot of unbelievable coherence and tension, eventually leading us to a conclusion that is both satisfying and biblically just... at least for the 'good guys' of course.
'Plague Ship' is the fifth novel in 'The Oregon Files' storyline that runs parallel to, and spun off from, his flagship franchise, the 'Dirk Pitt' novels, along with the other spin-off series 'The Kurt Austin Adventures', making him a very popular and prolific author in this genre, and certainly one I am utterly thrilled to be working my way through the catalogue of.
Overall, this title is an excellent tale as a stand-alone, but if read in sequence with the others in the series shows the evolution of the crew of the Oregon as they grow in depth and capabilities from story to story. I had to laugh at a couple of *tiny* continuity errors that had crept in, but then I find that kind of thing makes the story more appealing rather than less, as it gives it a more 'human' aspect - pobody's nerfect after all.
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