Review: “Mirage” By Clive Cussler & Jack Du Brul (Novel)

Well, I’m still going through a bit of a Clive Cussler phase. So, I thought that I’d check out one of the co-written books from the “Oregon Files” series – mostly because the scenes involving the Oregon in Clive Cussler’s “Flood Tide” were one of the coolest parts of that book.

So, I ended up choosing a second-hand charity shop copy of a novel from 2013 called “Mirage” by Clive Cussler & Jack Du Brul. In addition to some rather cinematic orange/blue cover art, another thing that drew me to this book was it’s slightly more sensible length. At about 425 pages, it’s reassuringly slender compared to more tome-like Clive Cussler novels such as “Sahara” and “Black Wind“.

So, let’s take a look at “Mirage”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2014 Penguin (UK) paperback reprint of “Mirage” that I read.

“Mirage” begins in 1902. In the waters near the US state of Delaware, the ship Mohican is travelling north when they suddenly encounter a mysterious phenomenon. A mysterious blue glow starts to envelop the ship, as every metallic object onboard begins to be pulled downwards by a strong magnetic force. Although most of the ship’s crew survive the phenomenon, none of them can explain it…

Then we flash forward to 2013. In Northern Siberia, a truck is carrying a prisoner to a secret prison owned by the nefarious Admiral Kenin. When the tattooed prisoner arrives, one of the inmates decides to intimidate him… and soon regrets it. After the fight, the tattooed prisoner ends up in solitary. Which is exactly where Juan Cabrillo, chairman of the high-tech US-sponsored mercenary ship Oregon wants to be.

After breaking out of the cell using supplies hidden in his prosthetic foot, Cabrillo quickly finds the cell belonging to Yuri Borodin, an old friend who he’s been hired to break out of jail. Within a short time, they are fleeing the prison on a snowmobile in order to rendezvous with the Oregon. However, an attack helicopter begins to give chase. Although the Oregon‘s weapons make short work of the helicopter when it gets within range, the helicopter has time to let off several missiles. One of which fatally wounds Borodin.

With his dying breaths, Borodin urgently utters a few cryptic phrases. Needless to say, Cabrillo decides to investigate these clues and to avenge Borodin’s death…..

One of the first things that I will say about “Mirage” is that 2013 was a great year for co-written Clive Cussler novels 🙂 Along with 2013’s “Zero Hour“, “Mirage” is one of the best Cussler novels that I’ve read. The story is incredibly gripping, the action scenes are thrilling and the writing is absolutely brilliant too.

Interestingly, like in “Zero Hour”, the story also includes some sci-fi elements that revolve around Nikola Tesla’s secret inventions. This novel’s Tesla-based plot differs significantly from the one in “Zero Hour”, with the sci-fi elements mostly taking something of a back seat for large parts of the story. Interestingly, the most intriguing sci-fi mini mystery in the story is actually left slightly ambiguous at the end of the novel, lending the story a slight hint of H.P.Lovecraft-style sci-fi horror strangeness.

In terms of the pacing and structure, this story is pretty much perfect (with my only complaint being that the ending felt a little rushed at times). Not only does the plot keep moving forward at a decent speed, but even the slower segments that give the reader a chance to relax are kept compelling through the careful use of mysterious story elements (like the ship in the desert) and/or interesting location choices. Likewise, this story crams a lot of thrillingly dramatic scenes and interesting locations into 425 pages.

In addition to this, about three-quarters of the way through the book, there’s a random side-story involving the Oregon that lasts for 37 pages. This isn’t connected to the main plot, but it’s kind of like a mini thriller novel in it’s own right. Although this sudden change in stories took me by surprise, it actually works really well since it gives us a glimpse into the kinds of things that the Oregon does when it isn’t saving the world. Plus, given how fast-paced this segment is, it also doesn’t distract from the main plot either.

In terms of the writing and narrative style, it is brilliant. Although I’m normally sceptical about co-writing, Jack Du Brul’s input (like with Graham Brown’s in “Zero Hour”) helps to keep Cussler’s story lean, efficient, modern and fast-paced. The narration here is also a bit faster and more dynamic than in a “solo” Clive Cussler novel too, and can easily be compared to the styles used in other gripping modern thriller novels.

Literally the only complaint I have about the writing in this story is the presence of a few minor typos (like spelling “cursor” as “cursur” etc..).

The settings in this story are brilliant. First of all, I absolutely loved spending time aboard the Oregon. It’s kind of like the modern seafaring equivalent of a spaceship from “Star Trek”, mixed with something from an old “James Bond” movie 🙂 It is the kind of fascinating, yet reassuring, location that is always interesting to see. The novel’s other settings are really interesting too – including desolate Siberian wastelands, the deserts of Uzbekistan, the favelas of Brazil, a mysterious sunken ship and the more modern parts of Beijing too.

The novel’s characters are reasonably good. Although you shouldn’t expect ultra-deep characterisation, Juan Cabrillo is an interesting protagonist (who is something of a slightly understated action hero, compared to Cussler’s other protagonists). Likewise, the crew of the Oregon are a rather interesting assortment of characters too. The main villain, Kenin, is also given a little bit of characterisation too – although he could have possibly done with more.

All in all, “Mirage” is an absolutely excellent modern thriller novel, with a few intriguing sci-fi elements. This is the kind of gripping novel that just begs you to binge-read it within a couple of days. It’s slick, efficient and compelling. Although “Zero Hour” is still my favourite co-written Clive Cussler novel, “Mirage” comes a very close second.

If I had to give “Mirage” a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.

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