Graham Brown - Shastrix Books

Graham Brown

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Zero Hour

Zero Hour

Clive Cussler & Graham Brown

26th September 2013

The eleventh book, and the NUMA Files are feeling a little tired. This one tells the tale of Kurt Austin's adventure down under, and seems to miss the original idea of this series being about the four-piece ensemble group - having just one main character makes it fairly indistinguishable from the original Dirk Pitt series that it span off from.

The book starts well, with a thrilling opening followed by a mediocre first half in which the characters drift and try to explain a rather fantastic plot device which seems like something from a 90s Bond film (along with some of the characters). The second half turns into more of a run-of-the-mill thriller and actually picks up.

I felt there was a missed opportunity in this to take the characters deeper, as they were in some of the recent books in this series. I felt like it wanted to just be a mindless thriller, and not something that would fit in with the Clive Cussler tradition of exploring technology and telling the reader something about the world.

Overall, I felt disappointed. I've been a devoted Cussler reader for many years and the recent novels have been of varying quality. While this one had its moments of excitement, it doesn't make up for the trip into pseudoscience-fiction.

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The Storm

The Storm

Clive Cussler & Graham Brown

14th June 2012

The Storm is Graham Brown's second outing as Clive Cussler's co-author since taking over the NUMA Files series from Paul Kemprecos. I enjoyed Brown's previous book and was looking forward to more from him - I was not disappointed.

When a small NUMA science vessel shows up burnt, with no crew, and all the lifeboats still aboard, Kurt Austin and the team are dispatched to investigate. Although it has weak moments, its one of the better recent Cussler-brand stories, with the science actually believable rather than the fantastic events of some earlier books.

Once again Brown's strength is in the characters - Austin is clearly the star of the show, but he's developed much more depth since Brown took over, and I've particularly enjoyed his portrayal of the Trouts - they seem to have a much more 'couple-like' dynamic than we've seen before and this really helps make the setup feel more believable.

The plot moves along at a good pace, although I'm beginning to get fed up with the focus the Cussler-verse has had on middle-eastern terrorists in recent years. Clearly this is an easy supply of plots but it's starting to feel lazy rather than imaginative. There are a couple of plot-holes though and implausibilities, and I even found myself disappointed that some of the regular supporting characters didn't make an appearance.

I certainly think the series has picked up with the new author, and I've pulled back from my feeling of a few years ago that I might give up on Clive Cussler's works. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for a short diversion.

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Devil's Gate

Devil's Gate

Clive Cussler & Graham Brown

14th January 2012

A new co-author joins Clive Cussler for the ninth book in the NUMA Files series, and seems to breath a little fresh life into the narrative. It's hard to explain the plot without feeling that I'm giving too much away, but when Kurt Austin accidentally discovers an unusual underwater source of magnetism it leads to far more adventure than expected.

The improvements in the book over its recent predecessors come in the characterisation. The team from NUMA, particularly the Trouts, feel much more real than before, and the bad guys and supporting cast all come across as having more depth to them than before.

There remain however a number of problems that seem to increase as the book goes on. The science starts off well but drifts further and further from accuracy as the plot develops. Additionally, minor facts are misportrayed - the length of a football pitch, the existence of a Russian politburo, CRT monitors - that make me doubt some of the things that I don't know about, particularly seafaring and weaponry.

There are also issues with the plot. There is one rather significant element that is never given an explanation. There are places where things are made to explicit - some speech can stand for itself without being re-explained afterwards. One character is talked about with familiarity for several chapters before the exposition that explains who he is, which made me feel I must have missed something. And finally the plot element that was blatantly stolen from a James Bond film.

Despite all this though I'm pleased with the fresh blood in writing these. I'm finding it harder to start Cussler's books and so it's increasingly nice when they turn out better than expected. I look forward to more from Graham Brown in six months.

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