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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Treasure of Khan, by Clive Cussler, Reviewed

Cover of "Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt)"
Cover of Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt)

As a writer, I don’t read in the same way as a general reader, so my comments here may not be as helpful as they might otherwise be. Clive Cussler is, of course, a well-known thriller writer with a large number of sales to his name. If Treasure of Khan is representative of his style, however, I have to ask the simple question; why?

In common with most people these days, I have a limited amount of time, and my reading choices are therefore important: I’ve no desire to spend time reading something which is poorly written, when there’s such a wealth of well-written work out there. This book is supposed to be a thriller. The genre has the reputation of racing the reader through events, using action to drive interest. Character is, understandably, a less vital part of such books and I took up this book knowing such would be the case.

The story starts in 13th century Japan, moves in the next chapter to China during its war with Japan and then travels to Siberia in 2007. In 3 chapters we have travelled a vast region of an area with which most readers have no connection and little knowledge. There’s no apparent link between the events described in these opening chapters, but, hey, this is supposed to be an adventure story and, eventually, the back story will hopefully appear relevant. I’ll never know, however, because, although the action has already started by this point, I’ve lost all interest. I’m not hooked. I don’t care about what might or might not happen next. I have better things to do than invest more time in this particular pot-boiler.

There will be Cussler fans who will, no doubt, accuse me of blindness or some unspecified bias. But the simple fact is that this thriller failed to thrill, in any sense of the word. I was bored by the multitude of apparently unlinked facts, uninterested in any of the characters, confused by the apparent lack of any actual story thread and unmoved by the action scenes. These, the very essence of the thriller, were tedious and written in a style more suited to a factual report than to the presentation of exciting fiction.

I expected the characters to be two-dimensional, but not as cardboard as I found them. I expected to be moved to the edge of my seat and not bored into lethargy and total indifference, as I was. In defence of Cussler, I gather this is the umpteenth volume in a series starring the same major character; that, however, doesn’t excuse inadequate characterisation for those new to the series. Certainly, on the evidence of this book, I shan’t waste my time picking up another by the same author.

Ironically, this was one of four novels enclosed in a single volume I received free as a sampler from a book club. The other three books were excellent, so this piece stood out like the proverbial thumb; sore and in need of amputation.

So, sorry Cussler fans, I shan’t be joining your ranks. I hope you enjoy your fiction by this author but I seriously hope he, in turn, rewards your devotion by producing books of a far better quality than I found in Treasure of Khan. Unless someone tells me, I shall never know what that treasure was, and, to tell the truth, I really couldn’t care less. Need I say more?

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