I, for whatever reason, grew up reading Clive Cussler. My favorite was always The Oregon Files, because I’m a sucker for the high tech kinds of things, and a ship with sci-fi engines and a bunch of hidden weaponry worked quite well for my teenage aesthetic.
These days, though, I don’t ever read much Cussler; thanks to his “get someone else to write a book, stamp his name on it for the Brand Recognition” methodology, there’s a great deal of them that I’ve never read. But, between the aforementioned mass-production, and the same plotline getting reused in every book, they just can’t hold my interest. They’re airplane reading—the kind of thing I’ll go for when I’m gonna be mildly oxygen-deprived.
The rest of the time, though, I’m good working through big pile o’ backlogged books. And, when I’ve got the hankering for that Cussler-esque adventure novel, I go for James Rollins.
And that’s the best way I can think of to explain what Rollins’ writing feels like. He’s the upmarket Clive Cussler; there’s fewer of the books, but each one feels like a lot more care went into writing it. Plus, his treatment of female characters, while not perfect, feels a lot better than Cussler tends to manage. They exist to be more than a motivation for the male protagonist; in fact, I’d argue that the male protagonist in “Sandstorm” is a supporting character, as just about everything driving the plot is either Safia’s doing or Cassandra’s. Palmer is largely just along for the ride, which in a way gives it a bit of a “space opera” feel.
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