Cussler (Devil’s Gate, 2011, etc.), with co-author Brown, dips into the NUMA Files for another Kurt Austin action-on-the-sea escapade.
Austin and his friend Joe Zavala, are National Underwater and Marine Agency Special Assignments Team troubleshooters. Dirk Pitt, head of NUMA, dispatches the pair to uncover the fate of the three-person crew missing from a NUMA research vessel found adrift in the Indian Ocean. Austin and Zavala link up with Paul and Gamay Trout, husband and wife NUMA techie team, in the Maldives, and the group’s examination of the vessel reveals the missing NUMA scientists were victims of “microbots”—“A hundred could fit on the head of a pin.” There in the Maldives, Austin also rescues Leilani Tanner, sister of one of the dead scientists, from a kidnapping, and she tags along. The microbot trail soon leads to Yemen and Jinn al-Khalif, a Bedouin camel trader’s son grown immensely wealthy through ruthless, bloody ambition. Jinn hired scientists to modify the microbots, the not-quite-ready invention of circuit-board-genius Elwood Marchetti, meant to consume ocean pollution. The microbots now not only eat organic matter, but also self-replicate into the trillions. Programmed to blanket the Indian Ocean, the nefarious plan is to alter the world’s climate by lowering water temperatures. That means more rain in dry places, which will create immense profits for Jinn and his financial backers, assorted Chinese, Pakistani and Egyptian evildoers. The narrative ricochets from the Maldives, to Yemen, to Egypt (the Aswan Dam is in peril because Jinn didn’t get his money from a corrupt general), and finally to Marchetti’s gargantuan movable man-made island, Aqua-Terra, for a shoot-’em-and-explode-what’s-left ending. That the microbots can consume human beings like so many oceangoing piranha makes for more than one hairs-breadth escape, but that Leilani is actually Zarrina, double agent for Jinn, nearly stymies Austin and Zavala.
Classic Cussler: testosterone-driven action, over-the-horizon technical wizardry, beautiful and talented women and exotic locations.