Zero Hour (NUMA Files #11)
Penguin Books Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Kurt Austin, from the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) is in Australia, at the Sydney Opera House. While it’s his wish to see a concert in the famous building, unfortunately he’s not here for that reason. Instead he’s here for the Muldoon Conference on Underwater Mining and he couldn’t be more bored. He escapes for some air and spots a young woman in a pretty white dress, attempting to fix a shoe. What happens next is quite frankly, extraordinary and ends Austin bringing down a helicopter and setting the Opera House on fire.
Now working with ASIO, Austin and his fellow NUMA colleague Joe Zavala find themselves investigating a phenomenon known as Zero Point. This is a state of energy contained in all matter everywhere and pretty much unlimited. Various scientists over the years have suspected it exists but no one has ever really figured out a way to begin to tap into it. Until now. One scientist has discovered a way. He has two machines, one buried deep underground in a disused open cut mine and another is submerged in a vast ocean trench on a remote island off the coast of Western Australia. However the problem is that the machines that tap into the energy cause great stress in the Earth’s tectonic plates, triggering potentially catastrophic earthquakes.
The race is on now for Austin, Zavala and various other NUMA colleagues deployed to help from around the globe to find this machine submerged under the water and destroy it. They have the equipment to detect it but unfortunately that sends out a beacon to the scientist and his crew, alerting him to their presence and allowing him to use the technology at his fingertips to wipe them out of the ocean. Austin must join forces with those around him, including some very unlikely allies and find and destroy this machine. Because the scientist is hellbent on revenge against those he believed betrayed him and his first act is going to be to use his machine to trigger an earthquake that will rip the country of Australia in two.
Zero Hour is the 11th novel in the NUMA Files series and I haven’t read any of the previous novels but you don’t really need to. I have read one of the Dirk Pitt novels and as the head/boss of NUMA he does appear in this novel a few times mostly providing advice and deploying back up to help Austin and Zavala in their quest to basically save the world whilst they’re supposed to be on holiday in the land Down Under.
I’m not going to lie – I’m still not sure I totally understand exactly what this book is about. I’m not very science-brained, a lot of explanations of scientific things go right over my head and I just don’t grasp the concepts. I still don’t think I really get exactly what Zero Point is but honestly, I’m not sure that it even matters. I compared reading this novel to watching a really big budget action flick: you know that things are blowing up and they look amazing doing it, but you’re not really sure why all of it is happening. I knew that sciencey stuff was happening or going to happen or the explanation for it but I didn’t really get all of it. That doesn’t stop this book from being an enjoyable read though and I adored the fact that it was set in Australia.
It’s always good to get an outsider’s perspective of our country and I feel as though Cussler and his co-writer Graham Brown did a nice job even if they did disrespect the Opera House by setting it on fire via burning, crashing chopper! Austin and Zavala go from Sydney and Cairns respectively to the Northern Territory, jump on the Ghan train that runs from Darwin to Adelaide with Hayley (the blonde woman outside the Opera House who turns out to be a physicist working with ASIO to stop the scientist because she’s basically the only person who understands what Zero Point is) and then end up on a NUMA ship in the Indian Ocean, searching for the scientist’s lair. The search is complicated by a weapon that they cannot fight, nor run away from and another ship out in the ocean searching for Hayley in order to find the scientist as well. Austin has to use every skill he possesses to keep himself and his crew alive and useful.
These are not usually the types of novels that I would choose to read but I find that when I do read one for review, I always end up enjoying it. They’re the ultimate in fantasy, where the good guys never die and always win and the beautiful scenery is merely the backdrop for the explosions, the gun fights, the hand to hand combat and the final race against the clock to save the world. Clive Cussler has so many novels and I think you can probably pick up any one and just read it without needing to know the background. They’re heavy on the plot and relatively light on character development (some would say non-existent on character development) but they’re good fun and can be useful to break up the reading routine with something totally different. It’s fast paced, it’s vivid with description and it’s exciting. I felt a little more invested in this one I think than if it had of been set elsewhere because I live in Australia and I certainly didn’t want to see what would happen if an earthquake were triggered that could split it in two!
Book #154 of 2013