Aug 292007
Authors: Mike Donovan


For more than 30 years novelist Clive Cussler has thrilled readers with his Dirk Pitt adventure novels.

But, like any political thriller series, there comes a time when the main character gets old and readers need a fresh start. And that is exactly what Cussler did in 2003 with the release of “Golden Buddha”, the first novel in the Oregon Files.

“Buddha”, which was released as a mass-market edition this month, centers on the ship known as the Oregon and its crew of CIA-sponsored mercenaries led by charismatic Captain Juan Cabrillo.

The plotline focuses on a 45-year promise made by a CIA agent to the Dalai Lama during the Chinese occupation of Tibet that one day the United States would help return his holiness to his homeland. Now that agent’s grandson runs the CIA and has enlisted the Oregon and its crew to make sure the promise gets fulfilled.

The key bargaining chip with getting China to leave Tibet is a Golden Buddha statue valued at $200 million on the black market, but that is apparently priceless when it comes to international relations.

Like most Cussler novels, “Buddha” follows a clear formula. Someone in the world was wronged (the Dalai Lama) and the good guys (Cabrillo and crew) use manpower and the help of an idol (the Golden Buddha) to fix the wrong. I just summed up in a sentence almost every Cussler novel.

Cussler basically follows the simple strategy, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the “Golden Buddha” delivers exactly what fans of Cussler or any other top-notch political/spy novelist such as Vince Flynn or Joel C. Rosenberg would expect.

The character development in “Buddha” is above average but at times the development of individuals seems to be placed ahead of in-depth action scenes. While every series needs its first novel to concentrate on its character development, certain scenes involving new people seem contrived and too outlandish.

The best scenes in the book take place on the small Chinese island of Macao, which seems to be a mystical Pan-Asian paradise for rich moguls with a corrupt underbelly. Before the book, I had no idea what this former Portuguese colony was like, but thanks to Cussler’s vivid imagery, I feel I could be a tour guide on the island.

In the end, the “Golden Buddha” feels just like any Clive Cussler novel. It will keep the reader interested and intrigued until its surprising end, but it certainly won’t be in the running for any end-of-the-year best book lists.

Senior technical journalism major Mike Donovan will review one book every two weeks and can be reached at

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