What lies beneath the Sahara?

A book review by Sebastian Lim

Title: Sahara

Author: Clive Cussler

Publisher: Pocket Star Books

ISBN: 9781439135686

Year Published: 1992

Sahara by Clive Cussler takes readers on an exhilarating adventure through the scorching deserts of Egypt while unravelling a complex web of mysteries.

The novel centres around Dirk Pitt, a charismatic and resourceful hero known for his daring exploits. Set in 1996, the story follows Pitt as he embarks on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth behind a devastating disease plaguing North Africans.

Not since Treasure (1988), when Pitt discovered Cleopatra’s barge in Texas, has Cussler come up with such a far-fetched story as this 10th Pitt novel.

The plot begins with a Confederate ironclad, the Texas, outrunning a Union blockade while carrying on board not only the South’s treasury but also the North’s kidnapped president.

Then, in 1931, world-famed aviatrix Kitty Mannock (an Amelia Earhart clone) vanishes on a flight over the Sahara, her plane or body never seen again. Then comes Pitt’s 1996 search through the Nile bottom (via image-making computerised sonar) for the lost barge of a pharaoh dead some 2,500 years ago.

Dirk locates the barge under many metres of silt; but before he can inform the Egyptian authorities of the find, he’s reassigned by the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) to investigate the source of poisons that are killing coral and creating a red tide on such a massive scale that the world’s oxygen supply will soon shrink to an unliveable level if the disaster is not reversed.

Meanwhile, Pitt rescues beautiful Eva Rojas of the World Health Organisation from an assassination and then falls for her. Eva is in Africa to find the fatal plague now turning thousands of natives into frenzied cannibals who’ll eat anything human and not afraid to die.

As Pitt discovers, the country of Mali – backed by a ruthless French industrialist – is in the solar nuclear waste disposal business, but the bad guys have poisoned the water table with their inept methods and befouling the Niger. And they are hiding this from the public.

How does this tie in with Kitty Mannock’s desert crash and her discovery of Texas buried in the Sahara sands? As a resourceful protagonist, Pitt epitomises the classic action-adventure hero. His determination, quick thinking, and unwavering commitment to saving the world from impending doom make him a character readers can root for.

The supporting cast also adds depth to the narrative, with each character bringing a unique perspective and skill set to the mission.

The author masterfully weaves elements of intrigue, danger, and environmental catastrophe, to make Sahara a captivating read.

Cussler always excels in creating vivid landscapes and heart-pounding action sequences. The descriptions of the Sahara desert and the high-stakes confrontations keep readers engaged and captivated in the unfolding events.

The blend of historical intrigue, including the mystery of a Civil War ironclad and the connection to Lincoln’s assassination, adds depth and complexity to the plot, showcasing Cussler’s ability to merge historical facts with thrilling fiction. Sahara is indeed an entertaining read.

Sebastian Lim is an experienced journalist and editor who now runs his own book review blog — coolreadsseb.blogspot.com. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of The Weekly-Echo.