Around the Pacific Ocean zones of death are springing up with animals and humans the victims with NUMA racing to find out what is responsible and learns it is greed. Shock Wave is the thirteenth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, the titular character races from islands off the coast of Antarctic in the South Atlantic to various points across the Pacific to stop a greedy businessman who aims to destroy the diamond market at whatever cost.
While investigating the deaths of a large number of marine animals in the Antarctic Ocean, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino encounter a group of stranded tourists lead by guide Maeve Fletcher on Seymour Island. Their Australian cruise ship—the Polar Queen—disappeared after a mysterious "disease" three of the tourist group. After the tourists are ferried to NUMA research vessel Ice Hunter, Pitt and Giordino find the Polar Queen going in circles while the current is moving it on a collision course with a group of jagged islands. Pitt is able to board the ship manages to narrowly avoid the crash then explores the floating coffin as the crew and passengers are lying dead across the ship until he finds only one survivor on board Deirdre Dorsett, one of Maeve’s estranged sisters. After a skeleton crew from the Ice Hunter takes over the Polar Queen, Pitt and Al uncover evidence that suggests extremely high-powered soundwaves were the cause of the deaths. This is latter backed up by more outbreaks of mass deaths on a cargo ship, a Chinese junk, and a Russian whaling fleet. Spotting leaving one of the scenes is a futuristic yacht belonging to Dorsett Consolidated Mining Company, a gemstone mining company head by the ruthless Arthur Dorsett. He is also the father of Maeve—who took the name of a great-great grandmother when she cut ties with her family—and Deirdre as well as their older sister Boudicca. Due to her leaving the family and giving birth to twin sons out of wedlock with a young man Dorsett disapproved of, Maeve was set up to die on Seymour Island by her family only for the fact she was in a cave at the time of the attack did she survive. Based on the yacht and borrowing the US Navy’s sonar net in the Pacific, NUMA discovers that the acoustic plague is caused by a convergence of soundwaves from four sources around the Pacific all owned by Dorsett Consolidated including the family’s privately owned Gladiator Island near Australia. Pitt is sent to investigate the Dorsett mine off the coast of British Columbia, enlisting the help of Mason Broadmoor, a local First Nations fisherman. Broadmoor and others from his tribe, help smuggle Pitt onto the island and is given a tour of the mine by a disgruntled employee which includes the revolutionary mining method that uses soundwaves to dig through the clay to find diamonds. As he attempts to leave the island, he is discovered by Boudicca and learns Maeve’s sons are being held hostage in return for her to spy on NUMA and mislead them if necessary. Broadmoor rescues Pitt and the two use jet skis to escape the island. Pitt, Al, and Maeve travel to Wellington to another NUMA vessel with the plan to infiltrate Gladiator Island to save Maeve’s sons. However, Dorsett finds out and his security team is able to capture the trio after a chase around the docks. The next day, the three are abandoned in the southwest Pacific Ocean in a small craft away from the shipping lanes in the path of a tropical cyclone. Through, luck and deciding not to die without a fight they make it to a small island that has a wrecked sailboat. Using material from both craft, they construct a new ship and head to Gladiator Island. Upon arrival they infiltrate the island, discovering Maeve’s twins are in the main house they break in. While Maeve and Al get the boys, Pitt encounters Dorsett and kills him. Before Boudicca can kill him, Al bursts in and the two fight before Al kills Boudicca who turns out to be Maeve’s brother not sister. Unknown to the trio, NUMA discovered a future kill zone right off the coast of Honolulu and through blood, sweat, and guile are able to obtain a giant reflector from a government agency, dismantle it, load it on the famous deep-sea recovery ship Glomar Explorer, and take it to the convergence zone. Just in time, NUMA gets the reflector into the sea and send the soundwaves to Gladiator Island with the knowledge it’ll set off the two volcanos on the island. Just after the successful operation, Sandecker gets a call from Pitt and tells him to evacuate. Pitt’s group races towards the Dorsett yacht and the helicopter on it, once onboard Deirdre shots Maeve, mortally wounding her, as well as Pitt who is wounded but snaps Deirdre’s spine. Al takes the twins in the helicopter while Pitt launches the yacht and gets far enough away to survive the pyroclastic ash cloud. Pitt is later found by Al and Sandecker on the derelict yacht, taken to a hospital to mend, and returns to D.C. sad that he lost Maeve.
Like Inca Gold before it, this book’s main plot has stuck with me for over twenty years since I listened to the audiobook. Overall, the book has held up well in fact the megalomaniac Arthur Dorsett who cares only for profit even at the expense of family—in fact willing to kill some members if they aren’t with him—comes off as really believable especially today. Cussler’s writing of Dirk was mostly good but there were times were he came off as “too good to be true” in abilities that while not stretching believability giving it a lot of tension. Maeve as the “lead” female character was alright for the most part, but in general the descriptions of actions, physical characteristics, and thoughts of female characters were stereotypes and caricatures in an effort to paint Boudicca as different for the reveal near the end of the book. Unlike the previous book, the subplots didn’t tie in very well with the main plot of the book the main culprit was the knockoff Trilateral Commission group aiming for a “One Economic Government”, it felt like Cussler was unsuccessfully tapping into conspiracy theories in the mid-90s for a little boost when he could have just had it be the DeBeers-led diamond monopoly group be the subplot and tie in better with the rest of the novel.
Shock Wave was a very good follow up installment in the series, while not at the level of Inca Gold it still showed that Clive Cussler was creating quality stuff on a consistent basis and looked like he would be for a while.