This wonderfully detailed and imaginative book is full of imagery and passion that pulls you in and just wont let you go till the end. That is the way with most of Clive Cussler’s books. He is a true master when it comes to writing derivative fiction. He adds just enough fact to make the whole story believable as f it is happening right now. It is truly a shame that the film that was made from this book did not keep that in mind, it is no wonder that Clive Cussler was so livid when the movie came out. If a studio did that to a story of mine I would be mad as well.
As to the book Sahara it is a story that shows just how far a greedy an unscrupulous man will go to just make money. The story actually starts during the civil war, but that is just a foot note in the grand scheme of things and even the mention of a pilot lost in the desert, Kitty Mannock, while paying homage, is just a prop for what is yet to come. In May of 1996 is where the meat of the story begins with a desert safari is lost to the desert to a village that has gone insane due to an illness that is spreading. Doctors from the W.H.O., World Health Organization, are trying to find the cause and think it is some place up the Niger River yet politics is getting in the way of them finding it.
About the same time Dirk Pitt, a member of NUMA, National Underwater and Marine Agency, is looking for a sunken royal pharaonic barge that sank in the Nile. Just as he finds the location he is informed that Admiral Sandecker needs him to at his research vessel of the coast of Nigeria, to help find the cause of a disastrous outbreak of red tide. So severe the bloom of ted tide is, it could destroy all life on the planet. The tide is reducing the earth’s level of oxygen at an alarming rate and it seems to be coming from the Niger River. Both the W.H.O and NUMA are after the same thing, they just do not know it as of yet. The United States Congress wont do anything, the president can’t do anything and yet they have to find a solution fast.
Admiral James Sandecker is not just going to stand by and watch the world start to die while politicians bicker about what is and is not going to happen. He heads straight to the United Nations and calls in a favor so that he can get things rolling and be able to have what he needs to get the job done. Even before heading to the U.N. he sends Dirk Pitt, Al Giordino and Rudi Gunn up the Niger to try and find the cause of the outbreak. He lets them use a specially constructed high-performance super-yacht that has been outfitted with both highly comprehensive scientific equipment as well as an arsenal of weapons systems. Both of which come in very handy during their trip.
The main villains of the book are that of a ruthless French businessman Yves Massarde and the Malian General Zateb Kazim, who really runs the Mali government behind a puppet president. It is their business dealing that are causing all of the problems that are flowing down the Niger but none realize it since the pollutants are coming from a underground river bed. Yves Massarde has built his chemical detoxification station right on top of the river and took shortcuts in the build of his plant. To make even more money he constructed an illegal toxic and nuclear dumping station right under the plant. It is those nuclear and chemical wastes that are causing the problem.
Another main character in the book is that of Dr. Eva Rojas which Dirk meets early on in the book. With her beauty and his charm, as well as rescuing her from assassins, they hit it off right away and can’t stop thinking of each other throughout the book. Eva is with the WHO and was instrumental in pushing for access to the people of the desert to find out what is causing the illness that is driving people insane and killing them. Both Kazim and Massarde know this and tried to have her killed so that her team would stay away from the Sahara. Dirk changed all of that and in the end rescues her more then once.
I know this review is about the book but I do want to point out something, the great battle between Dirk and Kazim. In the movie he was inside the Texas, the Civil War Iron Sides that had sailed up the Niger and its tributaries before the river dried up, and used an ancient cannon to shoot down Kazim’s helicopter. That scene alone would be enough to enrage any writer. In the book Dirk and a about 3 dozen UN tactical troops hold up in an old French Foreign Legion fort, Fort Foureau (the toxic waste plant has the same name since they are so close to each other) and face off against at first 1600 Mali forces. In the end they fought against 3000 or so forces. So devastating was the battle that the troops in the fort could have used bodies to make fox holes with.
That is just one glaring deviation from the story that the movie took. While the movie was fun to watch it had none of the depth and passion that is in this book. I advise anyone that has seen the film, Saharah to read the book so that you can know what it really was that the master author Clive Cussler wanted to say. His book is full of passion for the sea, passion for the desert and passion for the world that is around us. The move has none of that, none at all. The book is the main course while the movie was just but a saltine cracker in comparison.