The release of ZERO HOUR celebrates Clive Cussler’s 40th year of exciting storytelling, and his plotting skills remain at the top of high-stakes adventure writing. The premise for his newest thriller (co-written with Graham Brown) is a machine that has harnessed and controlled a state of energy contained in all of nature and is unlimited in scope. Kurt Austin and his NUMA Special Assignments Team find themselves in a race against time with the brutal scientist who plans to unleash zero point energy with the destruction of a continent in mind.
Kurt Austin, as Director of Special Projects for the National Underwater and Marine Agency, attends a conference in Sydney, Australia, his expertise in underwater salvage a plus. Bored with dry speeches, Austin steps outside the Opera House, his excuse being a phone call from the NUMA office. There, he meets Hayley Anderson, an attendee who has broken a high-heeled shoe and looks for a solution. While making small talk, the two witness a bizarre happening across the Sydney Harbor. A powerboat cuts in front of a ferry, nearly causing an accident, and is pursued by a Eurocopter with armed gunmen shooting at the people inside. The out-of-control boat launches a run directly at the Opera House, where Austin and Hayley watch on the steps. The powerboat goes airborne and crashes on its side, wrecked and leaking fuel.
"The release of ZERO HOUR celebrates Clive Cussler’s 40th year of exciting storytelling, and his plotting skills remain at the top of high-stakes adventure writing."
Austin has called for emergency help but wastes no time in rushing the damaged craft to aid its victims. He pulls the passenger from the wreck and attempts to free the pilot, but cannot succeed before the helicopter sniper returns with a deadly kill shot. Before the sniper can fly back to finish off the passenger, Hayley cradles the man in her arms. Her effort is in vain because the passenger is dying. Panos extends his hand to her, clutching several bloodstained papers. “I brought…what was promised….the heart of Tartarus.”
With Panos dead, his rescuers are left with these papers containing symbols, swirling lines and odd calculations. However, his reference to Tartarus, the deepest prison of Hades, belied the grime, dust and stench that covered him. When the Australian authorities arrive at the disaster site, both Austin and Hayley answer blunt questions posed by Cecil Bradshaw, deputy chief of counterterrorism for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). Bradshaw, with access to Austin’s background file, indicates that a breach of Australian security may be involved. Panos may have been an informant, killed for the information he carried.
The dead man has been covered with a type of soil that is common in the outback. Austin remains certain that the man had come from underwater because he exhibited signs of decompression sickness. Locked in a disagreement with Bradshaw, Austin leaves the interrogation. Deeply curious, he cannot leave the questions unanswered. Googling Hayley’s resume, he discovers that she was to be the keynote conference speaker, a scholar discussing gravity and arguing Einstein’s theories. He calls best friend Joe Zavala when he discovers a strange phenomenon on a map of the Australian outback. Both he and Bradshaw could be right from the evidence pictured. Zavala will fly to Sydney, bringing new NUMA diving speeders with him.
Meanwhile, diabolical Thero and his evil son, George, test a machine that will harness the zero point energy in a flash so gigantic that the earth’s Teutonic plates will be shifted, separating continents and destroying entire civilizations. Years before, Thero’s plans had been tested by the United States government, with wartime usage in mind. But due to its volatile nature, the plan was scuttled after an explosion in the testing lab killed his son and maimed him. Thero turns his venom on society, with revenge in mind on the men he believes are responsible for his son’s death. To finance his master plan, he mines diamonds deep underground and uses slave labor. Panos was a Greek slave who escaped the mining operation, with proof on the bloodied pages he held.
Along with Bradshaw, Austin, Zavala, the NUMA team and Hayley discover Thero’s plan but have no means to destroy the machine. Hayley alone has the scientific knowledge about zero point energy to help the NUMA team. Cussler and Brown, in uncanny style, manipulate the plot to include a Russian team on the wrong side of the equation. The Russians plan to use the machine’s capacity for their own military scope. Before the complexities merge to a conclusion, personalities emerge that surprise the reader with jaw-dropping reality. ZERO HOUR is the perfect explosive thriller to highlight Cussler’s remarkable 40th anniversary.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on June 7, 2013