Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Adventure fiction
Publisher: 2009 Hachette UK
About the author:
Clive Cussler has been writing since 1967 until his death in February 2020. He has had over 20 books on best seller lists, as well as working with co-writers such as Paul Kemprecos, Graham Brown and his son Dirk Cussler.
His novels are a blend of history, spy thrillers, sea faring and detective work.
Read more about his work here.
Dirk Pitt: Special Projects Director for the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA)
The President: President of the USA with 18 months left of term.
Gene Seagram: Physicist and Chief Evaluator for the Meta section.
Dana Seagram: Marine Archaeologist and wife to Gene Seagram.
Mel Donner: Chief Evaluator of Meta section.
Sid Koplin: Professor of mineralogy.
Admiral Sandecker: Head of NUMA and Dana Seagram’s boss.
Captain Andre Prevlov: Russian Navy intelligence specialist.
NUMA salvage crew: Omar Woodson, Rudi Gunn, Ben Drummer, Rick Spencer, Sam Merker, Henry Munk
Plot summary, spoiler free I promise:
This is a novel that takes us from 2 1/2 miles below the sea surface, to the center of mid Atlantic storms and through the world of politics, spies, history and ocean salvage.
The story begins by following an, as yet unnamed, character through the last moments of the Titanic after she has struck an iceberg, and we get the first hint that there may be an item of great worth hidden in her holds.
We then travel to the White House and meet the President, cleverly unnamed throughout the book, enabling an almost timeless feel to the novel. We are also introduced to Gene Seagram and Mel Donner early on, as well as learning of the covert existence of the Meta Section, yet we learn nothing about previous projects and are drip fed the details of the Sicilian Project. This aids the feeling of mystery surrounding the section and gives weight to the feeling that the Sicilian Project is The Big One.
Through Russian intelligence we learn more about the element and it’s discovery on Novaya Zemlaya. We also begin to see links drawn to a mining disaster in the USA, the first of many woven threads in the novel that join the USA, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, in a plot that spans time from 1902 to 1987 as present day.
Alongside the investigation into the disaster, and the revealed links between both time and countries, the relationships between seemingly unrelated characters are revealed, you truly get the sense that this is all leading to a conclusion but are left guessing and discovering alongside the characters.
Even while the salvage operation for the Titanic is taking place, new secrets and answers to previous investigations are revealed. The action throughout moves at a quick pace yet there is always a new discovery, revealed secret from the past or looming disaster that keeps you guessing until the very last page.
This novel sucks you in from the start with the opening scene being the last moments of the Titanic after her collision with the iceberg. The last moments of the ship are chilling and hauntingly described in a detail that is hard to forget.
Right from the beginning the characters are well described and bought to life in a way that leaves you wanting to know more about their goals and motivations. You are also made aware of the presence of double agents and yet the details are revealed so cleverly that it is impossible to guess their exact identity or which side they are truly working for. I also found myself rooting for everyone involved, no matter what their motivations were, such is the strength of the characters.
The scenes too are descriptive enough to leave you feeling like you are there without distracting from the plot line, there are no long flowery descriptions, only short sentences with enough detail to enable the reader to visualise the scene. There are also so many little details, such as the dog used by a security guard being a Komondor rather than your typical German Shepherd, which really make this novel stand out for me. (I’m a dog nerd, sorry not sorry).
Every single detail in this novel seems thoroughly researched and accurate (although I am far from an expert), from the makes of plane to the exact techniques used in weather forecasting and deep sea salvage techniques. It is such a compelling read, from the way the past and present are woven together, to the way in which discoveries are relayed to the reader, making the whole novel seem complete somehow.
Throughout you are truly hopeful that raising the Titanic is not just a work of fiction. As one of the most famous maritime disasters, the hope that she may one day complete her maiden voyage is truly enabled by the carefully thought out plans laid by the author.
This was the very first Clive Cussler book I read and one that still holds a special place in my heart. I recommend for anyone who enjoys a story that keeps you thinking and guessing to the end. No knowledge of boats or physics needed either, just let the author take you for the ride.
“As the bulk of the great ocean liner sank from sight, her red pennant with the white star that had been hanging limply, high on the aft mastpeak under the dead calm of the night, suddenly unfurled when it touched the sea, as though in final salute to the fifteen hundred men, women and children who were either dying of exposure or drowning in the frigid waters over the grave.”