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Literature / Deep Six (1984)

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Deep Six is an early novel by Clive Cussler. It was published in 1984 as the seventh book in the Dirk Pitt Adventures series, although it actually follows the fifth book, Night Probe!, given that the previous installment, Pacific Vortex!, is a Prequel.

When a mysterious and extremely deadly poison spreads through the waters off the coast of Alaska in 1989, killing everything it comes in contact with from scientists to members of the crew of a Coast Guard cutter, Dirk Pitt and his NUMA team are dispatched in an attempt to find the source of the poison. After a female and rather attractive member of his team is killed by the poison, Pitt vows to take revenge on whoever is responsible for the poison outbreak.

At the same time, much to the shock and horror of everybody in the White House, the troubled President of United States disappears in a ship tour through the Potomac in midst of the difficult climate of the Cold War. The trail is soon caught by Pitt himself, that discovers clues of a sinister and improbable plan operated by an absurdly powerful North Korean shipping company that could lead to the fall of the government.

This book provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The story is set in The '80s, yet it features death lasers and incredibly advanced neuroscience.
  • Aborted Arc: Lugovoy fears the brainwashed president might eventually break from their control and do "something terrible" due to all the process. This is never brought up again.
  • Action Politician: Speaker of the House Lorrimer shows some of this during the burning cruise ship crisis.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Defied. Lugovoy, an obvious biological/cognitive psychologist, chews Freudian theories out while talking to his assistant.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: Subverted in that it is United States, not Argentine. Sonny Thompson, the White House's press secretary, is rumored in-universe to have been an understudy of Joseph Goebbels.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • In the book, Lugovoy performs a memory transference by injecting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the emitter in the receiver's hippocampus. RNA being related to memory is mostly dated science, it having been sort of a vogue in The '60s born of James McConnell's controversial experiments with flatworms. In real life, RNA is a molecule related to the expression of genes and has not been reliably found to have anything to do with memory; its not even a neurotransmitter or anything related to the hippocampus in particular.
    • Lugovoy claims dreams are almost exclusively visual experiences, without smell, taste or pain. In real life, those oniric traits are comparatively rarer, but not impossible at all. People blind from birth, for example, have dreams that are obviously all but visual.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: One of Koryo's female mooks adopts a "judo stance" and throws several strikes to Casio. In real life, Judo is a grappling art, with no strikes (it does have striking in its old katas, but those are basically in disuse outside of grading exams), and it doesn't have a particular, recognizable stance (the nearest to this might be the kinds of sleeve and collar grips that can be established to grab the opponent).
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Georgi Antonov and Min Koryo, although the latter spends more time on the role.
  • Blood from Every Orifice: The deadly chemical weapon Nerve Agent S has the side effect of causing victims to do this before dying.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The president himself, which is the plot of the book.
  • The Cavalry: A nearly literal example at the end when Dirk storms the Bougainville ship with a regiment of Civil War reenactors after being unable to find any other forces close enough.
  • Continuity Porn:
    • One of the White House men reads Pitt's file, mentioning evens from previous books like the Titanic rescue (Raise the Titanic!), Vixen Operation (Vixen 03) and the Canada affair (Night Probe!).
    • It also contains a reference to the S. S. United States, which would be brought up in Flood Tide.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Loren happens to be in the deck of the Leonid Andreyev just when Moran is brought to the ship.
  • Corrupt Politician: Alan Moran, who we are said he has connections to the mafia.
  • Determinator: After the first group of Federal agents trying to stop the tug with the vice president onboard get shot up and there radio is lost, one man hikes several miles to the nearest phone booth (with a severe injury, under the hot summer sun) to call the White House and report what's happening.
  • The Dragon: Lee Tong to Min Koryo.
  • Dragon Lady: Min Koryo shows shades of having been this in the past.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Prostitution is the only shady business Min Koryo doesn't practice. It's hinted to be because she is a former child sex slave.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Antonov and Polevoi are genuinely puzzled that their plan to hijack United States by brainwashing its president met a spectacular failure. The implied point is that, as they were raised in a communist dictatorship, they cannot honestly get in their heads that a democratic country does not work the same way and is not completely at the orders of its head of state. They then reinforce this by stating that the capitalist mindset seems "unpredictable" and just too bizarre for them.
  • Exact Words: The USSR follows their word to hand Bougainville a cargo of gold... only that they sink the ship right after and recover the cargo.
  • Good Counterpart: Raymond Edgeley to Lugovoy.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Let's say the presidential Secret Service doesn't get its best portrayal ever in this book. Not only they fail to impede the president to be kidnapped, but also somehow don't notice when he is brough again to the White House.
  • Hard Boiled Detective: Sal Casio, complete with a noir-style outfit.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: People, governments and ideologies cannot be simply redeemed through compassion, and if you ever approach them with the intent to help them, they will take advantage on it to destroy you.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The novel is not shy about associating atheism and evil. Lugovoy and Suvorov are both communist and atheistic, while Moran only pretends to be a devout Christian as part of his clean guy image: he's actually a "convinced atheist" in addition to being evil and corrupt.
  • Hypocrite: President of the USSR Georgi Antonov is not exactly a fan of Stalin, and has his own luxuries which he acknowledges would not pass a Communist inspection (though, ironically, he resembles Stalin at this).
  • Idiot Ball: The book contains a spectacular number of those instances, including Pitt for publishing a bait for a corrupt corporation under his real name, Sandecker for then using Pitt for a secret mission, the Secret Service for seeing nothing wrong on a covert agent having mysteriously forgotten his part, the corrupt corporation for somehow not realizing there is an extra man in the team they have secretly gathered, the KGB for not properly briefing said extra man, Lee Tong for not shooting Pitt dead when he was in front of him with a rifle in the lifeboat (and instead trying to beat him to death), the Service Secret again for believing for a moment the president's supposed alibi for his disappearance (an alibi that might be a strong case for high treason anyway), General Metcalf for obeying the increasingly deranged orders of an obvious dictator wannabe on the basis of being his friend, and finally the corporation again for registering ship names that contain clues to their secret base.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Suvorov seems to believe this, as he mistakes the Koreans for Mongolians.
  • Laser Cutter: Koryo has a rather futuristic laser ray emitter installed directly over her bed, in case of undesirable people threatening her.
  • May–December Romance: Subverted. Sandecker has a date with Bonnie Cowman, who is young enough to be his daughter, though it doesn't work out.
  • MegaCorp: The Bougainville corporation isn't as powerful or complex as other corps presented in Cussler's books, but it is absurdly efficient, outsmarting both the USSR and the United States government all the day.
  • Mirroring Factions: Subtlely done with the government of the United States, which is shown to be similar to the USSR in several ways: political corruption is a problem in both countries (Antonov and Moran), they both have brainwashing projects (Lugovoy and Edgeley), and both of them would eliminate people to keep affairs secret (Sutton and... well, many Russian people). It's even hinted that the US Press Secretary might be an ex-Nazi of all things.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Georgi Antonov is a stand-in for real life president Yuri Andropov, who had his own scandal for questionable psychiatric commitment of people deemed enemies of the State (though Andropov died in 1984, while Antonov is still alive by 1989). The characters even mention real life foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, who was Andropov's right hand man.
    • Vladimir Polevoi is another for Viktor Chebrikov, the KGB head under Andropov.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Aleksei Lugovoy, to a point. While he is unambiguously loyal to the Communist Party and profiled as an amoral scientist, he is clearly overwhelmed by the project's magnitude and would honestly rather be doing anything else. Also, he doesn't share Suvorov's fanaticism and meanness, and his inner thoughts show he doesn't think much of his motherland's life conditions either.
  • Retired Badass: Sal Casio remains an uber-strong martial artist despite being 60 and barely still accepting cases.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Sal is deterred to tear down the Bougainville's for killing his daughter, as is Pitt for Julie Mendoza.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: USSR is the main loser of the three-way war with United States and the Bougainville corporation.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Suvorov is said to be the son of a Party member named Viktor Suvorov, just like the real life novelist and historian.
    • Novelist Harold Robbins is also mentioned.
  • Soviet Superscience: Lugovoy's mind control techniques are straight out of sci-fi. Later subverted when the technology that Bougainville gets him is even better, and then when U.S. technology on the matter is stated to be even more advanced.
  • What a Piece of Junk: In 1963, the CIA built a fleet of crappy-looking ships secretly equipped with missiles and black ops gear to harass Castro and later execute missions. They also took part in the Irani invasion in 1985.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: For a regular shipping company, Bougainville has access to a surprisingly advanced technology and resources, which is never explained.