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Vol. 12, No. 11 Week of March 18, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

BOOK REVIEW: Cussler novel boasts super seismic

Roger Herrera

For Petroleum News

“Treasures of Khan,” a Dirk Pitt novel, by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler. Published by Putnam, $27.97 hardback, November 2006.

Fans of the almost 40 books written by Clive Cussler might wonder why readers of Petroleum News are interested in his latest improbable action adventure co-authored with his son Dirk. Given the technical nature of the petroleum industry, where the search for and production of oil is so carefully controlled by factors such as costs, governments, business risks, safety of people and environmental concerns, such a question is relevant. But we all know that oil is also about politics and the international greed for cheap energy.

When a mad descendant of the infamous Genghis Khan (who, 800 years ago created the largest empire the world has ever seen) stumbles upon a 40 billion barrel oil field that also contains 50 trillion cubic feet of gas, all the normal rules of business change and mayhem results. In this case the advantages of the super-giant oil field are accentuated by evil use of a seismic wave system that, not only produces perfect images of geological strata, but also can induce earthquakes when the energy source is focused on subsurface fault planes. In short order the Saudi Arabian oil export terminal at RasTanura and the Kharg Island oil facility in Iran are destroyed by 7.3 Richter earthquakes. Later, the Mongolian mastermind also burns China’s oil importing infrastructure at Ningbo Harbor.

What could be more interesting than half the Middle Eastern oil exports to the world stopping overnight and half of China’s oil imports no longer having a place to land?

Obviously, the descendant of Genghis is up to the challenge and organizes his few minions to drill 200 deep wells in the new field within the next six months and build 40 kilometers of oil pipeline to China in 90 days. Eat your heart out, oil industry. Such feats are only possible in the middle of Mongolian deserts and in Cussler fiction! You will have to read the book to find out how China reacted to such technical wizardry, but suffice to say, it was willing to pay $125 per barrel of oil!

Alaskans might be glad to know that the United States was able to weather this world oil crisis because of the use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the (fictional) fact that oil from ANWR had just started flowing and the TAPS pipeline was pumping at full capacity. Furthermore we can applaud the final act of the Mongolian government, that, when all the skullduggery was resolved, decided to copy the example of the Alaska Permanent Fund and donate some of its new riches to every man, woman and child in the nation.

So should oil people read this book? For sheer escapism and to revel in the amazing exploits of Dirk Pitt — the, so far, unmentioned action hero of the yarn who makes James Bond 007 look like an amateur — yes. Get yourself an alcoholic drink, which all the characters in the novel consume at every opportunity, and settle back for an overly long 550-page adventure. But don’t get carried away by the technology because most of it is bunk, and don’t expect to learn how to solve the world’s future oil crises — Messrs Cussler don’t give those answers. They don’t even know that labeling one of their minor characters, a geologist, a geophysicist and a petroleum engineer on different pages is a faux pas. On the other hand, the character was a woman, so perhaps it is correct.

The evilness of the Mongolian bad guy, who causes all the chaos in the story, is implied to be because of his direct descendance from Genghis Khan. Genghis is the hero of modern day Mongolia and was, without doubt, one of the most successful military and political strategists who has ever lived. He also was reputed to have had more than 50 wives and his brutal forays across much of the then know world gave him further opportunity to sow his seed. According to the Mongolian Ministry of Health, Genghis Khan’s Y chromosome DNA can be found in about 32 million people alive today in Mongolia and the lands he conquered. It is therefore hardly a unique qualification to be related to the Great Khan. One can surmise, most of his male heirs are nice people who would love to receive a Permanent Fund dividend check.

In reality, only Alaskans are so lucky.

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