Adventure author Clive Cussler (Inca Gold, Raise the Titanic!) could well be the James Fenimore Cooper of our time. Like the 19th-century novelist of the frontier, Cussler creates characters with all the depth of a cardboard cutout, plots that creak with predictability and dialogue as sticky as Mississippi mud. Here's the hero's sidekick at the top of his form: " 'The pieces,' said Giordino darkly, 'are coming together.' "
Still, we can't put down a Cussler opus. Why? It's a mystery only the author's straight-shootin', never-defeated protagonist Dirk Pitt could solve. Cussler is so protective of Pitt that he registered the name as a trademark. Can an action doll be far behind?
Pitt is up to snuff this time, foiling the earthshaking plans of the evil Wolf family to melt the Antarctic ice cap and threaten the world—at least the part that lives by the shore. In the process readers encounter a 9,000-year-old comet, Hitler's frozen sperm and a wild chase across the treacherous Antarctic landscape. Oh yes, along the way, Pitt does manage to find Atlantis. All in a day's work, thank you very much. (Putnam, $26.95)