This is a review of “Pacific Vortex!” by Clive Cussler, chronologically the first book in the many adventures of Dirk Pitt.
Fully armed and with all hands on board, the nuclear submarine Starbuck sailed into the calm Pacific Ocean for sea trials – and vanished. There was no trace of it until ace maritime troubleshooter Dirk Pitt finds a single, chilling clue in the shark-torn surf off Hawaii – the log of the Starbuck. A crazed journal of madness and death that locates the Starbuck’s grave hundreds of miles from her las known position. The search for the submarine plunges Dirk Pitt into his most shattering assignment to date – a whirlpool of deep-sea mystery and terror – the Pacific Vortex!
The story has very good, and very easy writing. It flows quickly and concisely, with great action sequences and exciting adventure. The ideas explored and used are firmly rooted in fact, and it is obvious that the author knows what he is talking about especially when it comes to the maritime aspects. It is a story of a more modern Indiana Jones, treasure hunting and dangers under the sea, and it works very well in deed.
The secondary characters are very well written even if they were a bit shallow. They weren’t anything truly special, nothing to really remember, and their lives and emotions were little explored apart from their place in the story. Still, they were solid and they weren’t useless even in comparison to Dirk Pitt. Al Giordino and Admiral Sandecker being foremost of these characters, and I wish they had been given more screen time.
There was also little to no over-explanation of concepts, maritime terms or other things like that which neatly helps to avoid most of the dreaded “As you know, Bob” conversations. The omniscient tone to the writing wasn’t as annoying as it could have been, which is always a bonus.
There are, however, some bad points.
Dirk Pitt became quite the Gary Stue-like character, and he acted more or less like a bastard most of the time. There wasn’t much to actually like about him even if all other male characters admired him. He keeps on eyeing women at the most inopportune moments, kissing them when underwater caves are flooding around him, and his banter with people seems a bit off and weird. He also has a weird need to keep on ignoring sound advice and logical rules.
The women in the book are rather useless. Most of them were either secretaries there to be ogled. One was a previous one-night stand who continued having a whole bevy of one-night stands, and all she was good for was getting kidnapped and rescued. And the last one, supposedly cold and detached and raised as a cold-blooded killer, fell apart and fell deeply in love with Dirk Pitt after only two meetings. Not only that, but if all the women in the story were removed, it wouldn’t change one whit. That is not good.
I am a big fan of the movie Sahara with Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz, it was one of the largest reasons why I started reading this Dirk Pitt adventure. I have to admit that I like the movie better, it treated female characters better than this book did. I can only hope that Cussler’s other books are a bit better – especially the series with the husband-and-wife treasure hunter team!
Great adventure and a quick read, but not really special.
I am ambivalent about this one, though I do think I might pick up another Dirk Pitt book in the future.