Review: Pacific Vortex!

Series: Dirk Pitt: #1

Every ocean takes its toll of men and ships, yet none devours them with the voracious appetitive of the Pacific….Despite all this, the world’s largest ocean tends to be a tranquil place; even its name means peaceful and mild of temper.

Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and NUMA Files are two more series, much like Ben Bova’s Grand Tour which I remember reading years (more than a decade now) ago, borrowed from the local library whenever I could find them and often in no particular order. I remember enjoying them then, so let’s see how they hold up! I’ll be listening to them on audiobook as I go.

Pacific Vortex! is a bit of an odd duck, being the first Dirk Pitt novel chronologically, but published 6th or so, almost ten years into the series. It’s supposed to be a bit weaker and shorter than many of the other books in the series, but I found it to be a lot of fun –with one fairly large gotcha.

Basically, Dirk Pitt is an American James Bond of the sea. He’s an air force major permanently transferred to NUMA, the originally fictional1 National Underwater and Marine Agency. Somewhat a product of his times (the 70s and 80s), he’s a ridiculous, chauvinistic (in both the patriotic and sexist definitions), misogynistic, pulpy, action star manly man… who tries to always do the right thing. He’s certainly not the best person in the world, especially by modern standards, but I think he’s good enough and makes for a solid action star, which is exactly what’s intended of him.

Plotwise, there’s a missing nuclear submarine in the Pacific Vortex–basically the Bermuda Triangle of the Pacific Ocean. Pitt gets involved, finds a cartoonishly evil villain in his underwater lair, sleeps with any number of scantily clad women, and ends up in various fight scenes, both underwater and on the surface. It’s a ridiculous plot, barely hanging on the edge of believably, but again. Action novel. It works.

Overall, the main gripe in the book is pretty much looking at it from modern standards. If misogyny in fiction is a deal-breaker, avoid this book (and probably much of early Cussler, apparently he gets better eventually?). Otherwise, it’s a fun pulpy adventure on the high seas. The perfect sort of audiobook–something fun to listen to while exercising or doing other things, not requiring a huge amount of attention to get into it. And hey, who doesn’t love a book that can pull of an exclamation point in the title!

  1. I hadn’t actually read about this before. NUMA was originally a fictional creation of author Clive Cussler for these books, but he later went on to actually found an organization with the same name and roughly same purpose. That’s… pretty cool. ↩︎