Author: Clive Cussler
Publisher: Bantam Books
Published: January 1, 1983
Number of Pages: 93
Genre(s): Action, Suspense, Thriller
Date Read: July, 2012
Acquired: Waterloo Public Library
PacificVortex! opens with a reflection on famous ships that have sunk in the Pacific Ocean leading into a narrative of the story of Commander Felix Dupree the commanding officer on the newest submarine in the United States navy, the Starbuck, which is on its maiden voyage to Hawai’i. In the tradition of suspense novels, by the end of this prologue the Starbuck is inexplicably lost at sea in extremely mysterious circumstances. Fade to black, fade back in 6 months later on beautiful stretch of Hawaiian beach and up from the water pops, Dirk Pitt, the intrepid star of Pacific Vortex! He’s a former Army Major now working as the number one operative for NUMA (the National Underwater and Marine Agency, which is also totally a real life organisation founded by Clive Cussler.), who happens to be on vacation on the exact beach where a message capsule from the doomed submarine washes ashore; cue the ominous theme music. The message capsule, of course, contains a cryptic account of the Starbuck’s fate makes him immediately suspicious and allows Dirk to connect with the U.S. Navy’s elite salvage operation running out of Pearl Harbour. This is Dirk Pitt’s element; the Salvage team brings him on board and puts him in charge of the operation to find the Starbuck. Pitt risks his life, almost dying several times while he doggedly unravels the mystery of not only the Starbuck’s disappearance but the mysterious fate of thirty more ships who were all also downed in the strange Pacific vortex which has been likened to the Bermuda Triangle, and what he discovers is a shocking surprise that is almost unbelievable!
The Associated Press, in their review of the novel, which is quoted on the back cover, called Dirk Pitt the Indiana Jones of oceanography; and Clive Cussler himself states in the Forward that when he set out to write this series he was looking to create a character who wasn’t a spy or a detective or a police man which are the stereotypes of the suspense genre. He has definitely succeeded in doing that . The marine and island settings were unusual for this genre back when it was first published. The norm was (and still largely is) cities, with car chases and political intrigue. Cussler broke that mould with Pacific Vortex! A year later Tom Clancy's most well known suspense hero, Jack Ryan, showed up in a submarine thriller, The Hunt for Red October, the 4th book in Clancy's series. I haven't read the Clancy series yet, but from what I can surmise from the summaries, that was the first time Jack Ryan had taken to the sea.
As with most suspense novels that I've read, this one is told in third person perspective and the focus is on following the lead character as he dives head first into the thrilling action that shows us the dangers and perils associated with oceanography and salvaging. What makes this particular plot interesting to me is that it’s not just solely about the action, there is a mystery to solve; clues to follow and conclusions to reach, which makes you invested in the story and gets you right in there with the main character. For me, someone who has a completely irrational fear of sharks and drowning and mild claustrophobia the settings succeeded in making me feel very uneasy at times which definitely added to the suspense of the story for me.
Overall I feel that Pacific Vortex! is a solid example of a suspense thriller thanks to its pacing, it is action packed while also being thought provoking. I really enjoyed this novel and I would recommend it to others. I don’t know if I’ll continue with the whole series but I’ll probably end up reading at least a few more because Dirk Pitt is a very engaging character and the oceanographic adventures are absolutely intriguing to me. That being said I know that Cussler's later books are not written by him, I've been told that he just writes the outlines and hires other people to write the stories based on those. I've read books by other authors who have done that and I have found them problematic and disappointed so I might just steer clear.
This book was written by Cussler though and Dirk’s humour and curiosity kept me into it the entire time and I think they’ll do the same for you.