Ah! A return to the beginning! Exclamation points and all! I’ve read through all the Clive Cussler novels I own—well, almost. I only got about halfway through the seventh Isaac Bell adventure, The Bootlegger, before I got bored with the style and plot and found myself longing to get back to the early, far grittier Cussler. Pacific Vortex, starring Dirk Pitt, is Cussler’s first-written novel and was also my own introduction to the series and genre. It’s good to be back.
Finally published after Cussler had made a name for himself with his epic adventure, Raise the Titanic, Pacific Vortex is a linear tale following a swarthy Major Dirk Pitt tasked with unmasking the secret of a veritable “Bermuda Triangle” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a graveyard of ships with eerie tales of green monster-men who can melt the faces off unlucky sailors. This younger version of Cussler’s greatest hero is definitely a mere foil compared to the Pitt seen in all the novels yet to come, yet still there’s something about his cunning and thirst for adventure which endears him to the reader from the very start.
At least two other members of NUMA make their appearances in this first book as well, Pitt’s commander, Admiral James Sandecker, and his sidekick and best friend since kindergarten, Air Force Captain Alfred Giordino. More about Al to come, but I was also very pleased to see that Cussler’s very first villain, Delphi, was a giant of a man with impossibly yellow eyes. Ah, the eyes! Cussler’s go-to character trait that never disappoints! While Delphi wasn’t bent on overpowering the world, he was the power-hungry leader of a small family with an army of thugs, making him fit in quite well with Cussler’s future company of villains.
As I take this step back in time to re-read those Dirk Pitt novels which I had failed to review the first time around, I’ve invited my chum JB to join me. Like with Dirk and Al, JB and I have been best buds since kindergarten and before. He’s not a barrel-chested Italian sidekick any more than I’m a green-eyed, lady-killing, bane-of-every-villain’s-existence Air Force Major. Nevertheless, we both enjoy Cussler so much that we often joke that we are these guys. As we read together, we try to track certain things which, by now, we know are common fare in Cussler’s 65+ novels.
- How soon will Al Giordino get his first life-altering injury? In this book, his feet get scraped to the bone on the sea floor—seemingly irreparably—though he spends the remainder of the book hobbling through the corridors of an undersea mountain and seems no worse for wear. Oh, and near the end he also loses a pinky.
- In how many scenes will Dirk Pitt lie around naked? How many caverns will he dart through naked? How many villains will he kill while naked? Somewhere through the series, he learns to keep his clothes on, but young Pitt appeared to hate clothes as much as middle-aged Pitt hates Communism.
What appealed to us both about starting with this book was the opportunity to meet the very special Summer, the love of Pitt’s life whose disappearance in this novel eventually turns him into a cold-hearted player for many a novel to come—that is until he meets a special Congresswoman in the Colorado Mountains sometime down the line (I think it’s Vixen 03, but I could be wrong). But both JB and I agree that Summer’s appearance and behavior in this book is a bit…disappointing.
They first meet in a bar while Pitt’s conversing with a loose woman. Summer takes the girl out back and settles the matter with fisticuffs before returning to take Pitt away for a romantic walk in the beach. He gives in, but when she tries to kill physically assault him and murder him with poison, he clocks her in the jaw and knocks her nearly into a coma! They barely talk throughout the rest of the book, and even when they do, it’s arguing about who wants to kill whom.
Now, JB and I aren’t reading these Cussler books for their mild lewdness, but we were both also greatly confused and let down by the total lack of physical intimacy between the Dirk and Summer, whether on land or in the sea. Aren’t these two supposed to have parented the annoying twins of the later books? Shouldn’t there have been at least some hanky, if not also some panky? But there was nothing! Which leaves JB and I with a mission to uncover the conspiracy: who’s really the father? Or, perhaps, who’s really the mother?
I enjoyed my little trip down memory lane with this book. I first read it eight years ago, so I happily remembered very little about the plot or details. I hope the same goes for all the novels yet to come! Let the games begin.