Monday, June 12, 2017

Currently reading: Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler

I've tried to read Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt books before, but could never get into them (and this is despite buying damn near all of them once at a book sale!). A friend at the church I volunteer at suggested them while we were talking about books and I figured "well, if he likes them, then maybe they're worth another shot." I should point out that my friend is 85 years old. At the same time, I didn't want to tackle one of Cussler's thick tomes right off the bat and that's where Pacific Vortex! came in.

Pacific Vortex! is the sixth book published in the Dirk Pitt series, but chronologically it's the first. In a forward at the start of the book, Cussler explains that he originally wasn't going to publish this tale because he didn't think it was up to snuff compared to the rest of the series, but did so after urging from his friends, family, and fans. I like when authors admit that their early works aren't up to the standards set by their later books because they usually aren't and that's fine. That early on, the author is still finding the voice for their series and things are rougher. It's not unlike the first seasons of a popular TV show. Besides, fans are going to read those books anyways, so admitting that they're as good isn't going to hurt sales.

While I haven't read any other Dirk Pitt books yet and thus have nothing to compare Pacific Vortex! to, I think Cussler was wrong. It might not "measure up" to other entries in the series, but PV is hardly a bad book. It's not even sub-par. I'm 163 pages in and I think it's a very good adventure yarn and a good jumping off point for people looking to start the series.

So with all that out of the way, let's talk about Pacific Vortex!. The plot involves the disappearance of the Starbuck while on a shakedown cruise in the, you guessed it, the Pacific Ocean. The Starbuck is a highly advanced nuclear submarine belonging to the United States Navy and when our hero, Dirk Pitt, retrieves a message capsule belonging to the lost sub, he's roped into their top secret efforts to find and salvage the vessel.

A bit of biographical information on our hero is needed before we continue: Pitt is the son of a U.S. Senator and Special Projects Director for the National Underwater and Marine Agency or NUMA for short. NUMA is both a fictional government agency (filling a scientific role similar to NOAA) and not so fictional organization created by Cussler that searches for shipwrecks. He's also a reserve officer in the United States Air Force who, while serving in Vietnam, shot down the airplane carrying James Sandecker, the admiral who runs NUMA. Believe it or not, Pitt did it to save the lives of the plane's passengers: they were flying to a camp in Vietnam that they had no idea had already been overrun by the enemy and Pitt shot them down to save them. He got a medal for it and presumably his job at NUMA.

So yeah, Dirk Pitt is a man of daring-do.

Going back to the story, Pitt is loaned out to Admiral Leigh Hunter, the man in charge of the Navy's 101st Salvage Fleet, which turns out to be a high tech and top secret operation. In fact, the way the 101st operates high tech vessels disguised as dilapidated freighters is very similar to the Oregon Files spin-off. From there, Pitt's life gets dangerous. First there's the mysterious woman named Summer who picks Dirk up at a bar and just when he thinks he's about to lucky, she tries to destroy his nutsack with a well placed knee and stab him with a syringe. She gets decked for her efforts and he's left to carry her unconscious body back to his apartment for questioning. Next, there's a direct attempt on his life while traveling to the Pearl Harbor navy base that ends with Dirk's would be assassin crashing and meeting a telephone pole up close and a little too personal. From there, Dirk is thrown from one intense ordeal to another, but with more than enough meat in between to move the plot along.

I haven't finished Pacific Vortex! yet, but it's been one hell of a ride so far.

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