My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“The Hunt for Red October” has been on my bookshelf for about five years (I bought it for $1.99 on sale). I’d often looked at it longingly, with a plan to read it as soon as I’d finished reading my current book. But, for some reason, it continued to be put aside for something else.
I loved each of the Jack Ryan movies; even the most recent one with Chris Pine was pretty good. If you haven’t seen them, I recommend you check them out.
Anyone who has seen a Jack Ryan movie should know what to expect from this story. Unparalleled action, intrigue, and some nice twists and turns. I would define “The Hunt for Red October” as an intelligent thriller that is highly technical in nature.
The general story itself is pretty straightforward:
A highly accomplished Submarine Captain has been given their most sophisticated sub to test. Not only is it large, driven by a nuclear reactor and capable to single handledly destroying the United States, it also has a near silent “catapillar” drive to make them invisible to enemy ships. The problem is, Captain Ramius, has no intention of just testing the submarine; he (and many of his crew) plan to defect to America.
But, when the Russians find out what Ramius is doing they send their entire fleet of subs and ships to try and catch him before he can make it to the US.
To the Americans, seeing their enemy’s fleet suddenly turn and head towards the US shores leads them to believe the Russians are about to attack. Argh! Scary!
Only one person, Jack Ryan – an analyst for the CIA – believes otherwise – and correctly. So, he’s given a short amount of time to prove the Red October and her crew are defecting, rather than attacking.
But, having the US and Russians in close proximity is very dangerous, and both political sides are essentially in the dark as to what’s happening underwater.
As a result, it’s up to Ryan to find the Red October – which is diffult given their silent drive – and then find a way to contact them to confirm their plans – which is difficult given the sub is underwater.
In between the core story, a reader has to deal with technical jargon, the likes of which I’ve never come across.
Here’s an example (there are many!):
“The reactor coolant pumps went to fast speed. An increased amount of hot, pressurised water entered the exchanger, where its heat was transferred to the stream on the outside loop. When the coolant returned to the reactor it was cooler than it had been and therefore denser. Being denser, it trapped more neutrons in the reactor pile, increasing the ferocity of the fission reaction and giving off yet more power. Farther aft, saturated steam in the “outside” or nonradioactive loop of the heat exchange system emerged through clusters of control valves to strike the blades of the high-pressure turbine.”
Blah, blah, blah blah blah.
Sorry, but, BORING!!!
The underlying story of “The Hunt for Red October” is great, but unfortunately it’s bogged down by technical blurb like this (and some a lot more technical).
Personally, as a reader, this type of writing takes away from the story. And, as a writer, it’s something I was very attentive to. When jargon like this takes place in the middle of a scene it becomes more than simple padding, it’s just becomes annoying, and confusing.
Tom Clancy’s has many loyal fans because of the highly technical nature of his books, but for me it just detracted from the story.
Overall, I gave this book three stars out of five, because of the story and characterisation and whilst I greatly respect Tom Clancy’s technical knowledge, knowing all the details just detracted from the book, and as a result I won’t be picking up another Clancy book.