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The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

Posted by RB Kollannur on July 22, 2012


Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 21/07/2012

Publisher – HarperCollins; Year of Publication – 1984; Pages – 544

It was during the peak of the Cold War. US and Soviet Union had locked horns in space, in sports, in technology and in the battlefield for the longest non wars in recent history. But the most secretive of the battles happened beneath the waves of the Atlantic. So when the Soviet develops a submarine with a revolutionary drive that can help it reach the US shores untraced, the tide of this silent war of the Atlantic changes favourably for the east.

Not quite.

At the helm of the Red October is a renegade, Captain Marko Ramius. When he takes his vessel to the US shores, nobody knows to what ends – to defect and steal the submarine or to nuke Washington. Both US and the Soviet are up in arms scouring the Atlantic hunting for the missing vessel, before it reaches the hands of their enemy. It is up to Jack Ryan, a lone CIA operative, to figure out Captain Ramius’ true intentions and see him through to his end.

The Jack Ryan series is one of the longest running spy thrillers you will ever come across, covering fourteen novels and four movies spanning three decades of fiction. The Hunt for Red October is the first in the series and has Jack Ryan in the role of a relatively junior CIA agent. As the series developed, so did his role. The movie had Alec Baldwin playing Jack Ryan and Sean Connery as Captain Ramius.

Tom Clancy has presented the intricacies of diplomacy and the spy game in a qualified manner in his novel. As time lingers on, both superpowers become increasingly desperate to snatch the submarine before their opponent, leading to increasing and escalating tensions. The continued inevitability of direct armed conflict adds suspense and intrigue to the story.

While the book could have held its own purely from the spy thriller angle, it is its portrayal of submarine warfare that makes the book droolworthy.  Tom Clancy is known to be a stickler to details in his writing and this book is not far behind either, as Clancy goes in-depth to explain the technology used in submarines. In fact, this is one of the few fictional works to be originally published by the US Naval Institute. For most parts of the book, the author has Red October being by chased by a US submarine. As the two try to evade discovery and identification, many warfare tactics have to be deployed and it is at this juncture Clancy shines as a military writer.

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One Response to “The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy”

  1. […] Unseen Chronicles « The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy […]

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