I think I saw the movie years ago, but don’t remember much of it, other than it was about a Russian submarine. That is my only explanation as to how I missed that this was a Jack Ryan book. In fact, the first Jack Ryan book to be published. So when Jack Ryan made his first appearance I started laughing.
It, however, did not diminish the fun of reading this book. Jack Ryan is here very much himself the archetype of all American hero, dragged from behind his desk to become the man who saves the world. What surprised me in all this is how little time is devoted to Ryan here. The main focus is on the Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius. Disenchanted with the Soviet state, raging over his wife’s unnecessary death, Ramius decides to steal the submarine he commands and defect to the United States. It is the Cold War, so once Russians realize their newest nuclear submarine is missing they go berserk. A similar reaction is triggered on the other side of the Curtainonce American realize almost entire Russian fleet goes in their direction, and quickly realize there’s also a nuclear sub on the way.
Clancy masterfully builds tension, showing how the slightest misunderstanding could lead to war in this situation. Everyone balances on the edge, not wanting to show weakness, but also hesitant to be the first one to strike. It is a long book, but it reads well, with Clancy providing the perspectives of multiple soldiers and agents involved in the plot. He also provides a lot of research on the submarines. Sometimes too much, but then given the book was published in 1984 it is fascinating to read about the software helping to clear noise from the sonar signal, which sounds very much like a nearly take on machine learning.
It most certainly is a boy’s book, I’m now trying to remember if there was a single woman in it. Ryan’s wife aside, as she was only mentioned once or twice. I don’t think so. Which, again is true of that time. It was only men in the army or intelligence. Equality nowhere in sight and not crossing anyone’s mind.
I liked the fact that Clancy gave himself space, he could develop characters and their underlying motivations. At the same time, he managed to keep the tension and in the end the pace is really breathtaking. Which is a feat if you think that submarines really don’t move as fast as one imagines.
It certainly was a throwback in time, but also an enlightening and entertaining read. One about times long gone, but yet attitudes that are still present, the struggle for global power never really went away.
In all the navies of the world, submariners were regarded as a curious breed, and submariners themselves looked upon sonar operators as odd.
The submariner’s trade required more than skill. It required instinct, and an artist’s touch; monomaniacal confidence, and the aggressiveness of a professional boxer.