Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October was an incredible book. First published in 1984, it was at the time when there was a height of conflict and tension between the Western Alliance and the Soviet Union. The book launched the writing career of its author, Tom Clancy, and created a new hero, Jack Ryan. Tom Clancy used this hero in many of his following novels, but The Hunt for Red October was the one that started it all. It was turned into a movie starring Sean Connery in the iconic role of Marko Ramius, the commander of the Soviet missible submarine, Red October, and Alec Baldwin as the role of Jack Ryan.
The book was incredibly researched, and the story goes that the Kremlin ordered a huge quantity of books to try and overcome their greatest fear (a captain of a missile submarine has a huge amount of independence, something not given to any other offical in any submarine, which is why the Soviet submarines had a political officer as well), and the US administration tried to identify who could have provided the detailed research to Tom Clancy.
The story revolved around the defection of the crew of the Red October, a revolutionary new Soviet missile submarine that has a new stealth propulsion system, something that can provide a major advantage to the Soviets (for information, a ballistic submarine missile has incredible firepower, read this entry), as the missiles provide both a stealth first fire capability and a quick reaction retaliatory capability. The US has an extensive underwater sonar system designed to pick up traces of an incoming submarine, but with this new capability, Red October would be able to avoid getting detected, an immense strategic advantage.
Marko Ramius, a half-Lithuanian by birth has risen high in the ranks of the Soviet navy and is now trusted with the best submarine made by the Soviet Union. However, they do not know that he is a disgruntled man, since his wife's death at the hands of a well-connected doctor was unpunished; further, he believes that Red October would provide an immense strategic advantage to the Soviet navy. He decides to defect, and then sends a letter to the Navy Secretary informing of his intention to defect and sail to New Yoork Harbor. This letter reaches once he has set sail.
The panic stricken Soviets send the entire North Atlantic fleet after him, although they realize that sending the fleet within a 400 km distance to the American coast could be seen as a tremendous escalation, so they inform the Americans that Marko sent a letter claiming that he will launch missiles against the US, which is why the massive Soviet fleet is chasing him.
In a meeting with the US President and other officers, Jack Ryan, a new CIA analyst (supposedly joining the CIA in another novel, Patriot Games), mentions that maybe he is trying to defect. He is charged with the responsibility of coordinating this, as too many people actually don't believe him.
In order to make it seem that the submarine has actually sunk, Red October declares an emergency, and gets most of the crew off, with the captain staying behind in order to sink the submarine. However, in a gun-fight on board the submarine, a GRU (Soviet military intelligence) agent uses a gun against the captain and his officer, and tries to blow up the submarine. Ryan finally kills him after a gun-fight.
In another tension filled event, the captain of a Soviet attack submarine, and a former pupil of Ramius, recognizes the submarine he is trailing is the Red October and tries to sink it. The US subs accompanying the Red October are unable to fire back, but eventually Red October rams this submarine and sinks it. And finally the Red October is guided into a US navy base. And in order to convince the Soviets that it was Red October that sank, the Americans place a device on the deep ocean floor that convinces the Soviets.
This was a compelling novel, something that was very exciting to read and also approve of the detail that went into writing this book.

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