Book Review: The Hunt for Red October

Book cover: The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October is the first Tom Clancy book I’ve ever read—and probably my last.

Don’t get me wrong: His ability to dive into the details and describe every nut and bolt on the ship is astounding. If I ever wanted to pilot a submarine for real, I’d probably reach for this book before hitting the technical manual. He also spares nothing when describing someone’s political background, motivations, family affiliations, and even the subject’s family’s background.

And that’s where he lost me. I knew everything there was to know about Marko Ramius before he’d uttered a dozen words—long before I cared about any of it. The process seemed to repeat with every new character introduced. They weren’t people to me; they were dossiers who, if I was lucky, may have a smidgeon of personality sprinkled in there. Combined with a complete technical and historical breakdown of every piece of equipment on every vessel, most of the book was a struggle to get through because I felt little connection with anyone involved.

Which is ironic, because the reason I wanted to read this book in the first place was to research realistic military personnel, and their interactions, in what I’d hoped would be an entertaining form.

The book did pick up toward the end. Once Clancy got going, things flowed very well, jumping perspectives from ship to sub to fighter jet to the White House, giving me a great view of what was going on across the board in manageable chunks. I’m new to this genre, so I can’t really compare to other authors, but this seemed like a masterful example of how to weave geographically dispersed points of view together in a clear, concise manner.

His subject area knowledge, too, was astounding. Not once did I feel I was being led by an author who was writing out of his depth—and that’s saying something, considering how many different military and political situations this book covered.

Will I read more of the series? No. Would I recommend it if you’ve never read Clancy? Absolutely. The Hunt for Red October may have been a drudge in the beginning, but I’d still recommend it, if only to experience a style you may never have read before. I know I hadn’t.

If you enjoy Navy thrillers, also check out the Texian Armada Saga by Brandon Phillips.