The story follows the Cold War Soviet submarine commander Marko Ramius who plans to defect to the United States by making use of the remarkably silent cutting-edge propulsion system on his ballistic missile submarine “Red October”. Believing that he cannot be found using this submarine, he sends a letter to a Soviet admiral revealing his intentions, resulting in the entire Soviet Navy trying to chase down and sink Red October.
By sheer coincidence, Ramius is detected by a patrolling American submarine which initially doesn’t recognize the sound of the stealth drive.
However, after the other main character in this novel – Jack Ryan, former marine and CIA analyst discovers the true nature of the noise from the propulsion system as well as the intentions of Ramius, a chaotic chase through the Atlantic ensues as the Americans try to save the boat from the Soviets without risking another world war.
This book was a great success – financially and critically as even President Ronald Reagan endorsed the book – boosting the sales substantially and reinforcing Tom Clancy’s reputation as a talented author.
The novel quickly became a bestseller across all lists – especially The New York Times.
I picked this novel because it pushed the previously niche genre of the Techno-Thriller into the mainstream and captured the mentality of the Cold War era during the Reagan era perfectly. As the Cold War heated up for the last time, the Jack Ryan series of books (especially this one) displayed the mindset and fears that held supreme during this era.
It helped me understand the psyche of those I deemed too extreme in this time period and helped me comprehend the actions of some panic buyers in the Corona Crisis for example.
Even though the book starts a bit slow, the rest of the story is simply masterfully written.
The characters are all deep and understandable in their motives – no one is simply good or bad for the sake of it. Also, the dialogue remains believable and witty throughout the entire novel resulting in a great sense of immersion in the plot which makes the book simply “unputdownable” at some points.
Finally, the author exceeds expectations when it comes to worldbuilding – almost every single device, propulsion system, vehicle, weapon and tactic is named and explained.
This got to the point that I was not simply reading to find the fate of Red October and Ramius but also out of curiosity for these real machines and tactics.
Ultimately this book might not be for everyone. If you are not interested in Military Fiction, lots of technical details and subtle intrigue or even thrillers in general, you should skip this one.
However, if you are interested in these or simply want a thrilling novel and immersive storytelling you should give this novel a try.