A Soviet Super Sub Races for Freedom
469 pages. Acknowledgments, author mini-bio.
I'm finally catching up on reading some of the great military thrillers. This was the first novel from Tom Clancy, an insurance broker in Maryland who had no formal background in intelligence or naval warfare.
I'm going to assume that you've seen the great 1990 movie starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. So why should you read the novel?
First of all, the movie's plot is a condensed version of the book's plot. In some ways, the movie plot is an improvement (more action, fewer subplots). But that also means that reading the novel introduces you to new events not mentioned in the movie, and puts different emphasis on the characters (while Jack Ryan is still the protagonist, he doesn't dominate the novel; Captain Ramius is less prominent, less prescient, less noble).
Secondly, the novel is a pleasure to read. It just flows from beginning to end… although the ending sequence of events is not the same as in the movie.
Remember "Russians don't take a dump without a plan."? Sorry, Fred Thompson's character from the movie isn't even in the novel. Instead, Ryan is on a British carrier. The novel gives a much better overview of fleet operations.
The novel also has some interesting comments to make regarding Soviet defectors, and the pros and cons of Communism versus Democracy (nicely done, not cheerleading).
If the novel seems dated in places, remember when it was written. It is accurate to the time being depicted. Yes, the Apple was the hot personal computer of the day. If you bought a movie, it was a videotape.
Can you game it? Not really, although the novel gives you enough information for some 'what if' fleet engagements. You could also dig out the old TSR boardgame based on the novel.
So if you've seen the movie but not read the novel, consider getting it down off the shelf. You'll enjoy it. Recommended.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .