The Hunt for Red October

The only book I am reading at the moment is Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. I first read the “thrilling” tale when I was younger, probably in my teens. I must have read it a second time a few years ago because I currently own a paperback copy that has all the earmarks of a yard sale or thrift store pickup that I don’t remember owning back in the day. Anyway, having recently come across it again, I decided to give it another read through.

This time through the story, I was continually struck by how boring, monotonous, and detail-heavy the novel manages to be. According to the back of my book, Clancy’s included level of detail and realism resulted in a rumored debrief at the White House, but I found it unnecessary. Clancy is wont to give a detailed history of every character, ship, submarine, or term that he talks about, and very often he tells a part of the story from the point of view of a sub or person who is never heard from again. In and amongst all of his detail and dramatis personae, the story stops and starts like an old pickup truck.

The reader has to plod through most of the book before the action even starts, and then it is over in about two pages. Most of the book centres around the cat-and-mouse hunt for the defecting Russian missile submarine Red October, but that ceases to be interesting after the first few chapters.

Red October is certainly a well researched, planned, and thought out novel, but it fails to hold attention or keep the reader turning pages unless they really have nothing else to do. I confess that Red October is my bathroom reading, but if I was reading it in any other setting than the 20 minutes or so I am occupied thereby, I would not have continued to read it. I am fairly certain I won’t read the book again, once I finish it, which should be in a day or two.

I have read a few of Clancy’s other Jack Ryan stories, among them Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games, but I dont remember them well enough to know if they fall victim to the same troubles with plague October.

Honestly, for my time and effort, I would more heartily recommend that someone watch the excellent film adaptation starring Alec Baldwim and Sean Connery rather than read the book. The literary person inside of me cringes at that suggestion, but sometimes the book isn’t really better.

Starting next week I will blog through the next book I choose to read, which, for the moment, is a mystery. During my capstone writing course at Messiah College my professor assigned me the task of compiling a reading list for future reading, and I will be selecting one of the books from that list.

Please don’t forget to email me a question, pondering, or random thought for Tuesday’s Q&A blog.

’till tomorrow!

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I'm just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe. I write about what interests me.

2 thoughts on “The Hunt for Red October”

  1. It’s possible that that copy you have is my old one. It was a pretty battered paperback that I picked up from the library or something.

    It’s been a while since I read it but I seem to remember that the exhaustive level of detail is what really attracted me to the story. It made me feel like I was getting an education into the people, hardware, attitudes, and strategies of the submariners’ world.

    The entire point of the story is the cat and mouse game and the fact that Ramius is trying to make the CIA understand what he’s up to without tipping his hand to his own side. Ryan is trying to convince his paranoid superiors that Ramius is trying to defect, not trying to destroy New York City. That’s the action and the tension right there. The two pages of actual action that occur are just the dramatic culmination of everyone’s planning.

    From what I remember, it was a much better book than what you portray it to be. And I wouldn’t wish Alec Baldwin — as Jack Ryan — on anyone. He’s much better as Jack Donaghy than he ever was as Jack Ryan. There’s a reason that Harrison Ford portrayed Jack Ryan in later films.

  2. Yes, it has been a while since you have read it. Maybe you remember through red colored glasses. Shrug. The detail was fascinating, but if I want that, I might read a non fiction book about subs, not a novel. I want a novel to move along. But, to each his own, I suppose.

    It is also possible that all of the detail and history adds to the cat and mouse the first time brought the story, and it may be harder to read through successive times, knowing how the plot unfolds, and keep the same suspense and wonder. I don’t know.

    Also, it is entirely possible I have your copy of the book, unless your copy is hiding in your basement. I dont remember. And I didn’t think Baldwin was that bad, though Ford certainly would have been better.

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