I admit to having made the mistake of seeing the movie adaptation of Tom Clancy’s 1984 novel, “The Hunt for Red October,” before reading the book. The only real problem with seeing the movie first was that I kept imagining Russian sub captain Marko Ramius with Sean Connery’s accent.
Hybrid Scottish/Russian accents aside, “Red October” is engrossing and fascinating for readers with any interest in cold-war mentality, naval technology, or just a damn good story. Anybody who has ever had the fish-out-of-water feeling will be able to relate with CIA analyst-turned-field agent Jack Ryan.
Ramius has gone missing, and taken a state-of-the-art Soviet submarine with him. A massive operation begins, bringing Russian subs within miles of the American coast and bringing two superpowers to the brink of war. Ryan, following a hunch about Ramius’s true intent, is thrust into the middle of the action by a string of bad luck.
Most of the characters are compelling, and enough of the book was cut from the film version that even people who have seen the movie will come across a number of surprises. Clancy’s portrayal of cold-war hair-trigger attitudes and politics are so realistic that it’s almost hard to believe that this is fiction.
But for all my kudos, the simple fact is that Clancy isn’t a master of the English language. Many sentences are awkwardly formed and the story does not flow as fluidly as I would have hoped. Some sequences are drawn-out, and riddled with too much technical detail.
All around, “The Hunt for Red October” is a strong beginning for Clancy’s series of Jack Ryan novels, but the awkward writing lacks confidence and drags down an otherwise magnificent story.
3.5 out of 5 stars.