RogerBW's Blog

Cold Choices, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 30 March 2014

Some time after the events of Dangerous Ground, Jerry Mitchell heads north again in USS Seawolf. Mild spoilers will follow.

Unlike Dangerous Ground, this time things start out well. Seawolf is a new and capable submarine, with a competent captain and (mostly) crew. But after an incident in the Barents Sea, things rapidly turn deadly; an attempt by the Russian submarine Severodvinsk to drive off Seawolf leaves Seawolf damaged, Severodvinsk stranded on the bottom with minimal power, and a rescue operation that immediately becomes political.

But this isn't a story of the Brave Americans and the Paranoid Russians, though by the nature of the genre that's the starting point. There are more sides to it than that: the tension on the American side between Navy, President, and State Department, on the Russian side between different commanders within the Navy and a group of wives and girlfriends of Severodvinsk's crew who get fed up with the anodyne official word they're given compared with what's on the news, and with a press which everyone wants to use to get their version of events out to the public. Everyone wants to come out looking good, and most of them don't really care whether the rescue succeeds except insofar as it helps that primary aim.

So while this is firstly a good technical book there is, as in Dangerous Waters, plenty of good character work too. Mostly we get this from the two submarines' captains, though Dangerous Waters' Dr Patterson returns as the Presidentially-anointed civilian director on scene of the operation to assist the Russian rescuers.

This is a book of its genre; don't expect criticism of the US Navy! But, of that genre, it's remarkably good. It's possibly a bit over-long, sagging a little in the middle with the back-and-forth of the Americans offering aid and the Russians pretending the offer hasn't been made, but start and end are taut and the whole thing is highly effective.

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See also:
Dangerous Ground, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson

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