Sunday, October 23, 2005

Submarine Thriller "Mission Complete" Will Not Rival Tom Clancy's Red October

posted originally and title adapted from Molten Eagle here:

Captain Wigley (USN retired), a USNA graduate, spent twenty-nine years on active duty involved directly or mostly with sophisticated nuclear submarines. Better schooled in military and political science than Tom Clancy he also posesses the operational experience and insider's knowledge of submarine details necessary to write a convincing thriller.

His first novel, Mission Complete, revolves around the terrorist takeover of a U.S. nuclear attack submarine. USS Tigerfish has been pirated at anchor off Piraeus. The submarine is still operated by its American crew who are brutaly tortured by communist guards. The commanding officer of the USS Jackfish (SSN945), attends a highly classified conference where it is revealed that an ultimatum was delivered to the President of the United States from a terrorist group demanding ransom money and disarmament of the U.S. strategic (nuclear weapons) arsenal. If the ultimatum is not met in 5 days (Christmas Eve), the terrorist will launch the Tigerfishes nuclear cruise missiles, annihilating Norfolk, Washington, New York, and Groton, Connecticuit.

Will Wigley's book be as successful as Tom Clancy's benchmark, The Hunt For Red October? Both involve attention to technical and operational details concerning military intelligence activities, one of the most secretive operational branches of the military, and technologies beyond the grasp of even average Americans. A best seller, Red October and its sequel books made Clancy wealthy. The USA box office performance of the film is in the all-time top 300 records (at #220). You will see from what follows that Clancy holds a 3-point lead over Wigley before the possibility of a cinematic production or sub-sim games are even considered:

Both involve the Cold War era - Mission Complete terrorists have soviet communist connections (versus outright* Islamic) SCORE: Clancy 1 ; Wigley 0.

Tom Clancy was an early, and to many, surprising defender of Islam after the WTC terror attacks, when he was one of the first experts interviewed on CNN on the day of 9/11.
SCORE: Clancy 0; Wigley 0. (Clancy went counterculture, Wigley seems to have wimped out of current events, although the hull number of Jackfish SSN-945 seems futuristic).

Realism: Red October was inspired by real events; On November 8, 1975, the Soviet Navy frigate Storozhevoy mutinied, which at the time the West believed was an attempt to defect from Latvia to Gotland. The mutiny was led by the ship's political officer, Captain Valery Sablin. Since the mutiny was unsuccessful; Sablin was captured, court-martialed and executed.
SCORE: Clancy 1; Wigley 0.

Triteness: The USS Tigerfish and USS Jackfish, unlike the USS Dallas in Clancy's story, are not the names of real or even former U.S. submarines. The fact that the name has been used in two Cold War era books (Ice Station Zebra and O God of Battles is an indication that rather than helping Wigley as it did Clancy, the USN may actually be restricting Wigley's story to trite fictionality. SCORE: Clancy 1; Wigley 0.

Conclusion (Disclaimer- Amazon reviews are not yet available; conjecture only):
Mission Complete may be an exciting read, but it is too early to know. Clancy wins, hands down. Why? The U.S. military assisted Clancy's success chiefly for submariner recruiting purposes. For the time being, there seem to be a few too many U.S. submarines and therefore, one of the toughest military volunteers to recruit and train (submariners) may soon be surplused. One needs only recall the attempted BRAC closing of the Groton submarine base, drastically reduced contracts for new submarine construction, and the declining numbers of subs in future fleets to believe the de-emphasis on submarines. Will and should the DOD's minimalist, fiscal thinking endure until quick recovery is impossible? Hopefully, the Pentagon will not worsen the mistakes of Pearl Harbor.


At 3:48 PM, Blogger Brainy435 said...

The book already sounds idiotic. Who would crew a submarine for terrorists knowing they had nukes on board? How would the terrorists keep them from rebelling? They'd have to be taken care of enough to run the ship, and you wouldn't think there'd be enough room to fit the number of terrorists on board needed to keep the crew at bay. Plus, think how many weapons of opportunity there are in the engine room, a defendable hatch and tunnel, and the ability to power, propulsion-wise and electricity-wise, the ship. Not to mention you can cut off hydraulics to the rudder locally to surface the ship. There would be entirely too many opportunities for the crew to scuttle the ship or surface her.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Vigilis said...

Brainy435, Sorry my summary (see sounds less realistic than the book. The author makes very decent efforts throughout to rationalize, thicken and liven his plot. I have never believed Clancy wrote Red October without a lot of friendly help (in fact he credits pages and pages of it), and despite criticisms he still received from the submarine community, he still made his fame entertaining millions with that book and the movie.


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