The Hunt for Red October (novel)

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The Hunt for Red October
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1st edition
Written by: Tom Clancy
Central Theme:
Synopsis: Tom Clancy's first published novel, featuring a rogue prototype Soviet nuclear missile submarine. Jack Ryan is the man on the spot to assist its officers with their plan to defect to the United States.
Series: Jack Ryan
Preceded by: Red Rabbit
Followed by: The Cardinal of the Kremlin
First published: October 1, 1984
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"RIGHT FULL RUDDER!"

Captain 1st Rank Marko Ramius
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The first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy, first published in 1984.

It's a Cold War tale of the fictional "Typhoon" class missile submarine Krasniy Oktyabr ("Red October"). In the film, the sub has an experimental magnetohydrodynamic propulsion system (more easily referred to as Caterpillar Drive, and in the book it's just a ducted tunnel drive -- basically a scaled up jet ski engine), which allows it to run more quietly than any other ship at sea; effectively making it nigh-invisible to SONAR detection. On its first deployment, Captain Marko Ramius murders his political officer, taking his set of keys for the October's nuclear missiles. Conspiring with his senior officers, Ramius notifies his crew that they will be testing the ship by evading both the U.S. and Soviet navies to reach the eastern coast of the United States itself...

Not desiring to lose their sub or the secret of the Caterpillar Drive, the Soviets send their surface and attack-sub fleets after it, an amount of activity that's suspicious to the other side.

The Americans must find the sub before it is destroyed, assuming that CIA analyst Jack Ryan is right that the officers plan to defect - as opposed to just unilaterally launching their missiles...

The Typhoon-class submarine is real, and the largest submarine in the world. The submarine in the story, though, is quite considerably different to its real-life counterpart, to the point where they can't really be considered the same vessel, mainly because of its fictional "silent" propulsion system. On the other hand, the film maintains Plausible Deniability by specifically stating it to be a prototype variant of its class, and at least alludes to future Soviet political instability as a good reason why they never got around to producing more.

Tropes used in The Hunt for Red October (novel) include:
  • Anti-Mutiny: The GRU mole.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Seaman Jones. In just a few hours, he finds a way to beat the Red October's top secret stealth propulsion system and track the sub.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan: CIA academic and retired Marine, with a doctorate in history. He also speaks Russian, but only in the film.
    • Later book confirm he does know some Russian, but his ability to speak it consistently is far from fluent.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Jack Ryan starts as this. He is considered completely incorruptible and can figure out any riddle that international politics can bring to bear.
  • Based on a True Story: the story was inspired by a real-life mutiny on board a Soviet frigate (the Storozhevoy, mentioned in the book) in 1975, but differs in several key respects from it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: in the movie, the Dallas swoops in to drop a couple of decoys and save the Red October.
  • Bothering by the Book: The President had the Attorney General dig up some precedents in maritime law that would have granted America the right to keep the Red October until such time as the Russians paid the US Government a finder's fee as determined by a salvage court - which had a one year backlog of cases to go through before even attempting to assess how much the Russians would have to fork over to get their sub back. However, since the Navy and CIA worked out a plan to trick the Russians into thinking that the Red October had been destroyed, this trope never got past the planning stage.
    • Before the final 'fake its destruction' plan the Justice Department was also working on plans to use the narcotics trafficking laws and impound the submarine for a full search-and-seizure the instant it entered American waters, as another delaying tactic to avoid having to give it back until they were finished examining it.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Jones is described as weird even by Navy sub sonarman standards.
  • The Captain: Bart Mancuso of the USS Dallas, and Marco Ramius of the Red October.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Loginov, the cook's assistant who witnessed Ramius taking the political officer's keys, is the GRU sleeper agent.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Mostly averted though it is acknowledged that the CIA does some Dirty Business.
  • The Consigliere: Jeffrey Pelt is the President's National Security Advisor.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jack Ryan always remembers to get his daughter a present, even when busy saving the world.
  • Death by Falling Over: How Ramius disposes of Putin.
  • Defector From Decadence: See It's Personal.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Justified to some extent: the British Signals Officer is the one who sends the message via blinker from HMS Invincible to the Red October. It is described as a slow and rather jerky process since the officer is a bit rusty at it, even after having gone and given himself a refresher beforehand because they'd planned in advance to use Morse. On the other hand, Ramius knowing Morse is entirely believable, since he's from an older school of military.
  • Expy: Andre Narmonov is one for Soviet premier Konstatin Chereneko; when he died 11 months after taking office, later novels would turn him into an expy of Gorbachev.
  • Feed the Mole: The CIA uses Henderson to feed the KGB false data about the operation to acquire the titular submarine of the novel.
  • Four-Star Badass: Admiral Greer
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Played with in that the crew of the Red October end up believing Ramius and the officers scuttled the sub to prevent its capture by the Americans.
    • Ramius' second in command plays this straight; pushing him out of the way of the GRU agent and taking a fatal bullet for his troubles.
  • History Marches On: The fall of the Iron Curtain led to the revelation that a number of Clancy's guesses about the Soviet stuff were completely wrong:
    • The Storozhevoy, the Real Life basis for the story, is mentioned in the novel as attempting to defect to the West. The political officer who led the mutiny (and was later shot) was actually attempting to mimic the actions of the Avrora in 1917: sail into Leningrad, denounce the cronyism of the Brezhnev regime, and demand reform among Leninist lines.
    • Zampoliti didn't have authority over combat matters, were strictly subordinate to the commanding officer, and functioned similarly to a chaplain in a Western military.
    • Most Soviet vessels weren't named; then again, The Hunt for K-139 doesn't really sing or dance.
    • The reactor accident that sinks the first Alfa would be impossible; they used a liquid metal cooled nuclear reactor that wasn't pressurized. Ironically, the use of a liquid metal plant rather than an American-style pressurized water reactor is mentioned as a faulty guess by U.S. military intelligence.
  • Hot Sub-On-Sub Action
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: The Americans, being understandably nervous about the Soviet fleet off their shores, give them several such moments, with the Crowning Moment of Awesome being having four A-10 Warthogs zoom in under the radar horizon and box the Kirov with flares.
  • It's Personal: In the book Ramius' main motive was to punish the state for the fact that his wife had died in a botched operation directed by a surgeon who had got the job from Party Patronage and had been Drinking On Duty. The movie emphasized his desire to prevent nuclear war; perhaps it was quite reasonably felt that the audience would prefer a more grand motive for treason than revenge even if it was treason against an enemy.
    • Not only was his wife's routine operation botched, but the "antibiotics" given to correct the botch were Soviet-manufactured "bonus" drugs. (In Clancy's version of the USSR at least, the workers are given a bonus for exceeding quota, and those products produced just to make quota were often poor or fraudulent, bypassing quality control completely). Further, what he considers the greatest crime is the State's suppression of religion that robbed him of a "hope, even if it was a lie" of seeing his wife again.
    • This plot device has come in for some criticism from Russian readers after the end of the Cold War, as commanding a nuclear missile submarine was a post of considerable responsibility and prestige; a surgeon who killed such an individual's wife through medical negligence would need a relative on the Central Committee to keep him out of the Gulag, and even then he'd probably just end up working in one as a prison doctor instead of an inmate. In Clancy's defence, however, there were limits to how much research he could do from the other side of the Iron Curtain.
  • The Medic: Doctor Petrov, naive but caring about his men, as well as a good officer who keeps order when the Red October is being evacuated. A quite Worthy Opponent -- in the movie, anyway, where he's played by Tim Curry. In the book he's described as being a doctor of dubious competence.
  • Mnogo Nukes
  • Mr. Fixit: Skip Tyler
  • The Mutiny: Inverted. An American officer calls it a mutiny only to be told that mutiny is when the crew rises against officers. The officers trying to steal their ship is barratry.
  • Name's the Same: Jack Ryan.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: It's stated the ship's sonar officer, despite not being hugely attractive, gets a lot of "action" on shore leave.
  • A Nuclear Error: Averted Trope -- it's specifically stated that A) if he had wanted to and were capable of doing so, Ramius could have launched from right outside the harbor and his missiles would still have enough range to hit the U.S. and B) Soviet controls against a rogue launch are even stricter than their NATO equivalents.
  • The Political Officer
  • Ramming Always Works: Justified by Red October lacking enough manpower to fire torpedoes and Ramius' expert knowledge of how Soviet submarines handle, being effectively the submarine captain version of a test pilot for new designs. And because they plan to dissect the sub anyway so a little damage is less of a big deal.
  • Reporting Names: A Soviet officer is asked what his sub is actually called and doesn't answer - in case you wanted to know, a Victor-III.
  • Saving Christmas: What a time for a possible World War III! It would have to happen then, now wouldn't it?
  • The Smart Guy: Submarine warfare is probably the geekiest form of war yet invented by mankind and this book is practically an orgy of smartness. Nevertheless Seaman Jones the sonarman is closest to the classic model, with the Executive Officer of the Dallas mentally commenting that Seaman Jones has the highest IQ on the boat by a healthy margin.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Lt. Kamarov.
  • Stock British Phrases: Tom Clancy's attempts at writing dialogue for the British character fall short of reality.
  • The Strategist: Ramius, whose plan sets everything in motion. Jeffrey Pelt, Admiral Greer, and to some degree Jack Ryan. And the unnamed President who does not show up in the movie.
  • Technology Porn: Several pieces of military hardware in the US (and Russian, to a lesser extent) get paragraphs of description.
  • Techno Wizard : Seaman Jones
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The titular Hunt is called off about 80% through after the October's apparent going down. Cue a lingering Soviet attack sub.