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Rise To Victory (A Stone Book Review)

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Posted:     Post subject: Rise To Victory (A Stone Book Review)

I think it was PBS where I saw a special (maybe it was for National Geographic), where, just after the Cold War ended, the US Navy allowed a civilian camera crew down into a US nuclear sub for the first time. I'm not sure whether it was a boomer (nuke missle carrier) or a fast attack sub (ship/sub killer), but you saw the whole of the interior of the boat where the crew lived and worked. From the control room, radio room, sonar suite, one of the torpedo rooms, the crew and officers' mess, officer's rooms, crew bunks, etcs. The only area the cameras couldn't go was down into the nuclear reactor control room, the domain of engineering. But you saw the crew at work and at play on a modern warship that patrolled for six months at a time, where the crew lived in a large pipe capped at both ends, where no sunlight reached. It was absolutely facinating.

Yes, we got a peak at such with films/books like the Hunt For Red October, but after seeing it for real, that kind of upped the ante. Could a story really capture life on patrol and in combat for these sailors?

R Cameron Cook is a retired US Naval officer and former submariner. And Rise to Victory is his second book (his first being Pride Runs Deep, a submariner novel in WW2, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor). The world setting is present day, the context is "the war on terror". The Navy's submarine fleet isn't nearly as numerous as it was during the height of the Cold War. So the Navy's undersea assets are stretched thin.

Enter the USS Providence, a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine. The LAs were state of the art in the 80s. They are still some of the finest of their kind ever built, but they are slowly being ecclipsed by the Seawolf and Virginia class attack submarines. Of course, quality of a ship is heavily weighted by those who command and crew them.

Captain David Edwards commands the Providence. When he took over the boat, he took charge of a ship that was dispirited and demoralized. He has worked hard to build moral and pride in his crew, and it seems he has suceeded to a large extent. But there are a few things lingering. His XO, LTC Bloomfield, is an overweight loafer marking time to retirement, posessing NO initiative and assertiveness. His Chief Engineer, Van Peenan, is a tightly wound tyrant who seems about to go off at any instant. And his comm officer, Lake, is a talented, intelligent officer who is extremely bitter about the Navy as an institution who can't wait until his time is up.

The Providence has just finished a tour supporting the conflict in Iraq, and now they are going home. But before they could arrive to Pearl Harbor, they are given the call to evacuate some civilians from a potentially volatile situation in Indonesia. Naturally, Edwards suspects he hasn't been told everything.

And when the stuff hits the fan, some of his people are caught onshore on one of the islands, and a state of the art rebel sub is lurking in the waters nearby. One wrong move could send them to the bottom.

I loved this book. Alot of your military technothrillers seem to be more about showcasing hardware. This book clearly highlighted it's people, giving depth and breadth to the Providence's crew. You understood them, and empathized with them. If you've ever done military service, you related to their circumstances. And even if you haven't, the way Cooke writes, you understand a bit more about what they are going through.

The action sequences are gripping. The triumphs and tragedies are both engaging.

This one took place in the modern day. Will definitely read Pride Runs Deep next, to see how he handles WW2.
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