Forester is at his best in his battle action passages -- and this whole book is battle action. There are passages -- specifically, for instance, the X-turret shell bit, and the flooding which saved the rest of the ship and came close to drowning a man in the shaft tunnel -- which have the pace and vividness and drama, controlled and muted, of the best of his writing. But, as a whole, one feels that this pattern, in which a brief span of action is analyzed through the photographing of minute detail of action and emotion and personnel, has been done many times before. Compared with The Voice of the Trumpet by Robert Henriques, this lacks the subtler undertones of the men's emotional reactions to events. Compared with lightship -- East of Farewell -- and others of that genre, this seems almost too British in its restraint. But -- after the book is laid aside, the places fit into place, and one feels one has been permitted an intimate closeup of every fragment that fits into the whole, -- that whole a perfectly integrated and complete fighting machine.