Email this review


In the tradition of The Caine Mutiny, brought up to date by Fail-Safe, here is another novel sparked by the Damocles' sword under which we are living; -machines vs men, and the fallibility of both. The setting is an ultra-modern destroyer on antisubmarine cold warfare assignment in the North Atlantic; the captain of the Bedford, Finlander, is an even colder character than the immortal Queeg, fancying himself more a reincarnation of Captain Ahab in pursuit of his own specific Moby Dick- a particularly dangerous and elusive Russian sub. To this pursuit every man on board the Bedford is dedicated; all that modern ingenuity and invention and scientific knowledge can produce have been brought together to make detection of enemy submarines an exact science; one subordinate with freak hearing provides for the limitations of the machines in differentiation of the sources of vibrations. Into this unnatural situation two dissonant notes are introduced:- a new surgeon, reluctant to accept an anomalous position, and a newspaper- TV photographer, with an inquiring mind, a nonconformist on all levels. The story is sheer melodrama, toned down to an almost dispassionate mood until the tension begins to break down controls. Ultimately the inevitable happens; a human error precipitates catastrophe -- world conflagration may well be the result-and a German officer, assigned to the Bedford, takes the one step destined to avert nuclear war. One could wish the story had ended there; to what end is Ben Munceford, the trouble-making, unlovable photographer saved? Is the truth then so important -- as he would tell it?... will this appeal to the public avid for science fiction at the palpable level of truth? Well-written, the pace occasionally slowed for the landlubber by the sometimes excessive use of terminology, characterization unusually probing for an adventure story- this adds up to a memorable reading experience- and one that should reach a wide market.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1963
Publisher: Atheneum