As the U.S. Navy searches for weapons-grade plutonium that has been smuggled by terrorists out of Russia, a submarine mishap in the Black Sea brings the United States and Russia to the brink of nuclear war. It is a race against the clock, with Russian missiles activated and programmed for American cities.
©2008 Don Brown (P)2009 Zondervan
I bought this book thinking it was by Dan Brown (Digital Fortress, not Da Vinci Code), not Don Brown. I have since become acquainted with who Don Brown is. As a Christian myself, I sincerely wish him the best in continuing to develop his writing. I was not bothered by the Christian references like some reviewers, although the heavy way in which his faith was pasted on the characters was a problem. Virtually all of the good guys are believers (in Christ) and the bad guys are evenly split between drunk Russian atheists and Islamic jihadists. The story is largely implausible. The characters speak in trite ways. For instance, imagine you have a 6th grade writing class, and one of the kids in your class is the girl who always plays the lead in class plays. You give her the assignment of drafting a stirring speech that a submarine commander might give his crew before departing on a dangerous mission. You tell her to make sure it is filled with over the top patriotism and heroic anticipation. You will probably get what Brown has Miranda say to his crew.
In terms of performance, the narrator does a decent Russian accent (not accurate, just decent, and consistent). Unfortunately, he tries to affect an American accent at times, and just ends up sounding high-pitched and nasal. If I were to apportion the reasons for my low rating of this book, I would say narration 25%, bad story/characters/writing 75%.
The biggest problem is the story itself. Spoiler alert (somewhat). We always need to suspend disbelief, but we need some help from the author. What would be the best way to intercept stolen plutonium from smugglers (note: you're not even getting it back from the terrorists, just the smugglers who are going to deliver it to the terrorists)? I'll just give you two choices: Drop a clandestine seal team in to do it quietly, or send a billion dollar nuclear sub to sink a ship in "enemy" home waters?
Now, on to technical matters. Do we have a right to quibble about the accuracy of the technical information? I say "yes". This is, after all, a techno-thriller. It behooves the writer to get the technical information mostly right. I'm not saying that if the writer gets the color of a knob wrong in the cockpit of an F-15 that constitutes an epic fail, but how hard is it to get basic facts straight? Is it that hard to run your dogfight past at least some kind of a pilot? The aerodynamics just don't make sense to me ( I am a pilot). At one point, the Mig-29's climb to 7200 feet to get above the range of surface to air missiles (Gary Powers was shot down in 1960 at ten times that altitude). Others have pointed out that an air to air missile shouldn't change from a sidewinder to a stinger back to a sidewinder.
One of my biggest problems is the nuclear weapons aspect. Since it is the focal point of the novel, I think it deserves the most accuracy. Now, I hope the author isn't going to hide behind some kind of excuse like "Well, I don't want to tell terrorists how to make a nuclear weapon, so I intentionally described it so it wouldn't work." My first clue to the author's lack of knowledge and research in this area was the discussion about the amount of plutonium stolen. It was described as enough to make 4 or 5 thermonuclear weapons, or one hydrogen bomb. Unfortunately, a thermonuclear bomb and a hydrogen bomb are the same thing. He possibly could have said 4 or 5 atomic bombs, or 4 or 5 fission bombs. The discussion of the "technical marvel" of the hydrogen bomb assembled by the terrorists was totally laughable. Brown has the brilliant terrorist assemble five plutonium fission bombs in a circle. Each atomic bomb has a jar of lithium deuteride next to it outside the circle of bombs. Lithium deuteride is an appropriate fuel for a hydrogen bomb, but its use in this way is nonsensical for a couple of reasons. The biggest problem is that his design for the individual atomic bombs won't work at all. In the novel, each atomic bomb consists of two hemispheres of plutonium sitting next to each other, but not touching. He has simple dynamite placed next to the hemispheres, so that when the dynamite explodes, it will push the two halves of the plutonium sphere together, resulting in a critical mass, and achieving an fission explosion. But that is impossible. It is well known, and easily discovered that the Manhattan project knew that the gun design (using uranium) as used to bomb Hiroshima wouldn't work with plutonium. Plutonium reacts too fast to slam two subcritical parts together fast enough to produce an explosion. Even if done in the best way (Little Boy gun design), it wouldn't work. It would make a big fizzle (very nasty, but not an atomic blast). But Brown's design is laughably amateurish. My non-professional opinion is that even if he sets off the five devices simultaneously, it will achieve little more than a nasty release of radiation that might injure someone standing nearby. But the dynamite itself will present a greater danger. There will be some difficult cleanup, but that is all. The lithium deuteride won't make any difference at all. If a workable implosion device had been described, it is possible that a nearby quantity of lithium deuteride could boost the explosion, but I'm not sure if it would. Being blasted apart by the explosion works against achieving the goal of high pressure and temperature necessary to ignite the nuclear fuel. Ulam's great innovation was knowing that the x-rays which are released ahead of the pressure from a nuclear explosion could be used to create a plasma surrounding the fusion fuel, thus keeping it together and heating it at the same time. He even came up with the idea of a second "spark plug" of additional plutonium in the center of the fusion fuel which would ignite so that the fusion fuel would be subjected to pressure from both the inside and the outside, increasing yield. All this is well known to anyone with a library card and the inclination to check out books. I suggest the excellent books by Richard Rhodes.
I sincerely hope that Mr. Brown continues to refine his craft. Until he does, he will be limited to the niche of readers who are so desperate for a godly book that they will overlook significant deficiencies.
Yes. It was exciting, and it is worth another listen.
The sub skipper and Brewer. I liked their guts and personalities
Black Sea Assault
Because I served as a Navy JAG about 10 years before Don Brown did, I was keenly interested in the U.S. Navy aspects. It actually brought back memories and was extremely enjoyable for me.
Why would anyone choose a reader with a British accent to read a story about a US Navy submarine?????? Couldn't concentrate on the story because of the poor narration.
This is an American Navy story with a Snooty British accent...having trouble focusing on story. Navy/Sub knowledge is a little lacking, but when the Uppity British voice is used for an Arkansaw drawl, I nearly puked. Only halfway throught the first half and hope I can stick it out.
If you can look past the the insane amount of christian propaganda and a very real lack of realism, you might find a decent military thriller with Black Sea Affair, but I sure didn't. The book also has a stupid beginning that pissed me off royally...you'll see what I mean if you are brave enough to try this one out.
The christian angle isn't all bad of course, but it adds to the lack of realism. I sure hope that government leaders and military commanders in the civilized world doesn't base all their decisions on faith alone...
Besides...one whole book about the navy and Russians without one curse word??? Did I mention a lack of realism!?!
I'm sure this book appeals to someone out there, but for me this is the most irritating book I have listened to in a loooong while...
probably, but I would tell them my thoughts and let them decide
Good plot, nice suspense building. He combined action in various venues into the story.
Just about anyone. It was an odd choice having a British narrator for an American novel. Americans now don't pronounce their "r"s. Worse- it seems everyone east of Austria speaks with a guttural voice- very difficult to distinguish characters. I found the most distracting.
The plot was good, but the dialogue was often tedious. Part of that was technically correct- the protocol for giving and receiving order aboard a submarine, part was just plain slow moving, as in the white house discussions. Perhaps accurate as to how it would probably occur, but it doesn't make good listening (or probably reading).
Retired US Navy Submariner. Served in 2 Diesel boats, 2 fast attacks and 2 SSBNs Retired as Master Chief. Worked in civilian Nuclear power plants as a second career.
As a 20 year submariner, this really was a bummer. someone with no knowledge of subs might enjoy it
just wrong accent
all scenes aboard the Sub. The writer knows nothing about subs. We don't use the term :Torp:. No C.O would ever refer to the Chief of the Boat as "Mister". Everything aboutv the sub was wrong.
Slow start but slowly pulled me in.
Good but not exceptional.
I enjoyed the performance.
Not at this time. The book was not believable. The characters did not interact well and I thought the dialog was clumsy at times.
Why would anyone have a narrator with a distinctly British accent read a book about a U.S. military operation? It was so annoying to hear every American character portrayed with a British accent that it was actually hard to concentrate on the story.
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