I have to tell you about the part I just read in The Hunt for Red October. Remember I mentioned earlier that the book has some technical parts, but even those serve to boost the momentum of the story? The chapter on the Eighth Day has just such a moment.

For eight pages (I had to count, because I’m odd like that), Clancy describes the Soviet submarine E. S. Politovskiy. She was named for a man with back luck, and it seemed his luck overshadowed the sub. However, it had good officers on this mission, and luck seemed to have turned. Until new orders were given.

The order was to get to the next station as quickly as possible, so the political officer on board intervened when Chief Engineer Vladimir Petchukocov wanted to stop the sub for repairs. The political officer stated to stop would be “politically unsound”. And so, at top speed, the E. S. Politovskiy raced across the Atlantic Ocean without stopping for even the minutest of repairs.

At this point, Clancy begins to describe the inner workings of the cooling system on a Soviet nuclear submarine. It took about two pages before I realized that tensions were mounting again. If something goes wrong, the cooling system would stop working which could cause the submarine to over-heat or over-pressurize. What would that mean miles below the surface of the ocean?

As the sub races under the waves, a small metal valve in the cooling system breaks. It’s made of titanium, so it floats with the water through the pipes until it jams. This jam only lasts a few seconds, but it is enough to send a back wave of pressure through the cooling system, causing it to malfunction. When Petchukocov discovers the malfunction he notifies the captain, who immediately orders the submarine to the surface. It shoots upward vertically, like a bullet. But it is too late.

Not far away, the USS Pogy detects the E. S. Politovskiy on sonar.

“[The captain] was now listening to direct sonar input. There was no mistaking it. The submarine was flooding. They had heard the ballast tanks refill; this could only mean the interior compartments were filling with water. If they had been closer, they might have heard the screams of men in that doomed hull. Wood was just as happy he couldn’t. The continuing rush of water was dreadful enough. Men were dying. Russians, his enemy, but men not unlike himself, and there was not a thing that could be done about it.”

“It took nine minutes for the Politovskiy to fall the two thousand feet to the ocean floor,”

The hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy, 1984