Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising Book Review

Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising was the longest, dullest, most terribly written P.O.S. I have ever read. Again I have to ask, “How did this author become a multi-million dollar best seller?” I was the target demographic for this book. It had airplane battles (sorely lacking in detail), naval battles (had way too much detail), tank battles, and ground infantry reconnaissance missions. Everything about this book was right up my alley. So why did I hate it?.


Sadly, the same problem that I had with The Cardinal and the Kremlin was the same problem I had with Red Storm Rising, the prose. As usual,  it was boring beyond all imagination. Too much detail on mundane things, too much telling, too much action, and not enough focus on the human condition.


We have five main characters. Alekseyev a Russian general. Captain Morris, a frigate commander. Captain McCafferty a submarine commander, Mike Edwards an airforce lieutenant? I don’t remember, and Toland, a navy officer focused on intelligence. Actually, come to think of it. Toland probably shouldn’t be considered a main character because he inexplicably drops off the face of the earth at the novel’s conclusion.


Look, WHO CARES! I don’t care about these main characters! All of them are treated like military grunts and are practically clones of each other. The only character that’s actually different is Edwards because he’s on the ground evading Russian troops. We get glimpses into some of their personal lives but there is not enough substance to want me to care about these people. Clancy seemed more focused on tactical maneuvering and telling you every little detail on how a submarine operates than fleshing out the characters that we’re going to be stuck with for SEVEN HUNDRED PAGES! F—me!


Well I guess I should get started shouldn’t I?


The beginning of the book has the same exact problem that the beginning of The Cardinal and the Kremlin has. It starts you off with an incessantly long explanation that could have been cut out or saved for the end of the novel. In The Cardinal and the Kremlin it was a several chapters long technical explanation on how anti-nuke missile lasers work.


In Red Storm Rising we’re treated with a delightfully boring meeting of Russian politburo members discussing how much fuel they have left before supplies run out. What I just told you in one sentence took like four chapters in this book! Way to ruin the mystery, Clancy! I know, I know, the author has long since passed but man . . . Having a major in English does not make you a great author.


As a reader, Tom Clancy robs any mystique or suspense as to why the Russians decided to attack the European front. It goes a little something like this.

“How’s our fuel situation?”

“Terrible, we need more.”

“Okay, how about we acquire some fuel from the middle eastern countries??

“The Europeans won’t like that.”

“I know! We’ll blow up one of our own schools full of children as an excuse to go to war.”



Does this make any f-ing sense to you? That an entire war was started not from water, not food, not territory, but fuel. Color me unimpressed. You’re telling me they couldn’t work out a trade deal or set up oil drilling platforms somewhere else? Bull, all of it was bull and the worst part is that we’re told the motive right from the very beginning. There’s no suspense or mystery, just back to back battles.


In theory, this would have been awesome. Problem is that the prose is terribly written and it’s difficult to care about the characters. This book turned into a massive and painful chore and had I not bought it I wouldn’t have forced myself to finish. Lesson learned, I’m borrowing from the library next time.


This is pretty much how the book goes: McCafferty gave the order, “Left ten degrees rudder a third power.” “Aye, left ten degrees rudder a third power.” The submarine was now cruising at 10% power.


Ugh, give me a break! It just went on and on and on for 700+ pages. Every time I attempted to read the book I’d fall asleep and wake  up pissed off that I still had over 600 pages to go.


I would jump to the end of the book, see what page number it ended on, subtracted that number from the page number I was on, and told myself I only have X many pages before I’m done with this boring piece of crap. Does that sound like a good book to you?


But wait, there’s a plot twist! I’m not giving it a 1 star. It actually managed to get up to 2 stars.


“Bwuh huh?” You say. I’ve been talking all this crap about the book and yet I’m still going to give it 2 stars? Well, the book actually had some strong moments. Moments that shocked me, upset me, and reminded me of why war is so terrible.


What shocked me were some of the unexpected deaths in this book ala Game of Thrones. Though the characters weren’t particularly memorable, there were events in the book that left a strong emotional impact.


The first was an incident involving Captain Morris and his frigate. Something terrible happened to the ship while under his command and left him traumatized and babbling in his sleep. It showed how vulnerable the character had become and made me feel awful about the guilt he felt over the loss of his crew. It was a powerful moment that made a rather dull book into something that was . . . I don’t want to say enjoyable but definitely interesting.


The next involved Edwards leading his group of marines throughout Iceland. We’re treated to several chapters where he and his team and a civilian girl have evaded detection and capture from the Russians. They feed intelligence reports to their commanders and constantly risk their lives in order to support the war effort. In fact, these bits in Iceland were the strongest chapters of the book because it focused on humanity and characters rather than ships blowing up submarines, or artillery destroying bridges, or aircraft shooting down satellites. It had the human element it so desperately needed and should have been more of a focus.


So yeah . . . maybe I got a little attached to these guys. And maybe I got a little upset when the finale hit but that was short lived.

*Be warned SPOILERS up ahead*

Edwards crew mostly get killed by the Russians who start storming their position on a hill. This was an exciting and heartbreaking scene. Most of his team bought the farm and I felt bad because this unit had survived all this time only to die at the end. Unfortunately, that gut wrenching moment was ruined by a lazy epilogue.

*End spoiler*


Clancy never bothered to follow up with Edwards. As a result we’re told that he got medevac’d but we never get to discuss or see how he felt after being one of a handful of survivors. We don’t know if he stays with the female civilian they found out in the countryside and we don’t see if he ever attends a funeral or mourn for the team who became like his brothers.


In fact, after Edwards gets wounded, we never from him ever again. It was a perfect opportunity to create empathy for a character and Clancy completely blows it. A touching moment with him weeping the loss of his team would have been enough to possibly push this book up to three stars but NOPE! We’re men and men don’t cry.


Also,  it became abundantly clear that Clancy loved submarines and the navy because the subs were the most detailed part of the book. From how the ship was steered, to how the sonar works in water, to how the enemy subs are eluding them. Clancy clearly loved naval warfare and his submarine sections were some of his best bits (which makes sense, since Hunt for Red October was his 1st best seller). Since the sub cannot really “see” underwater without sonar and I don’t have photos of what’s going on, reading these passages in the book made it easy for me to imagine myself in the submarine with the captain.


Unfortunately, just when a scene is finding its groove, Clancy ruins the moment with excessive, nauseating technical detail. Then the exciting scene dies down into a boring technical manual that puts me immediately to sleep.


The sin of it all is that this could have been an incredible book. In my opinion, this novel could have easily been four or five stars if it did the following:


-Made the cause of the war more of a mystery.

-Get rid of all the Russian POV sections because there wasn’t anything memorable in any of these chapters. Just lot’s of boring political talk and strategies.


-Cut down on the technical detail and rambling. Get rid of all the extra, meaningless text and make it more concise.


-Have less battles and have more moments where the protagonists are disturbed by what’s been happening in the war.




-Cut down this book by 300 or so pages. There’s a lot of fluff and not enough substance.


Overall, after having read The Cardinal and the Kremlin and Red Storm Rising, it’s safe to say that I will never pick up another Tom Clancy book ever again. I don’t like his writing style, I don’t understand how he became as successful as he did, and there was no deep plot to get curious about or any characters to care about.


It did have its moments where I could see the potential of it being a glorious book but they were few and fleeting. All the more a shame that it sucked as much as it did.


Maybe I don’t like military genre books but I find that hard to believe. I think his writing style was just for a different time that I was not a part of. If Hunt for Red October really was his best work then you should absolutely skip this book and I guess read that instead? Anyway, RIP to the author but I’ll definitely not read another one of his works ever again.

Wilmar Luna



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