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Literature / The Hunt for Red October

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The first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy, first published in 1984. It is the fourth novel to take place chronologically in the Ryanverse, and the first piece of fiction ever published by the Naval Institute Press.

It's a Cold War tale of the fictional "Typhoon" class missile submarine Красный Октябрь ("Red October"). The sub has an experimental ducted tunnel drive, which allows it to run more quietly than any other ship at sea; effectively making it nigh-invisible to sonar detection. On its first deployment, Captain Marko Ramius murders his political officer, taking his set of keys for the October's nuclear missiles. Conspiring with his senior officers, Ramius notifies his crew that they will be testing the ship by evading both the U.S. and Soviet navies to reach the eastern coast of the United States itself…

Not desiring to lose their sub or the secret of the "caterpillar drive", the Soviets send their surface and attack-sub fleets after it, an amount of activity that's suspicious to the other side.


The Americans must find the sub before it is destroyed, assuming that CIA analyst Jack Ryan is right that the officers plan to defect — as opposed to just unilaterally launching their missiles

The Typhoon-class submarine is real, and the largest submarine in the world. The submarine in the story, though, is quite considerably different to its real-life counterpart, to the point where they can't really be considered the same vessel, mainly because of its fictional "silent" propulsion system and due to a lot of details of the Typhoons having been classified at the time.

The 1990 film adaptation stars Sean Connery, playing the Lithuanian captain Marko Ramius, and Alec Baldwin, playing Jack Ryan.


The book contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Loginov, though he wasn’t much of a villain anyway.
  • Alpha Strike: Several hundred aircraft are deployed for a strike mission at the Soviet cruiser Kirov in response to Robby Jackson’s F-14 getting severely damaged and nearly shot down by a hothead Russian fighter pilot. Subverted in that the Alpha Strike is a feint, and the real mission is a flight of A-10’s that sneak in under the radar and drop a ring of flares around the Kirov before the Russians even realize they’re there.
  • Alternate History: The chapter headings' dates match 1982 or 1993. "Narmonov had succeeded Andropov when the latter had suffered a heart attack" (Andropov was General Secretary from November 1982 and died of kidney failure in February 1984).
  • And I Must Scream: The final fate of the Konovalov and its crew: ripped in half by the Red October ramming it, it is unable to stop itself from sinking to the bottom, and to those crewmen who survived the crash, the fact that the distress buoy got stuck on the sub's tower means that what awaits them is a slow death by suffocation.
    • Also true for those in the crew of the Politovsky who survived the reactor accident.
  • Anti-Mutiny: The GRU mole, placed there as a final line of defense against an act of barratry or defection.
  • Anti-Villain: Igor Loginov, the saboteur, is clearly terrified of the situation he is in, but is perfectly willing to go down with the Red October and loyal to his country to the end.
  • Arbitrary Minimum Range: Russian torpedoes have a safety feature that will only arm the torpedo when it is a safe distance away from the ship that fired it. This means that the torpedo fired on the Red October during its final attack run is useless, as Ramius is trying to get close enough to ram the opposing submarine.
  • Artistic License – Ships:
    • Very few Soviet submarines were ever given official names, Akula-class boats like the Red October being notable exceptions (all but two had names, though TK-202's was somehow forgotten). In the novel, all of the Soviet submarines with viewpoint characters aboard—the pursuing V.K. Konovalov and the ill-fated E.S. Politovskiy, both Lira-class attack subs—are named. Speaking of which, all the submarine classes are also referred to by their NATO reporting names rather than their original Russian-language names, even by Soviet characters.
    • The noisiest thing on a nuclear submarine isn't the screws by a long shot, it's the nuclear power plant itself. A caterpillar drive, if possible, would do nothing to help with this. In the novel, the caterpillar is a pump-jet propulsor rather than a phlebotnium drive; at best it would confuse sonar operators and mask the reactor noises.
    • The E.S. Politovskiy's reactor accident is more than a little screwy. Clancy erroneously describes the Lira-class (NATO reporting name Alfa-class) as using a pressurized-water reactor like American nuclear-powered ships (he also states that the Americans mistakenly think it's a sodium-cooled or "hot salt" design). In fact, the Lira-class used a molten lead-barium alloy for reactor coolant. Reactors with molten metal coolant are extremely difficult to melt down since the boiling point of most metals is hotter than any fission reactor could possibly get: in the event of accidents, they tend to absorb and re-radiate the excess heat until the coolant solidifies. This is also partly why the Lira-class was so fast: it could safely generate far more power from its reactor than a conventional pressurized-water design. (Clancy erroneously attributes this to an advanced heat-exchanger.) The accident is said to be caused by a coolant leak, which would be self-sealing with the use of molten metal coolant. And if it was so catastrophic that it didn't self-seal, it would have rather horrific immediate consequences for the crew, and also cause some nasty chemical reactions and steam explosions if one attempted to cool the reactor in an emergency by introducing seawater into the containment vessel, as the Politovskiy's reactor chief does.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Sonarman 1/C Jones. In just a few hours, he finds a way to beat the Red October's top secret stealth propulsion system and track the sub.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan: CIA academic and former Marine, with a doctorate in history.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Jack Ryan starts as this. He is considered completely incorruptible and can figure out any riddle that international politics can bring to bear.
  • Based on a True Story: The story was inspired by a real-life mutiny on board a Soviet frigate (the Storozhevoy, mentioned in the book) in 1975, but differs in several key respects from it. Most notably in that Valeriy Sablin (the real-life mutineer) was attempting to ignite a second, anti-Stalinist Bolshevik revolution, rather than flee to the West in his lust for blue jeans and Coca-Cola.
  • Batman Gambit: Much of the defecting officers' plans relied on one of these, by instilling paranoia in the crew through radiation tests, refusal to inform the enlisted crew of the situation and other suspicious activities, to the point where the crew would gladly leave the ship to be scuttled without asking too many questions.
  • Benevolent Boss: Greer if quite fatherly to Ryan and Judge Moore also announces that Ryan's conclusions about the sub are based on assumptions Moore has given him, so that any misjudgment isn't Ryan's fault.
  • Bothering by the Book: The President had the Attorney General dig up some precedents in maritime law that would have granted America the right to keep the Red October until such time as the Russians paid the US Government a finder's fee as determined by a salvage court — which had a one year backlog of cases to go through before even attempting to assess how much the Russians would have to fork over to get their sub back. However, since the Navy and CIA worked out a plan to trick the Russians into thinking that the Red October had been destroyed, this scheme never got past the planning stage.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Jones is described as weird even by Navy sub sonarman standards.
  • Burning the Ships: Ramius sends a letter to the chief political officer of the Soviet Navy stating that he and his command staff are defecting. In part this was so that there would be no going back for himself or any of his officers.
  • Buzzing the Deck:
    • At one point a Yak-38 Forger intends to do this to an American E-3, buzzing by with his missiles plainly visible, but the AWACS sees him coming and sends a flight of F-15s as an "escort". He's still worked up over it when a pair of F-14s buzz his flight, and he actually fires at them, severely damaging the flight controls of one, while the other settles in behind ready to shoot the lot of them down, but American commanders call him off.
    • Later in the book a flight of A-10s buzz a Russian cruiser and shoot off flares to remind the Soviets that they were a long way from both home and any serious hope of support if they didn't take a step back.
  • The Captain: Bart Mancuso of the USS Dallas, and Marko Ramius of the Red October.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A minor one, but early on it's mentioned that Ramius has taken out the first of each class of sub for decades, and only had a minor incident on the first Alfa. Later it's explained that the Politovskiy is the first of the Alfas, and that during its first cruise it hit a whale at full speed but the captain managed to save the ship and crew. Ramius was the captain of the Politovskiy when it hit the whale. Then in the climax, Ramius kills an Alfa by ramming it - having been on one that was nearly lost due to ramming, he knows exactly how to hit one to make it die. He also knows the exact handling characteristics of an Alfa, so he knows how it can try to dodge.
    • Later on, the Politovskiy suffers a fatal reactor failure that kills the crew. Its death has one last part to play when the only survivor, a cook, is a Red Herring to the Russians, because they think he may be the GRU mole from the Red October.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The narrator notes that one of the cooks is surprised when Ramius reads the orders sending Red October to the American coast. It's later revealed that he is The Mole.
  • Chromosome Casting: As both the Soviet and American navies were all-male services, there are next to no female characters in the book. The most significant female characters are an FBI agent, Greer's secretary, and Ramius' long-dead wife, whose absence sets the plot in motion.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Since the ships actual doctor wasn't in on the plan, the people wounded by the cook are treated by a junior officer who reads medical textbooks as a hobby. He does a surprisingly good job.
  • The Consigliere: Jeffrey Pelt is the President's National Security Advisor.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Russians have a mole on Red October who is a cook. The only survivor of a ship lost searching for Red October is a cook. This briefly causes them to think that the (comatose) cook is their man and scuttled Red October, delaying the search.
  • Cool Boat: The Red October, with its unique silent propulsion system.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage:
    • In the final act there are only about twenty people handing a ship designed to be run by a crew of roughly a hundred and twenty. Red October is completely unable to shoot back because there's no one in the torpedo rooms and no one can be spared.
    • An earlier sub-plot involves the running of an about-to-be-decommissioned American sub to the spot where the Red October was to be "sunk" and be destroyed in its stead, while also being only staffed by about a dozen officers who had to do multiple duties, like an engineer working as a cook when off-shift. Subverted in that instance, because they were only trying to get the sub from point A to point B, and had no intention of engaging in any kind of complicated maneuvering, much less combat.
  • Crusading Widower: The last straw turning Ramius against the Soviet Union was the death of his wife. He came to the revelation, at her miserable excuse for a funeral, that the government had not only been responsible for her death, it also left him no choice but to deny the hope — even if it was a false hope — of seeing her again.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jack Ryan always remembers to get his daughter a present, even when busy saving the world.
  • Damage Control: Red October takes damage in a fight with another sub and has to be repaired.
  • Dated History: The fall of the Iron Curtain led to the revelation that a number of Clancy's guesses about the Soviet stuff were completely wrong:
    • The Storozhevoy, the Real Life basis for the story, is mentioned in the novel as attempting to defect to the West. The political officer who led the mutiny (and was later shot) was actually attempting to mimic the actions of the Avrora in 1917: sail into Leningrad, denounce the cronyism of the Brezhnev regime, and demand reform among Leninist lines.
    • Many technical details about the Red October and the Typhoon class in general, such as the unique internal arrangement of these vessels (practically two big submarines and three minisubs connected inside an outer shell), the number of reactors and the lack of a missile room, which would have invalidated several plot points. There are similar problems with his depiction of the Alfa class.
    • Zampoliti didn't have authority over combat matters, were strictly subordinate to the commanding officer, and functioned similarly to a chaplain in a Western military.
    • Most Soviet vessels weren't named; then again, The Hunt for K-139 doesn't really sing or dance.
    • The reactor accident that sinks the first Alfa would be impossible; they used a liquid metal cooled nuclear reactor that wasn't pressurized, and any leaking coolant would simply have frozen, sealing the leak. Ironically, the use of a liquid metal plant rather than an American-style pressurized water reactor is mentioned as a faulty guess by U.S. military intelligence.
    • The "Crazy Ivan" was a real maneuver. Its existence was highly classified when the book was written; Clancy had figured it out himself. However, it had by and large been rendered obsolete by the use of towed-array sonar equipment, which was also classified at the time.
  • Death By Child Birth: Ramius' mother died giving birth to him.
  • Death by Falling Over: How Ramius disposes of Putin.
  • Defector from Commie Land: Ramius and his officers are attempting to defect, bringing the Red October as a gift, with Ryan as the protagonist whose task is to help them succeed.
    • A few of the sailors also defect while being processed in America after seeing the better standard of life there.
  • Defector from Decadence: See It's Personal.
  • Diplomatic Cover Spy: The CIA's Moscow station chief is the embassy's press attache.
  • Do a Barrel Roll: The "Crazy Ivan" maneuver, a sharp 360 degree turn taken to bring the sub's forward sonar to bear on what was in their "baffles" directly behind the sub before the turn, to make sure someone's not hiding behind them.
  • Drinking on Duty: Ramius' wife was killed by a surgeon who botched a routine appendectomy because he was drunk, and got away with it because his father was a Central Committee member.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Lt. Kamarov is found dead by Ryan and Ramius, shot by the saboteur, and promptly forgotten about.
  • Ensign Newbie: The junior officers of the ship get some attention, being portrayed as decent men who happen to be firm party believers, but susceptible to Ramius's manipulations. It's stated that Ramius picked the three juniormost officers of the ship explicitly for the fact that they were so green that they wouldn't know enough to be able to ask awkward questions and thus would follow the conspirator's orders.
  • Epic Fail: by the end of the book, the Soviets have lost one submarine due to critical reactor failure, another to defection (though they don’t know it and think it was just destroyed) and a third to being sunk by the second (though again, they think it was due to reactor failure). The loss of just one submarine is US territorial waters would be catastrophic. The loss of two is beyond imagining. Three? Over the course of two weeks? Epic Fail.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Justified: the British Signals Officer is the one who sends the message via blinker from HMS Invincible to the Red October. It is described as a slow and rather jerky process since the officer is a bit rusty at it. On the other hand, Ramius knowing Morse is entirely believable, since he's from an older school of military.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: The Soviet officers mention a cook who tried cleaning his pots and pans with steam from the primary coolant loop (read: radioactive steam) for the ship's reactor and ended up killing himself and irradiating the entire engine compartment. "I bet he got his pans cleaned, though. They may even be safe to use in another fifty years."
  • Expy: Andre Narmonov is one for Soviet premier Konstantin Chernenko; when he died 11 months after taking office, later novels would turn him into an expy of Gorbachev.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Subverted. Admiral Yuri Padorin is forced to be a mole for the KGB amongst the leadership of the Soviet Union, but he is happy with this arrangement, as he had feared he would be disposed of. Played straight when a similar fate befalls Henderson.
  • A Father to His Men:
    • Ramius and his wife, in the backstory that is given, are said to have taken junior officers in as the children that they never had.
    • The Dallas crew is described as "like one big family... The captain was the father".
  • Feed the Mole: The CIA uses Henderson to feed the KGB false data about the operation to acquire the eponymous submarine of the novel.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The caterpiller drive only appears in this book and is not brought up again in subsequent novels. Understandable as it was an invention of Clancy for his first novel and wouldn't fit into his later, hyper realistic books. Considering the fact that Jones (with good use of his sub's sonar tech) is capable of keeping track of it for an extended period of time, the implication of it being too Awesome, but Impractical is also firmly set.
  • Four-Star Badass: Admiral Greer
  • Good Is Not Soft: One of the Joint Chiefs hints that DCI Arthur Moore, a laid-back, soft spoken former judge, was involved in some very dark stuff in his CIA career, like making the crew of a captured North Korean freighter disappear.
  • Guy in Back: Robby Jackson's Radar Intercept Officer, who's severely injured by a missile fired by a hotheaded Soviet pilot with wounded pride from an earlier encounter with US forces.
  • He Knows Too Much: Ryan tries to talk the GRU mole into surrendering, but it's a waste of time as both parties know the CIA will kill him to preserve the secret of Red October being in their hands.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Played with in that the crew of the Red October end up believing Ramius and the officers scuttled the sub to prevent its capture by the Americans.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Soviet justice system, an organization one would hardly expect needed any more blackening. In the novel, the real-life mutiny led by Shablin is mentioned by Ryan. According to Ryan after the mutiny was suppressed, Shablin and 26 other mutineers were executed. In reality, only Shablin was executed, his main accomplice received an eight year sentence and the other crew members were freed.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A Sleazy Politician, Senator Donaldson, who had repeatedly butted heads with the CIA over his fishing for information during the committees he chaired. The CIA began to investigate him after a leak got one of their agents killed, and learned that he was leaking info to an aide who was a Double Agent. Said aide was arrested for espionage and treason, allowing the CIA to pressure Donaldson into retiring in order to prevent his name being tied to the scandal.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted. In one of the only instances of its like seen in military media, a group of American and British generals and admirals get together to plan a defense against a perceived Soviet Navy attack without involvement in the discussion by any political figures such as the President or national security advisor. They know what they're up against and with very concise language arrange for certain ships to be on the front lines with certain others in support, arrange unneeded aircraft on aircraft carriers to be replaced with ones more appropriate for subsurface warfare, swap assets between units without regard for political niceties, and in the end have a very workable plan for a large-scale naval battle ready in a matter of minutes. The plan never has to be put into effect, of course, but it's a great show of what a room of professionals can do without worrying about outside factors while doing what they do best.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: The primary focus of the naval scenes is the cat-and-mouse game played by NATO and Soviet submarines, with the climax involving actual combat between the Red October and the Konavalov, with the Dallas and Pogy being restricted from directly assisting by the rules of engagement limiting them to defensive fire only.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...:
    • The Americans, being understandably nervous about the Soviet fleet off their shores, give them several such moments, with the best being having four A-10 Warthogs zoom in under the radar horizon and box the Kirov with flares.
    • At first, the Americans are scared Ramius might be getting in range of his nuclear missiles in an attempt to single-handedly start a nuclear war. It's quickly pointed out that his missiles are perfectly capable of doing so from where he undocked: "He's had six days to do it and he hasn't done it." See A Nuclear Error below.
    • Inverted during the final showdown, the political officer of the Soviet submarine Konovalov is worried about the American subs protecting Red October. Captain Tupolev replies that he will ignore Dallas and Pogy and points out that if the Americans had authorization to shoot one of them would have already sunk Konovalov. Tupolev's original mission orders already gave him permission to shoot Red October, while by their rules of engagement the Americans must wait until they are fired upon.
  • Informed Flaw: Ramius' inner monologue characterizes Ivan Putin as an evil man with no conscience; he only appears in the first chapter of the book, during which his worst faults seem to be he's a bad sailor who blathers on about how pretty Gorky is in the winter.
  • It's Personal:
    • Ramius' main motive was to punish the state for the fact that his wife had died in a botched operation directed by a surgeon who had got the job from Party Patronage, compounded by faulty antibiotics that did nothing to improve Mrs. Ramius' health. Further, what he considers the greatest crime is the State's suppression of religion that robbed him of "the hope, even if it was a lie", of seeing his wife again.
    • Several of Ramius' officers have similar stories of being screwed over and subjected to indignities by the state. One was repeatedly denied promotion for decades because his parents, despite being loyal Communists, were Jewish; another was sexually propositioned by a superior officer, and was subsequently punished for reporting the impropriety because the man was the son of an extremely high-ranking party official. (The officer who was propositioned was probably Borodin, since the narrator noted that Borodin once accused a zampolit of homosexuality and the guy he informed on was the son of the chief zampolit of the Northern Fleet.) The chief engineer, although Ramius' equal in rank, never received a command of his own simply because he was too good of an engineer, and the Soviet Navy wanted to keep him in the engine room (in the Soviet Navy, like most navies, engineer is a staff position not in the line of command; due to its commitment to nuclear safety, the American submarine fleet is a rare exception).
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The CIA's plan to fool the Soviet Navy is based on convincing them that their cover story, that Ramius was given false orders and the letter claiming he was going to defect was a forgery, is true by acting as if they too are baffled by the events and are conducting massive inquiries.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • One of first actions taken by Ramius is to break Ivan Putin's neck and then set it up to look like he slipped on spilled tea and fell backwards into the corner of a table. This is largely done to fool Doctor Petrov and allow Ramius to substitute his own set of orders.
    • When a KGB agent thinks it's a good idea to break out a cigarette and lighter next to a patient who's on 100% oxygen, the attending doctor suspects him of attempting this. Ultimately subverted; the KGB agent wasn't actually attempting to murder the patient, but merely too arrogant to consider the possibility that a hospital's "No Smoking" signs might be there for a reason. When the doctor explains what would've happened had he lit up, he's horrified.
  • Mr. Exposition: Melekhin, the officer in charge of the nuclear power plant aboard Red October. As one of his subordinates thinks, he's the slowest and most methodical man in the world when he's trying to demonstrate an important point. His detection and repair of the supposed "sabotage" and radiation leak is accompanied by a detailed lecture to the subordinate in question as to how it was done and why this "leak" was so hard to find.
  • Mr. Fixit: Skip Tyler
  • Murder by Inaction: How Ryan views the CIA decline to even try to rescue the survivors of Tuepelov's ship, which would ruin The Masquerade, although its also acknowledged there aren't many practical rescue options anyway.
  • The Mutiny: Inverted, Lampshaded, and glibly noted to be academic. An American officer calls it a mutiny, only to be told that "mutiny" is when the crew rises against officers. When the officers try to steal their ship, the correct term is "barratry". Doesn't mean that the Kremlin's not going to be furious someone stole their Super Prototype boat.
    • Admiral Foster of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also points out that nearly all mutinies/barratries are actually led by officers, because they're the ones who know how to steer the ship (which causes him to accept Ryan's idea about Ramius and his men defecting).
  • My Girl Back Home: The doctor of the cook who survives the submarine that sank searching for Red October mentions that in his delirium he's been talking about a girl with brown eyes a lot.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: It's stated that Jonesy, despite not being hugely attractive, gets a lot of "action" on shore leave.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Nobody on the Red October knows how the tunnel drive got nicknamed "the caterpillar", but the name stuck.
    • Ryan describes intelligence report of a previous Soviet sub that surfaced and showed signs there may have been a mutiny on board, but this is never confirmed or referenced again.
  • A Nuclear Error: Averted — it's specifically stated that A) if he had wanted to and were capable of doing so, Ramius could have launched from the dockside and his missiles would still have enough range to hit the U.S. and B) Soviet controls against a rogue launch are even stricter than their NATO equivalents.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several cases, but one of the most justifiable was the reaction of the crew of the Dallas when the nuclear missile the GRU mole attempted to sabotage was jettisoned, causing them to worry that the October was launching said missile.
  • The Political Officer:
    • Putin on board the Red October. Described as the perfect zampolit, a landsman and an easy man to fear.
    • Ramius' father, Aleksandr, was a distinguished political commissar in the 40s. Marko was deeply ashamed to be the son of a true Stalinist hero.
  • Post-Injury Desk Job: Commander Quentin, a former destroyer officer, had to man a sonar listening post while he's recovering from chemotherapy, and "Skip" Tyler, a former submarine officer who is now teaching at Annapolis and doing consulting work after losing half a leg to a drunk driver. At one point, Tyler is offered the chance to go back to sea, but he turns it down so he can spend more time with his family.
  • Ramming Always Works: Justified by Red October lacking enough manpower to fire torpedoes and Ramius' expert knowledge of how Soviet submarines handle (and their commanders behave), being effectively the submarine captain version of a test pilot for new designs. And because they plan to dissect the sub anyway so a little damage is less of a big deal. It helps that the Typhoon Class sub was a lot bigger than it's target.
  • Reporting Names: A Soviet officer is asked what his sub is actually called and doesn't answer — in case you wanted to know, a Project 671RTM, known to NATO as the "Victor III".
  • Ruptured Appendix: Due to drunkenness while on duty, a surgeon botched removing an inflamed appendix from the wife of Marko Ramius, the organ bursting because the doctor took too long to try to sober up by breathing pure oxygen. She might have still survived, but the clinic was out of foreign antibiotics, so the ones used to treat her were Soviet made, and therefore probably just vials full of distilled water. note 
  • Saving Christmas: What a time for a possible World War III!
    Capt. Randall Tait: [thinking] A missile sub right off our coast, and all this activity in the North Atlantic... Christmas season. Dear God! If they were going to do it, they would do it right now, wouldn't they?
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A Soviet doctor who was drunk on duty botched what should have been a simple appendix removal. Being the son of a senior party official, he remained unpunished for the violation of the rules and the death resulting in it. This is part of what drove Ramius to defect, as the victim was his wife.
  • Shown Their Work: The portrayal of submarine life and submarine warfare is pretty realistic — in some cases, too realistic, as some of the technology got Clancy a visit from the government to find out how he knew about it, as it was classified top secret at the time. The descriptions of submarine warfare are so realistic that The Hunt For Red October has become one of the only fictional works to appear on the U.S. Naval Academy's recommended reading list.
    • Tom Clancy even did his homework when it came to contemporary video games. He described Jones, the brilliant and eccentric sonar tech, as the resident Choplifter and Zork champion aboard the Dallas. Choplifter is an arcade game, so this makes sense, but Zork? It's a text adventure, so how could you be champion of it? Well, it turns out that Zork does keep score, and the challenge for expert players is to acquire the maximum points (350) in the fewest moves.
  • The Smart Guy: Submarine warfare is probably the geekiest form of war yet invented by mankind and this book is practically an orgy of smartness. Nevertheless Seaman Jones the sonarman is closest to the classic model, with the Executive Officer of the Dallas mentally commenting that Seaman Jones has the highest IQ on the boat by a healthy margin.
  • Sole Survivor:
    • The cook from the vessel that was sunk by accident looking for Red October.
    • Only one of the translators originally meant to meet Ramius survives when bad weather brings down their transport, and he has a broken leg (necessitating Ryan taking their place).
  • Soviet Superscience: Zig-Zagged Trope: While the Red October's caterpillar drive is incredibly advanced tech (thus making the submarine the MacGuffin of the story), the sub as a whole (even if the most advanced vehicle the Soviets had devised) is still laughably far behind American submarine technology (to the point that one of the funniest moments of the book is Jones looking over the Red October's communications systems and fixing them with ease (they had been "sabotaged" earlier) while deeming them unbelievably old-school compared to the Dallas'... and the Red October's communications officer is standing right next to him, taking offense at that).
  • Stock British Phrases: Clancy's attempts at writing dialogue for the British characters fall short of reality.
    • Near the end, Mancuso, aboard the Red October, impersonates a British officer over the radio, just to throw off any nearby snoops wondering what an obviously non-American sub is doing in Chesapeake Bay at four in the morning.
  • The Strategist: Ramius, whose plan sets everything in motion. Jeffrey Pelt, Admiral Greer, and to some degree Jack Ryan. And the unnamed President.
  • Technology Porn: Several pieces of military hardware in the US (and Russian, to a lesser extent) get paragraphs of description.
  • Techno Wizard: Seaman Jones is not only an expert on US Navy sonar systems, but even with the handicap of not knowing Russian he does pretty good with Soviet hardware aboard the Red October.
  • Title Drop: "'We will find him and finish him,' Tupolev said calmly, fully caught up in the hunt for Red October."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Borodin is not mentioned in the last two chapters.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The eponymous Hunt is called off about 80% through after the October's apparent going down. Cue a lingering Soviet attack sub.