This is an early Tom Clancy book, and you can really tell if you read it soon after one of his later books. For starters, it’s under 400 pages. This comes at the expense of some of the elaborate cast of characters you get in later books, where Clancy fleshes out even minor characters with a page or two of their own. Instead, only the major characters–and eventual recurring characters–get the treatment, which is odd, because later books don’t go into as much depth. I guess Clancy expects you’ll remember who Jonesy is (he’s the one possessed by the alien Mr. Gray, isn’t he?).
At any rate, a Russian sub wanders off the reservation, and the whole of the Russian navy chases it to the edge of American waters. Jack Ryan suspects the Russian captain is trying to defect and needs to come up with a plan to establish contact and to somehow get the sub and its new propulsion system into American hands. You know, like in the movie.
Clancy’s not at his peak building tension here, either. The final climactic sub battle seems almost tacked onto the story and relies on quick scene switching, and I mean after a paragraph in many cases, to artificially attempt to create tension. It’s not as effective in that short of bursts; Clancy gets better at it and at continually building tension to a resolution as he matures as a writer.
Still, a good book. You know when they study literature after the next Dark Age, they’ll read Clancy and King from our era.