heidi's Reviews > HMS Ulysses

HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean
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's review
Nov 14, 11

bookshelves: paper
Read in November, 2011

The thing I love about Powell's books is that you can ask the much-pierced 20-something at the desk about the location of bestsellers of the 60s and 70s, and they will answer you without so much as a pause for thought.

Anyway, Powell's: a great source for the pop-action-stories of bygone decades.

I picked up an omnibus of full-length novels. I already own /Where Eagles Dare/ and /When Eight Bells Toll/, but can you believe I did not actually own /Ice Station Zebra/ or /The Guns of Navarone/. But I have them all now, as well as HMS Ulysses, which I had never read before. I am going to tell you all sorts of plot points, on the theory that this book is 20 years older than I am.

We start with an abortive mutiny. The poor sods crewing this escort ship are officially about to have a very bad trip. They are slated to do yet another run of the convoy to Murmansk, which is pretty much Dead Men Sailing In Ships. They are pretty sure that they do not want to do this again. However, the ship is sent out again, under the auspices of the kindly, overworked doctor, the kindly, stoic captain, and the kindly admiral. The whole book could really be titled "HMS Ulysses and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Convoy". In only a rough semblance of order, here are SOME of the things that happened.

* U-boats
* More U-boats
* Henkels
* Being bombed
* Being torpedoed
* Catastrophic winter hurricane
* Rogue waves
* Stukkas
* People having to be trapped on the wrong side of a flood door to Save the Ship (x2)
* Tall taciturn strong man sacrifices self in misguided expiation of sins
* Captain dies of TB
* Betrayal by the command structure
* Poor bastard finds out his sisters and mother died in a bombing the day they ship. Then his brother is killed. Then he has to fire on his father's ship because it was endangering the convoy.
* Admiral goes crazy
* Admiral dies of frostbite/amputation
* Bad apple saves the engineer who gave him a chance

Really, it was like a microcosm of horsemen, what with the war, pestilence (TB), starvation, and death. By halfway through the book I was cackling madly and reading choice excerpts to my roommate. It was just the sort of adventure book I love, full of hard luck and people pulling through anyway.

Amazingly, some few battered survivors lived to tell the story.

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