The Tiger Cruise is an audiobook about a Los Angeles Class nuclear attack submarine, the USS Woodbridge, which leaves Norfolk on a routine two day tiger cruise. The tiger cruise is a navy tradition whereby family and friends are invited to sail aboard a naval vessel to get first-hand experience of navy tradition at sea. After the Woodbridge embarks, a large earthquake strikes in the mid-Atlantic and, for the first time in recorded history, large tsunamis strike the East Coast all but destroying the naval base at Norfolk. Iraq, lying in wait for the opportunity to strike back at America, deploys a mini-nuclear submarine loaded with lethal anthrax toward the shores of America. The Navy, crippled by the large tidal waves that struck the coast, calls on the Woodbridge to seek and destroy the Iraqi invaders. The Woodbridge, having left a third of its crew behind to accommodate 14 civilians ranging in age from 10 to 72 and its nuclear reactor and sonar damaged by the quake, answers the call. Only one ship can stop them in a race for the coast.
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I thought the premise of "The Tiger Cruise" to be a very intriguing one. A tiger cruise is a Navy tradition in which family (and sometimes friends) of a crew member are invited on board a vessel in order that they may see first hand a sailor's life at sea. Nothing much ever happens on a tiger cruise and it is usually just a two day semi-vacation for the crew. The Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarine, the USS Woodbridge, is the setting for this cruise, and as submarines are very limited in space, about one-third of the crew was left behind to make space for the civilians. However, in this novel, an outside event makes the Woodbridge essential to the national defense of the country, and the boat must make ready for combat, civilians included.
As a former submariner, the plot interested me and the pacing was well done. Told mainly from the perspectives of the four main players, the reader is given an omnipresent view of the action and this helped keep me engaged. It was laid out in a chronological order, and that allowed the reader to see what the effect of certain character actions had on the other players.
While the plot was well done, the characterizations were, in my opinion, lacking in substance.. They were one-dimensional and flat. For example, it is stated more than once that George Owens was the "best CO" certain crew members had ever served under. While that in itself is not surprising, no other viewpoint of the Woodbridge's Captain is offered. Men do not rise to any position of power without stepping on a few toes, intentional or not, and I found it hard to believe that nobody on the crew had any issues with George. And Knox Jones, the CIA station chief in London, was a similar case. He was also described as the best at what he did, although it is clear that he was not as universally liked as George Owens. And, I admit, he was shown to make a few mistakes, but I just find it extremely coincidental that two of the best men in their respective fields were ready and available when disaster struck the East Coast of the United States and the ensuing national security crisis.
There were also major issues with the accuracy of the details about the submarine itself. Some are minor, such as standing section watches during battle stations. Since everyone has a post during battle stations, there would be no need for section watches. And unless there was a modification to the station bill, no one would be available to spell those at their stations. Some of the inaccuracies were major, such as almost everything about the reactor plant. One that sticks out is the leaking valve at the radioactive waste pumping station. That waste pumping station does not exist on any submarine I have ever heard about. If there were such an animal, where would they pump it to? Space is limited on submarines, therefore if pumped to a tank, how long would it be before needing to be emptied? Additionally, anything radioactive would be secured inside the reactor compartments, which contains a great deal of shielding to protect the crew. Perhaps Mr. Thompson did not wish to divulge US nuclear secrets, and that would be fine with me. However, I did not read any author notes explaining this was the case. If it was, he should have told the readers.
I felt the narration of this novel was in need of revision. My largest complaint of the performance is Bill Brooks' over enunciation of the text. It bothered me for two reasons. First, his speech just did not seem natural. The words were clipped to such a degree that it actually took my attention away from what he was saying. The second reason is that this over enunciation had the effect of slowing down the flow of the story. This did not seem to fit well with an action/suspense thriller. Mr. Brooks did, however, employ a variety of voices for the different characters and thus made it easier to follow who was speaking.
All things considered, in my humble opinion this was an OK read. The plot was good and kept me engaged. The characters were not all that interesting and the technical details were amiss. If you would like to read a well thought out 'fictional' submarine adventure, then I believe you will enjoy this book. If you are looking for an accurate account of the operations of a nuclear sub, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
The author should have done more extensive research about the operations of a nuclear submarine. As a former submariner I can attest that this was more like the old TV series "Voyage to the bottom of the sea", somewhat entertaining but ........
Would you ever listen to anything by Richard Thompson again?
How could the performance have been better?
If the narrator would have stuck with just the narration and someone else did the characters it would have been better.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?