Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Escape from the Deep" by Alex Kershaw (audio)

I have to admit, I am not a big fan of war novels. I get lost in the technical details, the strategy...I have to drag my way through them and often are abandoned midway. This book had some interesting reviews, though, and thought it had some potential. The USS Tang was said to be the deadliest submarine in WWII history, led by its bold, renegade captain Richard O'Kane. On its last mission alone, it sank 13 Japanese ships. But the last torpedo fired from the sub malfunctioned, killing half its crew, and the Tang sank to the depths of 180 feet. A few crew members were thrown from the craft, including O'Kane, but most of them were trapped below. A handful were able to manage their way out, risking sharks, drowning or death from the change in pressure. In total, nine men made it to the surface...the first time anyone ever survived a sinking of a submarine. They went on to be captured by the Japanese, thrown in POW camps, starved and tortured for nearly a year. All accounts of this amazing piece of history were retrieved through interviews with the survivors or their family members.
This is not a long novel, but did seem to drag at first, with the background of all the men on board, and the battle history of the submarine. Once the craft sinks, however, I was really drawn into this almost unbelievable tale of bravery, tenacity and odds against the survival of these men. I feel that the prose was pretty dry and factual, but despite this, it is still a gripping read...just as good as anything fiction out there. I always feel that if I learn something while I am being entertained, and I certainly did with this book, that is an added bonus.

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