Top critical review
Sinks under its own weight.
on August 8, 2000
Fans of WWII submairne lore may recall the story of the Shinano, the Japanese super carrier sunk by a brace of merely six American torpedoes. Desperate to get their carrier to sea, the Japanese failed to make the ship sea-worthy, and an attack that couldn't have crippled the ship, instead found one already full of holes. "Nimitz Class", the technothriller in which one of America's mammoth super carriers is reduced to radioactive dust on the sea, looks like swiss cheese next to the ill-fated Shinano. Though publicly blaming the incident on a catastrophic reactor failure, a team of USN experts of astoundingly dubious ethic homogeneity quickly settle on nuclear terrorism. Though the signs point to a rogue diesel sub helmed by a master submariner, how the attackers managed to slip past carrier defenses that were trained to hunt them down is never satisfactorily explained. Instead, author Robinson hides behind the usual technothriller devices - hints at Hussein and mideast terrorists (though I had to go back to the novel to remind myslef which of Iran or Iraq ultimately gets the blame), rogue Russians, a brilliant lone-wolf USN nuclear expert, tough talking American brass (who are so uniformly white and male, they make the cast of "Midway" look positively multi-cultural) and a blizzard of details of dubious accuracy and even less dramatic value. More than any technothriller I can remember, "Nimitz Class" seems in awe of its perceived ability to create a plot built on the author's seeming mastery of details. The first few pages are a prime example, as the author draws life aboard the doomed carrier, filled with an eye towards the nuts and bolts of its operation and filled with laughably shallow versions of its crew. That the author fails miserably at this, when others have succeeded seems laughable when, only a few pages later, the rogue sub strikes and cardbord carrier and it's cartoon crew is no more.
What the author's technobabble does a better job of is covering up how unsure the author was about his own story. Whodunit? Robinson hits on the usual suspects, and I needed email@example.com's review to remind me who ultimately gets the blame. The author crafts a complex web to explain how the perps got paid, but that seems unneccesarily convoluted. Robinson hits on an intriguing idea, one involving rogue Israelis (yeah, they've got subs) but, not waiting to develop the idea or its charachters, Robinson twists the idea again, and pretty soon, I stopped caring who paid for the job. By the end, having already suspended our belief, Robinson adds the final cheat: there is no climactic battle between the rogue sub and the hero - or any other developed charachter. Instead, in a major miscalculation, Robinson hinges the story on his hero's ability to match the rogue submariner's seemingly impossible feat of transiting from Russia's Black Sea HQ, through the Bhosporous and into the Med - submerged. Only seeing proof that this feat is possible will convince the US President to spend the billions needed to hunt the rogue sub down; one would think that the lost carrier was enough proof (they'd have to spend billions to fix the reactors and weapons of the other ships if the sub-story were not true and poor weapons really were to blame, and aren't subhunters at sea supposedly looking for hostile subs anyway?) Once the hero accomplishes this, other subs take to the sea to hunt the rogue down - and the success is bleakly unsatisfying. Some kind of submarine dogfight, though the predictable resolution, would have required a greater feel for the dynamics of submarine warfare than the author displays, and would have likely forced the author to actually develop the mystery submariner himself, who appears in no more than a few italicized lines throught the novel. want some submarine thrills, get "Red October" "Potemkin" or anything by Poyer, or rent "The Bedford Incident", based on a superior novel in its own right. As for "Nimitz Class", two diving planes, way down!!