Rogue Trident

Author: John R. Hindinger
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Year: 2005
Reviewer: Daryl Carpenter

Imagine the world's most powerful weapon in the hands of a dying man motivated solely by revenge. An Ohio-class nuclear missile submarine (SSBN), armed with 24 Trident ballistic missiles each with six 475-kiloton nuclear warheads. The world's quietest warship, capable of disappearing without a trace and unleashing the explosive power of 4,500 Hiroshimas on a whim. Sounds like the kind of stuff that might keep people up at night, huh?

Rogue Trident, published in August 2005 is a recent addition to the techno-thriller canon, which started, ironically enough, with the original "stolen missile submarine" novel, The Hunt For Red October. Unlike many authors in the genre, Rogue Tridentís author John R. Hindinger has fairly substantial credentials. After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1991, he served onboard the Trident submarine Kentucky for a number of years. He then became an instructor in submarine and naval combat tactics at the US Naval Submarine School. Most recently, he founded a company that develops alternative medical equipment.

The best thing about Rogue Trident is that it's not terribly long. At only 221 pages, itís a great book to take along on an airplane, or as a nice potboiler on a lazy Thursday afternoon. It has so many plot twists, action set pieces, good guys, villains, turncoats, hidden agendas, and international conspiracies I didnít really notice how silly the whole thing was until the end. And when I realized how ridiculous the whole story was, I couldnít take it seriously anymore. It even has a ready-made tag line emblazoned across the cover: "They stole his future. He stole their submarine!"

As the story begins, the bookís protagonist, 26 year old Lieutenant Jacob Slate, is wounded in an explosion of one of his submarineís hydraulic plants. His wounds will keep him from ever commanding his own submarine, and he is removed from the nuclear weapons stewardship program due to the resultant emotional instability. His rage is further inflamed when he learns that his former captain, John Brody, has been passed over for promotion and reduced to alcoholism. Somehow, a French arms dealer and former submarine commander named Pierre Renard learns of Slateís situation, and exploits it so he can pull off the arms deal of the century.

On the other side of the world, China has blockaded Taiwan and is close to invading her. If Taiwan could acquire nuclear weapons, the balance of power would be tipped in their favor. After some seedy dealings with the Taiwanese Minister of Defence, Pierre manages to meet Slate and helps him plot his revenge. Renard assembles a team of six Taiwanese commandos while Slate pulls together a group of three diehards to assist him. Early next morning, Slate and his team hijack the Trident submarine Colorado, still tied to her moorings at the Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia.

Having acquired command of the Colorado with little violence, Slate forces the shipís skeleton crew overboard and sets a course for the mid-Atlantic. The Navy quickly learns of Slateís deceit, but he manages to submerge before he can be sunk. Unfortunately for him, the Colorado takes a hit to the conning tower that makes her easier to detect. The hunt is on, and John Brody is one of the few in a position to stop him.

Rogue Trident takes the concept of efficiency in writing to new heights; I donít think Iíve read a book this short in years. Nothing that happens in it happens without a reason, and most of the time it happens extremely fast. Itís a loopy thrill ride throughout, with plot twists occurring seemingly every ten pages or so. None of the characters are really what you think they are, no one can be trusted, and everyone seems to have a hidden agenda that reveals itself at the last minute. Itís great Hollywood blockbuster fodder, but does it make for a truly memorable ride?

Unfortunately, not really. Cut away the convoluted storyline, and youíre left with another retread of the old "stolen/hijacked submarine" plot. Several times, I couldnít help but be reminded of Kirk & Company stealing the Enterprise in Star Trek III. Hindinger's writing style is choppy and inconsistent, and his insistence on having critical plot points resolved "out of narrative" became frustrating by the end.

Rogue Trident exists in a world where chain-smoking arms dealers use their gorgeous confidantes to seduce angst-ridden young naval officers into stealing nuclear weapons for a cool $40 million. If the premise thrills you, give it a chance, but Iím having a hard time buying into all the gushing praise for this novel.


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