Friday, August 23, 2019

Book Review: 'SSN Seadragon: The Crucible of Leviathan' by J.P. Ronald

SSN Seadragon by J.P. Ronald

‘The fear of death is with every man who goes to war under the sea’

Pennsylvania author J.P. Ronald earned his degree in industrial engineering for Ohio State University and worked as a mechanical engineer in automation design, tooling and heavy machinery. His family history includes in depth experience in the US Navy and in particular his father’s connection with the USS Seadragon - working on refueling procedures for nuclear-powered submarines and surface ships during the Cold War. 

Ronald’s insight into the aspects of submarines as technical achievements as well as the particular atmosphere of a submerged vessel and subsequent effects on crews enhances this fine novel. The book is lengthy, and rightly so: the story flows from World War II through the Korean and Vietnam Wars, never missing a beat of the action.

As a friendly bow to his readers, the author supplies a terse synopsis of this novel that aids in becoming involved in the story: ‘A “Leviathan spirit” is said to be a demon spirit controlled by Satan. When unleashed, it leaves total destruction in its wake, and cannot be subdued by normal human methods, but only by the power of God. The Cold War saw “Leviathan” snarling at his gate, salivating to be let loose, when humanity was treading ever closer to nuclear holocaust. During this period, American servicemen went into the breech to stand against whatever form “Leviathan” took, and like the American warriors of past years they held strong to their faith in God to see them through. Such a warrior is Daniel O’Kean, a World War II UDT/OSS veteran and commissioned naval officer, turned covert deep-penetration maritime CIA specialist, who has only his faith to see him through his own encounters with “Leviathan.” His first test is a pre-invasion, reconnaissance mission behind the lines of Inchon Korea, where the threat of capture by North Korean invaders is around every corner. Later he leads an assignment into Latvia with near disastrous consequences. Then called upon again, into the steaming jungles near Haiphong Vietnam, while attempting to retrieve evidence of active Soviet intervention in the war, he uncovers an unusual and vital turn of events that leads to a twisted plot in the streets of London England. With each step he takes he sees God’s hand guiding him closer to a fate he does not fully understand, but follows faithfully. While O’Kean is battling an evil he cannot see, the captain of the nuclear submarine USS Seadragon, LCDR Renzo MacKenna has his own faith challenged in another form of “Leviathan” as he and CDR David Heidleman of the USS Permit coordinate to foil a Soviet plot to end America’s involvement in Vietnam. One wrong move by them and “Leviathan’s” bite could go nuclear.’

The manner of writing fits the theme of the novel well - excellent conversational dialogue coupled with refined military terms and logistics, offering explanations of unfamiliar terms at book’s end, for those who need them. The various characters are exceptionally well developed, making and the atmosphere in which they appear credible and visual. Ronald’s obvious religious commitment is evident in his frequent references to spiritual matters, a trait that brings a sense of inspiration to the story. This is a very fine extended novel that serves to entertain as well as to inform and inspire. Recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.