Charles Cranston Jett
Outskirts Press (2016)
Reviewed by Ben Green for Reader Views (06/16)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Super Nuke’ by Charles Cranston Jett on Blogcritics.
“Super Nuke!” by Charles Cranston Jett is the self-described memoir of the author, and the first fast attack submarine designed to go up against the Soviets during the Cold War. Before I get started on what the book includes and does not include, let me just say that everything exterior about the book is professionally done and top quality. The book is a hardback with a wonderfully done sleeve cover that looks like it was published straight out of the Cold War era. The book also comes highly recommended from several naval officers, which is no surprise since Mr. Jett was himself is a distinguished Navy officer. These recommendations add validity to the book and show that Mr. Jett left no stone unturned in getting official approval for his book.
Now, on to the inner workings of the book. When I was given the opportunity to read this book I was very excited as I am a huge fan of history and especially military history. Textbook accounts of history often lack the personal perspectives and human elements that memoirs often include. Unfortunately, “Super Nuke!” includes few, if any, of these elements. In fact, “Super Nuke!” is very vague in really all aspects. While in some regards this may be due to the classified nature of the work, this logic certainly cannot be applied to either the author's personal life or the locales in which much of the book takes place. For example, one line of the book in which the author informs us for the first time that he broke up with his fiancée reads, “I had broken my engagement with Miss Maryland a couple of weeks earlier.” Lines like this make the character seem cold, indifferent, and somewhat flat. Other characters are often given little more than a name and at best only a most basic description.
As for the various settings of the book, Mr. Jett gives little more than the city and state. Norfolk and Newport News, each unique locales, but both are simply reduced to Norfolk, Virginia and Newport News. Both of these cities possess amazing historical architecture, interesting weather patterns, terrible traffic and an economy with a heavy reliance on military and government jobs. I would have loved to hear what Norfolk's downtown bar scene was like at the time when the author was there or what part of town the apartment the author stayed at was in and what it was like then.
When it comes to covering the actual subprogram, the author offers more details but these again come across as little more than official descriptions instead of as a personal account of the experience. In the end, “Super Nuke!” suffers from what many military memorials suffer. First, is the need for privacy by the author or authors in their ability to convey their feelings and personal perspective, which usually leads to the story becoming just the most verifiable details. Second, the fact that often these authors are working on classified information, and third, they seem unable to choose a target audience; i.e., civilian or military. “Super Nuke!” contains all of these elements, which is a shame because Mr. Jett truly did live during an exciting and important time in history, which would make for a great story.
Overall, “Super Nuke!” by Charles Cranston Jett is a well-packaged presentation of military history from a firsthand account, but fell a little short of my own expectations in the end. I give “Super Nuke!” 3 out of 5 stars.