on June 5, 2014
This is the very worst book I have ever read about life aboard a Navel Vessel of any Nationality. It is juvenile, patronising and every thing is about the 'me me me' of the author, and nothing about the subject he is there to write about. The author can never remember the names of people interviewed, ( but goes into great detail about his own Attention Disorder problems ( who gives a flying fig.?) Every chapter comes across as a teenage diary that is definitely Grade F. I'm embarrassed to think what any of the crew aboard thought if they bothered to read his book. He makes you embarrassed to be British !!!
For instance, a RAS ( Replenishment at Sea ) is one of the most difficult, skilful and dangerous evolutions carried out in peacetime between two Navy ships. There could have been a whole chapter there explaining how it is achieved from a "decent " writer. He barely acknowledges it in two sentences. The man is blind.. all the way through, he is not interviewing people he meets, he is trying at every turn to prove how "high brow" he is by throwing in silly literary quotations, a,sort of "look at me, I've read lots of books" bragging that does nothing to enhance the reading.
It's not quite the same era, but a far better book , written by an English sailor on our current equivalent of aircraft carriers , is '" Totally Steaming" A year on HMS Fearless', by Damon Hammond with some excellent witty cartoons by 'Tez' whom I assume is co writer Terry McCormack. Different Navy and different level of modernisation admitted, but somehow I feel the latter is a better, deeper understanding of life afloat in the armed service,for no other reason that Hanmond has no need to dream up literary cloches, he lives the business, day on day for better or worse, and frankly is surprisingly an astute, well read scholar, masquerading,as,a chief grease monkey on a clapped out ship. God bless "real" authors like him I say. Geoff Dyer need to go elsewhere and pedal his unattractive,, superior than thou, and I can't be assed to do the basics like have a working pen or Biro with me excuse for just plain bad, boring work. f- in my opinion, no stars.
If anyone is interested in a life afloat in our UK services, make sure you read McCormack not Dyer. The former covers the same subjects as Dyer, but because he is an old hand, possibly the last ever Boiler Trained artificer,or Marine Officer, in modern parlance, he has a unique view on life at sea in the modern navy verses how it used to be. He too has seen the integration of women on board, and approves, but has a different take completely on the outcomes of that decision than Dyer ever pontificates about. Similarly with events necessitating discipline actions on board boats, and to course being British, the ubiquitously famous alcohol fuelled run ashore. No iced tea and fizzy coke parties for us.
Dyer does briefly come to brilliance once however in encapsulating a huge difference in our two nation fleets. The pity of it is, and it highlights my points, that the whole thing is a verbatim copy of a speech given on the flight deck by a sailor being promoted. After the promotion ceremony, witnessed by a dozen or so of his peers, this man gives the most evocative acceptance each that high lights two things. The first is that it is better by far than anything Dyer could have scripted, and that it illustrated how the concept of service to your country, and to your fellow man os enunciated by an American senior rating in a speech neither Dyer,( for all his supposing study of the best of the English Literature(, or for that mater any comparable English junior Oficer could ever dream of.