Pinback’s World o’ Subs II
March 12th, 2009 by Pinback

ICJ’s note: the year is 2009, and Pinback has taken to finding everything he can on submarine games. Why? I think the idea has always appealed to him because it combines so many things that he enjoys. The open water. Piloting things. Hiding from those who seek to do him harm until such time that it’s possible to sneak up on them and destroy them. These are things which I definitely think define Benjamin ‘Pinback’ Parrish, and why the idea of a sub game had always struck his fancy. 

ICJ’s note II: GOD it’s annoying to hear people talking like they are British all of a sudden. 


NAME: The Ice Diaries 
AUTHOR: William R. Anderson 

This book is the true story of one of, if not the coolest things that have ever happened. In 1958, Captain Anderson took Nautilus, the world’s first NUCLEAR FUCKING SUBMARINE, and sailed THROUGH THE FUCKING ARCTIC OCEAN, right underneath the FUCKING NORTH POLE. Nothing evercould be as cool as that! The coolness factor of that eclipses by far the coolness of everything else that has ever happened! So, I have to give the book a positive review, just for telling this story, and for spelling all the words right and not making any truly offensive grammatical mistakes. 

But what this really is, is a love letter from Anderson, to… well, seemingly to everyone who has ever existed who had anything to do with the Nautilus, submarines, the Navy, water, or anything else consisting of molecules composed of hydrogen and oxygen. His lavish buttkissing knows no bounds, and nobody escapes from its radius in this book, from President Eisenhower all the way down to the lowliest, blackest ship’s cook. A sample passage which I will now make up, but which summarizes perfectly the tone of the book, goes: 


After meeting with the exec in the officer’s mess, we headed aft to check on the periscope repairs. While making our way there, we passed our new torpedoman, Geoffrey J. Blarghsman, who I could tell had something to say to me, but was perhaps too intimidated to voice unprovoked. “What is it, son?” “Sir, you… you have a little bit of mustard right… right there on your cheek, sir.”  

I will never forget his remarkable display of courage and professionalism on that day, and feel proud and honored to have served with Blarghsman, who went on to retire a three-star Admiral.” 


And it’s all very nice, and heartfelt, and I’m sure all the people involved with Nautilus (who according to the book were the bestest, most flawless, wonderful people ever to live) will smile broadly while reading it. 

But the dude sailed a FUCKING SUBMARINE underneath the FUCKING ARCTIC, for fuck’s sake! Let’s get to that! Let’s get to the nitty gritty!! What’s it like to be submerged for days on end, 400 feet below a 100-foot layer of ice!! Let me taste the fear! Let me lick up the sweat of excitement that permeated every second of the voyage! 

Well, there’s some of that, but you have to hunt for it in between hearing about how everything and everyone in the whole Navy is totally the best, most perfect gift from Lord Baby Jesus that has ever been. 

So, you know. Great story. Okay book. It has some good pictures, too. SPOILER: Anderson dies at the end, right before the book is published. 

RATING: Two and Three-Quarters Stars



NAME: Bacalao 
AUTHOR: J.T. McDaniel 

This is a fictional account of the boat “Bacalao”, from its construction before the war started to the end of the war. You can tell this book was written by a sub historian, because more than any of the books I’d read previously, this one is dense with exacting descriptions of the construction and operation of a WW2 sub, down to seemingly every dial, wire, valve, pump, or tank on the thing. If you are looking for a breezy novel you can just zip through, surfing through page after page of non-stop, dumbed-down action, this is not it. If you are a sub junkie, though, and want to get as far down into the nuts and bolts as possible, give it a go. 

The book takes less pains with its human protagonists, though I was pleased to note that this is the first sub novel I’ve read where none of the characters are ridiculously idiotic, obnoxious, 2-dimensional, or irritating. While they’re basically only in the book to move the story about the subs and ships along, they all act like reasonable people and did not detract from the enjoyment of seeing how the sub was really operated. 

One surprise is that, up until the rather anticlimactic finale, Bacalao — unlike boats in lots of other sub books/movies — actually does pretty well, despite page upon page devoted to getting across how much their torpedoes sucked. A novel approach, but one which lessens some of the dramatic tension. You keep waiting for something horrible to happen, or for them to endure an impossible counterattack by Japanese destroyers, but… in general, they just float around kicking ass (when the torpedoes work). I didn’t mind this too much, as the descriptions of how they kicked ass were fascinating, and made me want to fire up SHIV again and try some of those tactics. 

A fine book! 

RATING: Three and a Quarter Stars


NAME: Real Fleet Boat 
TYPE: Silent Hunter IV mod
TIME SPENT WITH: A few hours 

So once you really get into SHIV, you’re introduced to the Modding Community. Apparently there are many many SHIV mods, done mostly by people who had earlier versions and wanted the damn thing to work right. But another group of hardcore historians set out to make mods which would make the simulation as perfectly realistic as possible, given the limits of the gaming engine. 

One of the most popular “supermods” is called Reel Fleet Boat, and is a compilation of seemingly hundreds of individual mods, all coming together to transform SHIV into a completely new, and terribly realistic WWII sub simulator. 

Mainly what I noticed at first was that the sun graphic was nicer. But I had two weeks of otherwise uneventful Pacific transit before anything interesting happened, so I had a lot of time to stare at the sun graphic, which is not nearly as painful — in my experience, anyway — as staring into the real one. 

Other noticeable nods to realism were that the sounds are upgraded, the voices say things more in line with what I’ve read in books (see rest of thread), and other nice little touches like additional key commands and restructuring of the toolbar menus to make the game easier to operate. 

I completed my mission and then set about patrolling the area, to give the new combat system a workout — a system which was more closely supposed to reflect the actual conditions on an American WWII sub off the coast of Japan in late 1941, including raising torpedo unreliability to a realistic level. And if I’ve learned anything by reading books about the period, I’ve learned that until about 1943, the torpedoes completely blew chunks. 

Anyway, in the dark of night, I get a sound reading — a lone merchant (rare sight in these waters), bearing 290, about 4500 yards ahead. It’s the middle of the night, and he has no escorts, so there’s really no reason to submerge. I put engines full ahead and maneuver around for an ideal targeting situation. 

SHIV offers manual targeting, which is the only “real” way to play — figuring out firing solutions and angles is much of the bulk of the challenge of the game, and letting the computer do it all for you turns it into little more than a very slowly paced arcade game. I admit I am not the best at it yet. My first salvo of three torpedoes, set for a 10-degree spread, missed wildly ahead of the target. I had underestimated the target’s height, and overestimated its speed. 

With one more torpedo left in the forward hatch, I line up again, set the values to more accurate levels, and let the fish go. I switch into external viewing mode, just for the joy of seeing the torpedo draw it’s perfectly angled wake through the water, right abeam the target’s bridge. As it ran directly into the target’s port fairwater, I braced for the joyous cacaphony of impact. And then… nothing. “Torpedo is a dud, sir!” 

Alright, I guess that’s realistic. 

I swing about quickly to bring my two stern tubes to bear on the lucky-ass merch. A quick bearing reading and angle-on-bow estimate, and off they went! 

And off they went, right past the ship. I must learn how to do that better. Nuts! 

The fore torpedo tubes are still reloading, so I while away the time pummelling the ship with my deck gun. I have no real hope that the artillery will sink her, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. 

With tubes 1 and 2 reloaded, I swing around and prepare for another run. I won’t be so careless this time. 

I let the first fish go from tube 1 and switch to external mode again. This is a work of art. It streamed directly on course to hit at the exact midpoint of the ship on its starboard side. Once again I braced… 

And once again… “The torpedo is a dud, sir!” 

Now this is getting a little too realistic. Pissed off, I snap off #2. I’m only 300 yards from the target now, so when this one fails to explode, I’m not as pissed, since even in the stock game, you have to give the torpedoes about 500 yards to run before they arm themselves. I was desperate, though. 

More artillery, while I wait for the stern tubes to reload for one last, desperate try. 

They load, and I swing around, putting the Luckiest Man Alive directly astern. Now he’s zigging and zagging, about 1500 yards away, so with one last burst of hate, I try to anticipate his next zig, and snap off the two stern fish, manually setting them to turn about 10 degrees left of where they were aimed, assuming he was going to turn into them. 

The second fish was going to miss wildly to port, but the first one was destined for greatness. If everything held up, it was going to smack right into the port-side bow of the retreating vessel, surely enough to put down the artillery-ridden hulk. 

I once again went to external view to savor the torpedo’s last couple hundred yards. It was going to hit. The merch’s luck couldn’t hold out any longer. There it goes… 

“Torpedo is a dud, sir!” 




One Response  
  • Ice Cream Jonsey writes:
    March 12th, 20092:52 amat

    I tried for fifteen minutes to get the line breaks right for the three reviews. POSTING LINE BREAKS IN WORDPRESS IS A DUD, SIR!

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