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Dragon in the Sea

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In the twenty-first century, the United States has all but used up its oil supply. A new source must be found. Our atomic subtugs begin stealing oil from underwater deposits in enemy territory. But none of the last twenty tugs sent to bring back the desperately needed mineral have returned. Ensign John Ramsey of the Bureau of Psychology is planted aboard the Fenian Ram S1881 as an electronics officer. His assignment: find the saboteur in the four-man crew and bring back the oil....
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The Dragon in the Sea

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In the twenty-first century, the United States has all but used up its oil supply. A new source must be found. Our atomic subtugs begin stealing oil from underwater deposits in enemy territory. But none of the last twenty tugs sent to bring back the desperately needed mineral have returned. Ensign John Ramsey of the Bureau of Psychology is planted aboard the Fenian Ram S1881 as an electronics officer. His assignment: find the saboteur in the four-man crew and bring back the oil.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a world of continual war between the East and the West, and dwindling oil supplies, John Ramsey has been hired to root out the spy aboard a small submarine. But as the submarine crew attempts to steal underwater oil supplies from the East, Ramsey’s determination to discover the spy is subverted by continual red herrings and a variety of psychological and biological effects that renders Ramsey and the rest of the crew physically and emotionally vulnerable. This 1956 novel was Herbert’s first published work, and it shows his early interest in clashing cerebral and physical backdrops and individuals as actors of larger epic and ideological battles. As usual, Scott Brick serves as a great narrator, using his emphasis and rhythm to elicit the stress and doubt among the crew with good vocal characterizations. His narrative voice complements Herbert’s prose to emphasize the claustrophobic elements of the submarine. A Tor paperback. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Not as science fictiony as Herbert's usual work, this title is more an action outing. Herbert's 1956 novel follows psychologist John Ramsey, who is assigned to observe secretly the crew of a type of nuclear sub designed to steal oil from underwater deposits. One crewman is a traitor sabotaging the missions. Ramsey, however, discovers the immense pressures they are under and how anyone can be affected.

—Michael Rogers
From the Publisher
"Brick slips easily into [Herbert's] harrowing futuristic world, narrating in a straightforward tone that ultimately makes the story all the more frightening." —-AudioFile
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765317742
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 385,660
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Herbert's most popular works are the well-known Dune books: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and the extraordinary bestseller God Emperor of Dune.

Scott Brick has recorded over five hundred audiobooks, has won over forty AudioFile Earphones Awards, and has twice received Audie Awards for his work on the Dune series. He has been proclaimed a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine as well as Publishers Weekly's 2007 Narrator of the Year.

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Read an Excerpt


The blonde WAVE secretary at the reception desk took the speaker cup of a sono-typer away from her mouth, bent over an intercom box.

“Ensign Ramsey is here, sir,” she said.

She leaned back, stared up at the redheaded officer beside her desk. His collar bore the zigzag of electronics specialist over the initials BP—Bureau of Psychology. He was a tall man, round-faced, with the soft appearance of overweight. Freckles spotted his pinkish face, giving him the look of a grown-up Tom Sawyer.

“The admiral’s usually a little slow answering,” said the receptionist.

Ramsey nodded, looked at the door beyond her. Gold lettering on a heavy oak panel: CONFERENCE ROOM—Sec. I. Security One. Above the clatter of office sounds, he could hear the tooth-tingling hum of a detection scrambler.

Through his mind passed the self-questionings he could never avoid, the doubts that had made him a psychologist: If they have a rough job for me, can I do it? What would happen if I turned it down?

“You can rest that here on the desk,” said the receptionist. She pointed to a black wooden box, about a foot on a side, which Ramsey carried under his left arm.

“It’s not heavy,” he said. “Maybe the admiral didn’t hear you the first time. Could you try again?”

“He heard me,” she said. “He’s busy with a haggle of braid.” She nodded toward the box. “Is that what they’re waiting for?”

Ramsey grinned. “Why couldn’t they be waiting for me?”

She sniffed. “Enough braid in there to founder a subtug. They should be waiting for an ensign. There’s a war on, mister. You’re just the errand boy.”

A wave of resentment swept over Ramsey. You insolent bitch, he thought. I’ll bet you don’t date anything less than a full commander. He wanted to say something biting, but the words wouldn’t come.

The receptionist returned the sono-typer cup to her mouth, went back to her typing.

I’ve been an ensign so long I’ll even take lip from a WAVE yeoman, he thought. He turned his back on her, fell to musing. What do they want with me? Could it be that trick on the Dolphin? No. Obe would have said. This might be important, though. It could be my big chance.

He heard the receptionist behind him take a sheet of paper from her machine, replace it.

If I got a big assignment and came back a hero, she’d be the kind who’d try to beat Janet’s time with me. The world’s full of ’em.

Why do they want me in Sec. I?

Obe had just said to bring the telemetering equipment for the remote-control vampire gauge and show up on the Sec. I doorstep at 1400. Nothing more. Ramsey glanced at his wrist watch. A minute to go.

“Ensign Ramsey?” A masculine voice sounded behind him. Ramsey whirled. The conference-room door stood open. A gray-haired line captain leaned out, hand on door. Beyond the captain, Ramsey glimpsed a long table strewn with papers, maps, pencils, overflowing ash trays. Around the table sat uniformed men in heavy chairs, almost like fixtures. A cloud of blue tobacco smoke hung over the scene.

“I’m Ensign Ramsey.”

The captain glanced at the box under Ramsey’s arm, stepped aside. “Will you come in, please?”

Ramsey skirted the reception desk, entered the room. The captain closed the door, indicated a chair at the foot of the table. “Sit there, please.”

Where’s the boss? Ramsey wondered. His gaze darted over the room; then he saw Obe: a hollow-cheeked little civilian, straggly goatee, thin bird features, seated between two burly commodores like a prisoner under guard. The little civilian’s radiation-blinded eyes stared straight ahead. The mound of a radar bat-eye box atop one shoulder gave him a curious unbalanced appearance.

Ramsey sat down in the chair indicated, allowed himself an inward chuckle at the thought of the two commodores guarding Dr. Richmond Oberhausen, director of BuPsych. Obe could reduce them to quivering jelly with ten words.

The captain who had admitted Ramsey took a chair well down the table. Ramsey moved his black box to his lap, noted eyes following the movement.

Obe has briefed them on my little invention, he thought.

The hum of the detection scrambler was strong in the room. It made Ramsey’s teeth ache. He closed his eyes momentarily, blanked off the pain, opened his eyes, stared back at the men examining him. He recognized several of the faces.

Very high braid.

Directly opposite at the other end of the table sat Admiral Belland, ComSec, the high mogul of Security, a steely-eyed giant with hook nose, thin slit of a mouth.

He looks like a pirate, thought Ramsey.

Admiral Belland cleared his throat in a hoarse rumble, said, “This is the ensign we’ve been discussing, gentlemen.”

Ramsey’s eyebrows went up a notch. He looked to Dr. Oberhausen’s impassive face. The BuPsych chief appeared to be waiting.

“You know this ensign’s Security rating,” said Belland. “It’s presumed we can talk freely in front of him. Would any of you care to ask him—”

“Excuse me, please,” Dr. Oberhausen arose from between the two commodores with a slow, self-assured movement. “I have not acquainted Mr. Ramsey with any of the particulars of this meeting. In view of the assignment we have in mind, it would appear more humane if we did not treat him like a piece of dry goods.” The sightless eyes turned toward Belland. “Eh, Admiral?”

Belland leaned forward. “Certainly, Doctor. I was just coming to that.”

The admiral’s voice carried a tone somewhere between fear and deference.

Ramsey thought: Obe is running this meeting pretty much as he wants, and without these birds being certain they’re outmaneuvered. Now, he probably wants me to pick up a cue and help him apply the clincher.

Dr. Oberhausen sank back into his chair with a stiff, stick-like gesture. A punctuation.

Belland’s chair rasped on the floor. He got to his feet, went to the side wall at his left, indicated a north-polar projection map. “Ensign Ramsey, we’ve lost twenty subtugs in these waters over the past twenty weeks,” he said. He turned to Ramsey altogether like a schoolteacher about to propound a problem. “You’re familiar with our pressing need for oil?”

Familiar? Ramsey restrained a wry smile. Through his mind sped the almost interminable list of regulations on oil conservation: inspections, issuance forms, special classes, awards for innovations. He nodded.

The admiral’s bass rumble continued: “For almost two years now we’ve been getting extra oil from reservoirs under the marginal seas of the Eastern Powers’ continental shelf.” His left hand made a vague gesture over the map.

Ramsey’s eyes widened. Then the rumors were true: the sub services were pirating enemy oil!

“We developed an underwater drilling technique working from converted subtugs,” said Belland. “A high-speed, low-friction pump and a new type of plastic barge complete the general picture.”

The admiral’s mouth spread into what he probably imagined as a disarming grin. It succeeded only in making him appear even more piratical. “The boys call the barge a slug, and the pump is a mosquito.”

Dutiful chuckles sounded through the room. Ramsey smiled at the forced response, noted that Dr. Oberhausen maintained his reputation as Old Stone Face.

Admiral Belland said, “A slug will carry almost one hundred million barrels of oil. The EPs know they’re losing oil. They know how, but they can’t always be sure of where or when. We’re outfoxing them.” The admiral’s voice grew louder. “Our detection system is superior. Our silencer planes—”

Dr. Oberhausen’s brittle voice interrupted him. “Everything we have is superior except our ability to keep them from sinking us.”

The admiral scowled.

Ramsey picked up his cue, entered the breach. “What was the casualty percentage on those twenty subtugs we lost, sir?”

An owl-faced captain near Belland said dryly, “Of the last twenty missions, we lost all twenty.”

Copyright © 1956 by Herbert Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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  • Posted March 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    No man is proof against himself.  Like many, I¿ve been in love w

    No man is proof against himself. 
    Like many, I’ve been in love with Frank Herbert ever since I read the Sci-fi classic Dune. After I finished that masterwork, and all of its’ sequels, I gradually expanded to his lesser known, harder to find novels.
    This one, much to my surprise, turns out to be an excellent underwater tale about submariners in a time of war. This was written in the 50’s and is dedicated to the first crews of atomic submarines, obviously of interest to Herbert and to myself. I was pleasantly surprised at how technical and believable this story is, the intrigue and distrust between the main characters is especially interesting. If you too have an enormous love of the movie Crimson Tide, you should be all over this.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a reprint of a 1956 thriller

    One of the five members of the Hell Diver subtug crew is a saboteur. Psychologist John Ramsay is assigned to join the team, as they steal oil from Cold War adversaries by tugging their purloined liquid black gold loot under water his task is to uncover the identity of the traitor. He somewhat fears being well over a mile under the water while on this mission because if exposed he will be dead.----------------- However, although he watches intently, the mission is in peril from the sabotage damage caused by one of them, but John remains unsure who he is. Soon he and three other crewmen are in trouble with no place to hide as the enemy has them in his sights. If they survive against this ruthless relentless stalker, John and the other three remain ¿Under Pressure¿ from the strength of the ocean that pounds away at their tin can. To live they must work as a team, but no one trusts anyone else as phobias bubble to surfaces of their minds.------------------- This is a reprint of a 1956 thriller that seems timelier now than it did during the height of the Cold War with the concept of the morally superior West stealing oil from the East. The tale is about a covert operation reminiscent of the Bush invasion in which administration officials helped sell the war besides 9/11 links with the belief cheap easy access oil was around the corner once Iraq became a democracy. Although none of the crew, even the hero, seems much more than action figures, fans will appreciate Frank Herbert¿s deep look at societal ethics.---------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2009

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