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HMS Ulysses  By  cover art

HMS Ulysses

By: Alistair MacLean
Narrated by: Jonathan Oliver
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Publisher's Summary

The novel that launched the astonishing career of one of the 20th century's greatest writers of action and suspense - an acclaimed classic of heroism and the sea in World War II.

The story of men who rose to heroism, and then to something greater, HMS Ulysses takes its place alongside The Caine Mutiny and The Cruel Sea as one of the classic novels of the navy at war.

It is the compelling story of Convoy FR77 to Murmansk - a voyage that pushes men to the limits of human endurance, crippled by enemy attack and the bitter cold of the Arctic.

©1955 HarperCollins Publishers (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"A brilliant, overwhelming piece of descriptive writing." ( Observer)
"A story of exceptional courage which grips the imagination." ( Daily Telegraph)
"It deserves an honourable place among 20th-century war books." ( Daily Mail)
" HMS Ulysses is in the same class as The Cruel Sea." ( Evening Standard)

What listeners say about HMS Ulysses

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Amazing but heartbreaking and sad.

One of the most heartbreaking, saddest books I've ever read. The novel has stuck with me for over 50 years, reading it first at the age of 15 and now as an audiobook. I am fascinated by the nature of leadership, heroism, and our human response to extreme physical and psychological environments. Amundsen, Shackleton, and Bligh come to mind in listening to MacLean's imaginary Captain Vallery of the HMS Ulysses.

9 people found this helpful

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Riveting

I have listened and read many of Alistair MacLean’s books and this one tops it for character development set in a harrowing environment and time in history. Worth every second listening.

3 people found this helpful

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Magnificent...

Very pleased with this grand gift to myself. Look forward to listening again--soon... The narrator a true master of his art...

2 people found this helpful

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Suspenseful but bleak and unrealistic

I wanted to enjoy this book. I was looking forward to a thriller about the arctic convoys in WWII, which is a subject I'm somewhat knowledgeable about. Almost from the beginning though the story of HMS Ulysses felt not real. A mutiny on a Royal Navy cruiser during the war? Everyone involved would have been severely punished.

I don't want to give any spoilers which makes describing the rest of the book difficult. However, readers will probably realize that HMS Ulysses falls into the "everybody dies" category. As soon as you develop an affinity with a character, the story line changes. Perhaps that is the reason that this book was never filmed.

Even a plot like that might not be a big obstacle, but the events described during the escorting mission are far worse than anything experienced in reality by a convoy, even PQ-17 which was almost entirely destroyed. The characters are never more than caricatures. One doesn't get to know the eventual survivors in any detail.

2 people found this helpful

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Tepid military soap opera suffused with melodrama

Who knew there could be so much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching in a naval yarn. Elmore Leonard advised against starting a novel with the weather. This one never stops.

1 person found this helpful

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great book

The only complaint I have about this book is that at times it was hard to keep track of some of the characters.

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outstanding exposition of human frailty and resilience

rather than an arctic war adventure story, this is an examination of human beings under extreme circumstances, their frailties and courage. characters live and breathe, fail and rise above failure with fascinating motivations, clearly described with great understanding.

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Strong Book, Excellent Narration

I read this book back in 1985 and remembered liking it. I was a big MacLean fan back in those days. This book didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed it and particularly think the narration was excellent. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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It will stick with you...

I have read most of Maclean's works and really enjoyed most of them. Granted I read many of them as a much younger kid growing up in South Africa, but they were always exciting and so I was thrilled when they finally released the audio books here on Audible.

I jumped on HMS as it was the "good one" that I never read as I heard it was "different," and was the authors first major published book, so I knew it would not be typical. It wasn't.... That said, while not being typical Maclean, it is an exciting story and he paints a narrative of pure hell, pulled from his own naval experience it seems, and creates a great tribute to some very interesting times.

I think the biggest issues with this book is the narrator who tries hard to give personality to the crew, but has the wrong interpretation of the story. He reads many characters in a feeble tone of melancholy and characterizes the captain in a way that sounds like more like Margaret Rutherford of Miss Marple fame rather than a seasoned captain of war Granted he is ill and aging -but he's not delicate and with the melancholy hanging on every line of his and other characters, it taints the story in a way it shouldn't. These were tough people in hard conditions and they should be read as men and not as the disapointed crew of a pleasure cruise gone wrong.

Maclean does a good job of keeping the story pounding along and the tension mostly unrelenting but does digress at times, taking long character breaks that interrupts the tone. He assumes a fairly good understanding of naval ships of the time and various nautical terms that may lead the modern reader to hit Google. There are many pulse pounding scenes however that are described in such detail that they will stick in your minds eye long past the end of this book.

I wish there was a different narrator, but this is a good atypical Maclean adventure that will leave you breathless at times and sets riveting scenes making it well worth a listen outside of the usual context of his typically exciting and purely fictional thrillers.

1 person found this helpful

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Misery personified. INCREDIBLE story.

War was only half the battle. If you're looking for an engaging gem about WWII, this is it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amy
  • 09-14-17

Outstanding rendition

HMS Ulysses is, in my humble opinion, the greatest book ever written. I've read more books in my lifetime than I can recall and not one of the has the absolute, heart-rending power of this one.

Maclean produced something beyond that of most writers, of most people, in HMS Ulysses he made a story which grips you tightly from the first paragraph and never for one second lets go.

I still don't know who the main character is in this book; is it Vallery, Nicholls, Turner? Or is it the Ulysses herself? Either way it doesn't really matter, the semantics and structure of the book pale into insignificance compared with the subject itself.

I wasn't on the Atlantic convoys, I've never been to the Arctic, but HMS Ulysses describes both with the utmost clarity and depth. I feel cold when I read/listen to this book, I feel the snow and the ice and I hear the ship's crashing down into troughs between towering waves. Maclean was a master of description and I doubt he will ever be bettered.

I defy anyone not to cry when reading/listening to HMS Ulysses. To become so attached to characters we only meet for a few pages is bizarre, but become attached you do and each character death is more heart-breaking than the last. I sob my eyes out every single time, the book is so damned powerful.

I know others will disagree when I say this is the greatest book ever written and that's good, differing opinions are always interesting, but I personally think that HMS Ulysses is the one book that every single person should read at least once in their lifetime. Really properly read and understand, because it's the most powerful anti-war story I've ever seen. Nothing can touch it, it stands alone, in my opinion, at the very pinnacle of literary genius.

If you want to listen to a book that you will never forget, listen to HMS Ulysses. It is quite simply superb.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Steve
  • 04-06-17

Finally!!!! An unabridged version of this classic!

What made the experience of listening to HMS Ulysses the most enjoyable?

Although this is fiction the Arctic convoys to Murmansk really happened in WW2. I first read this book as a teenager and have always loved it. The book empersizes the harsh conditions and the extreme cold and whether conditions in the Arctic, and life on board HMS Ulysses, a cruiser and flagship of the escort force for Convoy FR77 to Murmansk North Russia. At times the story is very moving and you feel for the characters. Of all the books Alistair MacLean wrote this should have been a movie!!!!!

Who was your favorite character and why?

The ships Captain ' Captain Richard Vallery. He was a leader and he was empathetic to his crew

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The storm in the Arctic Ocean was very dramatic

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

If I could I would

Any additional comments?

Reading this as a teenager the book made me aware of the Convoys and the hell those crews went though and so many were lost to U boats and air attack. Again although HMS Ulysses is fiction the convoys and their escorts isn't. I like this as much as The Cruel Sea. The Merchant Seamen in these convoys even today are so unrecognised. Thank you Audable for releasing this Gem as an unabridged audio book as it should be listened to. The Abridged version is a waste of time...

12 people found this helpful

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  • Shuja Baig
  • 09-02-19

Sister ship to Babur, on which I served in '71

Enjoyed it thoroughly, as I had seen action on her sister ship Babur in '71. We too depressed our 5.25s during a submarine action.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Q
  • 08-31-17

Heartbreaking

One of the best stories I've ever hear brought me to tears at points and I felt ashamed
Gut wrenching all the young men in this kind of conflict show what real courage is
Thanks to MacLean what a writer
HEROs every last one
Q

2 people found this helpful

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  • alexander
  • 08-14-17

British navy as it really was in the 1940s

this story needs to be heard when sitting comfortably by a warm fire. it is about the cold and the north Atlantic when Russia needed Great Britain's help with fuel, tanks, etc to keep Germany on their side.

1 person found this helpful

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  • I WHITE
  • 08-07-17

Fantastic read.

I read this book over 50 years ago (when I could still see to read) I had forgotten what a great & exciting story it is! Starts off at a sprint & keeps going to the climatic finish. No time to get your breath. Alistair Maclean was a great loss to readers of all ages. If you like naval fiction, this is not one to miss!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lynne
  • 06-15-17

HMS Ulysses

Excellent reproduction of the novel. Jonathan Oliver's performance was first-rate, bringing all the characters to life.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrswal
  • 06-12-17

Best naval book I have read

He dragged it out in a couple of story lines but the descriptive narrative and way he got into the men's minds and fellowship were. Brilliant and finally he doesn't see the need to introduce a token mindless liason with the opposite sex

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tripper
  • 12-05-22

Brought to life

Having read the book many years ago, this audio version was excellent in bring the story to life - captivating till the end

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  • DRO
  • 11-23-22

HMS Unfortunate

If I were appointed to the ship I would have jumped overboard in Scapa. Superbly read and the descriptions vivid but the story has just too many disasters heaped one on top of the other, degrading the overall effect. I was looking forward to the end about two thirds of the way through Oh and there far too many Condors sent by the Germans. There were 276 built for all theatres during the entire War

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  • Mel Robinson
  • 09-28-22

Narration kills it for me can't finish

Narration kills it for me can't finish frustrated by the Narrators pitch & tone .

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  • Phil FNQ
  • 04-25-21

Brilliant Story - beautifully written

Extremely evocative of the tension, the cold and sheer horror of the Arctic convoys. Narrator excellent. Thoroughly recommend.

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  • Pete Shields
  • 03-20-21

Heroes all

Lest we forget. Who could ever forget these men. In God's hands. We must live for them now.

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  • Murray Lachlan Maclean
  • 03-11-21

Brilliant storytelling

When I was young, this story was too complex for my taste. As a (mature) adult, the brilliance of the storytelling, the imagery and the shear horror of life on board a warship in the worst conditions imaginable came to life. Highly recommended if you like seafaring tales in wartime.

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  • Steve Honeyman
  • 02-17-21

a ship steel and men of oak

a great story of struggle, redemption and the perils of war on the Russian convoy route.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-24-18

Great story

One of my favourite stories &have read it many times. Thank you for producing an unabridged version!
Excellent narration, cheers

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  • Ben M.
  • 05-28-17

A wonderful, stirring tale of its time.

For those interested in the Navy, and World War 2 in particular, you cannot do better than this marvellous story if the Murmansk run. Boldly written, and beautifully read.