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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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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.

21 people found this helpful

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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...

10 people found this helpful

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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.

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  • Q
  • 31-08-17

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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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.

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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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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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Heartbreaking

Maclean makes Fact and Fiction work wonderfully together. To produce a book as thrilling, exciting and fun, as it is saddening and thought provoking.

This is as close as we'll ever get to understanding what those men went through, and we'll still never come close to appreciating what they did.

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vivid

wonderful performance of an absolute thriller. explores the limits of human endurance. The narrative can be bleak in parts

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The cold in your bones

Great performance. A story to make you comprehend the level of sacrifice and commitment of a now almost invisible generation. I wish with all my soul that the young generation of today could try, try to understand what that generation did for us all. At times you'll need a stout pullover, a scarf and a hot mug of tea to see you through.

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  • Brian67
  • 15-04-17

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.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Morton T Saunders JR
  • 21-10-18

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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  • John W. Snell
  • 11-02-21

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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  • Ben Strandberg
  • 15-11-19

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • katharine potter
  • 27-08-19

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 19-09-20

great sea story!

expertly written to the smallest detail, I could literally feel the cold. very well performed.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-06-20

Great Narrator

One of the rare instances where the narrator is better than the story. I found myself thinking of my English teacher’s distinction between “pathos” & “bathos” @ points in this story when hey, it wasn’t bad enough, the author threw something else in. So while it was good it wasn’t great.

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  • F.D.P.
  • 31-05-20

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.

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  • Jenny
  • 18-05-20

Good read

I thought it was a good story. however the ending did get to me a bit. It's definitely not your generic storyline.

great narrator no complaints.

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  • John
  • 07-06-19

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.