The Arctic convoys, which took much needed supplies from North America and Britain to their besieged Russian ally in World War II, were brutally dangerous. Between the Arctic weather, the cold seas, and the German U-boats and bombers, many ships were lost. As HMS Ulysses opens, the crew are mutinous, having endured more than a year of such relentless conditions with far too little rest. They have to put to sea again, to escort one more convoy. This will be the worst trip of all, as bad weather, ill chance, and the Germans subs and planes exact an awful toll on the convoy.
MacLean himself spent a year on the Arctic convoys, so it was fitting that he would write his first novel about that time. The book is harrowing: crisis after crisis hammers down upon them: people die, other ships die. They can’t go back, there’s nowhere to hide, so on they must go, at terrible cost.