The Last Ship
|The Last Ship|
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Country||United States of America|
|Publisher||Viking Press (hardcover)
Ballantine Books (paperback)
|Publication date||March 1988|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-670-80981-0 (hardcover)
ISBN 0-345-35982-8 (paperback)
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 19|
|LC Classification||PS3503.R56175 L37 1988|
The Last Ship tells the story of a United States Navy guided missile destroyer, the fictional USS Nathan James (DDG-80), on patrol in the Barents Sea during a brief, full-scale nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It details the ship's ensuing search for a new home for her crew.
The story is told in a first-person point of view by the ship's commanding officer, whose full name is never revealed, although it is later revealed that his first name is Thomas. Thomas is writing this account several months after the war in order to describe the odyssey of his Norwegian-homeported ship, the USS Nathan James (DDG-80), the lead ship of her class, during the wake of the conflict's aftermath.
The captain of the USS Nathan James (DDG-80), Thomas, begins by describing his ship to the reader. His ship, named after an American naval hero from World War II, is a nuclear-powered guided missile destroyer, and is armed with nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles. He discusses the ethics of command, of a warship, of nuclear strike forces, life aboard a U.S. Navy ship in the Arctic Circle, and the nature of his ship's mission. He recounts how, one December day, without warning, he received authenticated orders to carry out a nuclear strike on the Soviet city of Orel and its nearby ICBM silos. He then explains that after carrying out the mission and reporting the fact to his superiors, a reply from the U.S. Navy became hopelessly garbled halfway through the message. With one exception later in the book, this was the last official communication from the U.S. Navy that the Nathan James ever received.
Thomas then decides to head southward into the North Sea, and then to the United Kingdom, in order to re-establish contact with friendly forces. The ship encounters dense clouds of radioactive smoke, through which can be seen the ruins of London. Thomas then reverses course and heads for the open sea in order to escape the radiation. In the following months, the ship's crew discovers that the radioactive cloud hovers around all land masses that the Nathan James approaches, rendering them uninhabitable.
The ship soon encounters a Soviet Navy ballistic missile submarine, the Pushkin, off a destroyed Gibraltar. The two vessels quickly establish a truce, and agree to a joint operation. The Pushkin, fully fueled but low on food, will attempt to reach a secret Soviet supply base in the Arctic and retrieve supplies and nuclear fuel for the Nathan James, while the U.S. Navy destroyer, relatively well-stocked with food but low on nuclear fuel, will make her way to the Pacific Ocean in search of habitable land for the two crews.
As the Nathan James steams through the Mediterranean Sea, it encounters lifeless derelicts, inhospitable lands, and ill, wounded survivors who have made their way to the coasts, though the ship lacks the resources to offer any aid to the stricken civilians. Eventually the Nathan James receives a message from the National Command Authority ordering all recipients to reply, they do so, but the message keeps repeating again and again, and they conclude its just an automated transmission. Based on his knowledge of the Soviet Union's targeting of North America as well as what he has seen of Europe, Thomas, along with most of the ship's officers, concludes that the United States has simply ceased to exist and that what remains of North America is uninhabitable. He thus decides to proceed to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Suez canal.
However, the ship's Combat Systems Officer (CSO) believes that parts of North America may still be habitable, and he demands that the ship return to the east coast so that they can see for themselves. The captain tries to keep the CSO in line, but he challenges the captain's authority when he reminds him that the United States Navy (under which Thomas is legally bestowed as captain of the vessel), no longer exists, meaning Thomas is no longer in lawful command. He demands a vote on the correct course of action. Thomas, angered at this mutiny, allows a vote thinking the CSO has little support, but he is shocked when nearly a third of the crew side with the CSO. This mutineers demand rafts and the captain's gig in order to sail thousands of miles to the United States. With a mixture of sadness and outrage, Thomas agrees, and the mutineers depart.
In the following weeks, the ship travels through treacherous seas in the Indian Ocean as nuclear winter begins to take full effect with dramatic temperature drops and black snow at the equator. They eventually reach the remote South Pacific and, with fuel nearly gone, discovers a small, uncontaminated island in French Polynesia.
The ship's crew then establishes a community on the island, and they begin to try to conceive children in order to start to repopulate humanity, but no pregnancies occur. They worry that the radiation of the nuclear winter may have rendered everyone sterile.
Some time later, the Pushkin, which had lost contact with the Nathan James months earlier, arrives, its crew on the verge of starvation, but bearing an abundance of nuclear fuel. Now the Nathan James is at last free to sail again, keeping the island as its home base. But then a new disaster strikes; a group of the ship's sailors, abhorring the remaining nuclear missiles aboard the ship, launches them without his permission. But one of the missiles accidentally detonates while in flight, triggering a chain reaction among all of the missiles, destroying the Nathan James and contaminating the island. Thomas, his remaining crew, and the Soviet crew immediately embark aboard the Pushkin to escape, beginning a new search for another sanctuary, eventually reaching the American research facility at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, abandoned but containing years' worth of food and supplies.
The Pushkin is modified during their escape with jettisoning their nuclear missiles into the ocean so they could use the freed space in the silos for a recreational area and a nursery, and the introduction of the Soviet crew (who were much less affected by radioactive fallout due to the superior protection offered by the submarine) into the American selective breeding program has resulted in at least three pregnancies by the novel's end. The Pushkin has the fuel and food from McMurdo to conduct long, thorough explorations of the world, and thus it is the Soviet submarine, and not the USS Nathan James that is the "last ship."
The novel ends on a hopeful note, as the well-provisioned survivors prepare to rediscover the world.
In July 2012, the American cable television network TNT ordered a pilot episode of a series based on the novel. The series will be produced by Platinum Dunes Partners with Michael Bay, Hank Steinberg, and Steven Kane serving as executive producers. Steinberg and Kane wrote the pilot script, and Jonathan Mostow is set to direct the pilot. The adaptation varies significantly from the original novel. In addition to being set in the early part of the first half of the 21st century, the world wide devastation of mankind is the result of a pandemic which the crew must find a cure and not the result of nuclear warfare between superpowers. Subsequent scenes will include a supply officer who is known as the "Senator". The pilot is being filmed at a number of locations across San Diego including aboard the USS Halsey (DDG-97), which is standing in for the show's fictional USS Nathan James (DDG-151). The former cruise liner RMS Queen Mary, now berthed at Long Beach, will also be used extensively.[not in citation given] The show will star Michaela McManus, Adam Baldwin, Charles Parnell, Travis Van Winkle, and Christina Elmore, along with British actors Sam Spruell and Rhona Mitra. Eric Dane is set to play the commanding officer of the USS Nathan James, Captain Tom Chandler.
In May 2013, TNT ordered 10 episodes of The Last Ship, set to air sometime in mid-2014. TNT is negotiating with the U.S. Navy to use San Diego-based destroyers for the filming of the first series. Site and location surveys onboard the USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) will commence soon after approval is received.
- "The Last Ship (TV 2013) - IMDb". IMDb. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Brinkley, William (February 1989). The Last Ship (Paperback ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. p. 21. ISBN 0345359828. "USS Nathan James, DDG 80, guided missile destroyer, first of her class,"
- Webb, Justin L. (November 9, 2012). "Naval Base San Diego; USS Halsey featured in "The Last Ship"". United States Navy. Department of Defense. Retrieved April 15, 2013. "Production crews completed nearly two weeks of filming for the pilot episode of "The Last Ship", executive produced by Michael Bay, onboard Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) and the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) Nov. 2."
- Andreeva, Nellie (September 12, 2012). "Jonathan Mostow To Direct Michael Bay’s TNT Pilot ‘The Last Ship’". Retrieved September 30, 2012.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (July 16, 2012). "TNT Orders Pilot of 'The Last Ship' Executive-Produced by Michael Bay". Zap2it. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Berkshire, Geoff (October 10, 2012). "Eric Dane's 'Grey's Anatomy' rebound: Starring in Michael Bay's TNT pilot 'The Last Ship'". Retrieved October 12, 2012.
- Ausiello, Michael (October 10, 2012). "Pilot Scoop: Grey's Anatomy's Eric Dane to Captain TNT Action Drama The Last Ship". Retrieved October 12, 2012.
- TNT Digital (May 10, 2013). "TNT's Official 'The Last Ship' Site". Retrieved May 14, 2013.
- TNT Digital (May 10, 2013). "TNT's Official 'The Last Ship' Site". Retrieved May 14, 2013.
- "Michael Bay's The Last Ship Picked Up to Series at TNT". Deadline. May 2013.
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