Red Rabbit – Tom Clancy

A somewhat enjoyable story of a young Jack Ryan, also featuring the Foleys during their time in Moscow. Not nearly as “big” a story as most of Clancy’s novels. It seems a bit “Clancy by numbers”; in other words what you’d expect him to write with regards to subject matter and type of story, but without any of the great qualities of his earlier works. Despite its flaws, I nonetheless liked this tale of a defection from the Soviet Union. Still, Clancy has shown many times that he can do better than this.

 

The Bear and the Dragon – Tom Clancy

A return to form for Clancy after the lackluster Rainbow Six, this novel nevertheless struck me as pretty formulaic. It was very cool, though, to see military cooperation between Russia and the United States. I enjoyed this one a lot. Watch for Pavel Petrovich Gogol, a very cool guy.

Rainbow Six – Tom Clancy

A step away from Jack Ryan, although he still lurks in the background. Unfortunately, this novel marks a decided slump in the quality of Clancy’s writing. There is nothing wrong with the story, although I found the motivation of the bad guys a bit too James Bond’ish. I just did not feel a compelling need to finish the book. It was a bit dull, especially compared to earlier Clancy are. You won’t miss anything by skipping directly to The Bear and the Dragon.

Some say that he does not write anymore, but only oversees a staff. I don’t know about that. My opinion is that this novel was written mainly as a selling vehicle for the computer games series released around the same time by Clancy’s games company Red Storm. The Rainbow Six games are very much about the counter-terrorism unit depicted in the novel.

The Sum of All Fears

Jack Ryan brokers peace in the middle east and discovers that nuclear weapons in the wrong hands can be dangerous. Solid Clancy, and I especially like how he is not afraid to blow big stuff up just because it happens to sit in the continental United States.

The movie, although quite good, changes the story significantly and does not really reflect the breadth of the novel.

Without Remorse – Tom Clancy

In this novel, Clancy takes a step back in time to tell the story of how John Clark became… Well, how he became John Clark. Solid stuff, but not Mr. Clancy’s best work.

Red Storm Rising – Tom Clancy

The fact that it had “been done” did not scare Tom Clancy when he wrote this novel about an attach on Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact. It is pure technothriller with a very heavy military element. Masterfully written and very hard to put down.

Chains of Command – Dale Brown

Pretty bland fare for a technothriller. The plot is just a bit too incredible and the author needs to get a better map of Europe in order to distinguish between Slovenia and Slovakia. So why did I read it? Lots and lots of aviation candy in, especially concerning about overlooked strike and bomber planes like the F-111. If you’re not into aviation, don’t bother with this one.

Debt of Honor and Executive Orders – Tom Clancy

An older Jack Ryan moves upwards in the chain of command. Debt of Honor is nowaday subtitled “The prelude to Executive Orders”. I think this does it a tremendous disservice. Although it does end in the middle of the story, it is a fully fleshed out novel in it’s own right, and raises some interesting questions about the future of the Pacific region.

Executive Orders is my favorite Clancy. Its amazing mix of high level politics, forced change at the highest levels of the US governemnt (wishful thinking by Clancy, but I do agree with his views on this one) and of course excellent military action make this a book to read over and over.

Clear and Present Danger – Tom Clancy

Jack Ryan moves to the top floor of the CIA, and has to deal with some thorny internal politics as well as the dangers of “the real world”. The small unit action descriptions and the helicopter stuff is amazing. Also very good are the internal tribulations of our hero, who finds that people can be quite ruthless when in power. In the end, however, his integrity is his strength. A great read.

Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October – Tom Clancy

Patriot Games was written second, but chronologically the events portrayed occur before The Hunt for Red October. These two novels kicked off a series that continues today, and remain among the best technothrillers ever written. The true passion that Clancy has for his subject matter shows through, and his strong personal belief in the values portrayed by Jack Ryan, widely considered to be his fictional alter ego, make these books among the best I have read,

These are also two of my favorite movies. The films follow the novels quite closely. Of course they abridge, but the essence of the stories is there.

The Last Centurion – John Ringo

This near future novel starts with a major plague that wipes out over half the planet’s population. Then there’s global cooling as the Earth enters a mini ice age. Our hero Bandit Six, who tells the story from a first person perspective, is a US Army Captain with a farming background. He becomes stuck in Iran (invaded by the US before the story started) with one company of infantry guarding an enormous amount of supplies left behind as US forces pull out. Meanwhile, the US is crumbling due to the global disasters and inept political leadership. Bandit Six has to pull of a heroic extraction of his men to get back to civilization, but he becomes more than that. A symbol of hope in a “time of suckage”.

Right up front, I should tell you that this novel is right-wing, very pro-America, racist (but only if you misinterpret it), anti-liberal, pro-military and littered with the f-word. Bandit Six tells the story in the first person, using a blog style tone. In your face doesn’t even begin to cover it. Bandit Six is old school conservative (not the same as “modern Republican”). He truly believes in good old Americans and good old American know how and perseverance. He believes that people should be treated like adults and not be coddled. Liberals, the press and  “tofu-eaters” (organic food eaters who don’t want to know where their food comes from) are roundly criticized for being short sighted and just plain stupid. Now, I may not be as right wing as Bandit Six, but I have a hard time disagreeing with most of what he says. His theses are well argued. He is right about a lot of things. Ringo does his usual great job of using dry humor to tell a story. And it is a very good story. Gripping, exciting, humorous despite the enormous tragedy and suffering suffusing it. The Centurion metaphor, setting America as the new Rome, a beacon of civilization in a barbarian world, with the military defending it, is well done. Even if you don’t agree with the book’s views, do read it. The salient points are better argued than what you will hear on the conservative news or by conservative politicians. That alone makes it worth it.

Much of the story is based on Xenophon’s account of the “Ten Thousand” and their march back to Greece in 401-399 BC.