Title:                  The Bear and the Dragon

Author:                 Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (2000). The Bear and the Dragon. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    00056499

PS3553.L245 B42 2000b


Date Updated:  April 10, 2015

This is a BookReporter review.[1]

When all is said and done, at the end of the day, when the dog has been let out and the kids have been put to bed and the cats have been force-fed their fur balls back at ‘em, I get just a bit tired of the mental midgets who knock Tom Clancy. Yes, his books are long. There is a reason for this. He uses a pinpoint brush on a broad, expansive canvas. It’s all in the details. That takes words, words take pages. And the author needs talent to keep readers interested through (in the case of The Bear And The Dragon) 1100-plus pages.

Clancy has tons of details, as many pages as he wants, talent out the kazoo, and interested readers by the country load. And it’s the readers, as Clancy recently informed a rudely stupid pundit on nationwide television a couple of weeks ago (hint: the talking head’s name sounds like “Brat Liar”), that Clancy cares about.

Clancy’s novels succeed on several levels. Jack Ryan—that’s President Jack Ryan—is worthy of his title. Here is a guy who doesn’t wonder what the definition of “is” is, knows how to handle reporters, and has enough sense of who he is and what his priorities should be and what his responsibilities are that he wouldn’t, say, keep a head of state waiting while he was satisfying his curiosity about whether the carpet matched the curtains with a fetching intern. He’s a real President. And a real hero. What a concept.

Then there is Clancy’s penchant for details. I know, I know, I unfortunately have reached the stage in my life where if there are more than a half-dozen principals in a novel I am flipping back and forth to figure out who is what. But you can’t write a book that spans three continents and umpteen different levels of government in each one and have three characters controlling the action. And where you have people, you have things happening, and you have details.

Clancy forgets nothing and accounts for everything. And when you leave one of his books, you feel like you know the characters you’ve just met. You also feel as if you have read an account of actual events, rather than a work of fiction. Then there’s the action. There is drama and nobility and pathos and suspense and everything that you would want in an action/adventure novel, and in a Tom Clancy novel.

The Bear And The Dragon demonstrates the true, unplumbed depth of Clancy’s talent. It never lags and never disappoints. Things start out with a bang when persons unknown try to take out the head of the former KGB, now SVR, with a rocket-propelled grenade. And there is no lack of suspects for the deed. Jack Ryan, settling in somewhat uneasily after an American electorate throws off the yoke of complacency and elects him President (this is, after all, a work of fiction), lends FBI support to the Russians for their investigation. Surprise: the Red Chinese are behind it.

The Chinese, the “Dragon” to the Russian “Bear” in The Bear And The Dragon, have their chestnuts in the fire. Their economy is a shambles and dissent rears its head from within. Worst of all, the Red Chinese have to deal with a U. S. President who won’t unilaterally give away the farm (again, this is a work of fiction). Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Red Chinese accordingly launch a two-pronged plan: destabilize the Russian government and prepare to invade Siberia—where gold, of both the solid yellow type and the black viscous stuff known as oil, have recently been discovered.

Nothing goes as planned, however. A Chinese woman, seeking to avoid the government-sanctioned murder of her unborn child, appeals to a missionary for assistance. As it happens, the missionary is accompanied by the Papal Nuncio at the time. When the religious leaders are accidentally shot while trying to protect the child, chaos erupts. President Ryan acts of principle, calls off the trade talks, and announces financial embargoes in the face of saber-rattling from Red China and criticism from the American press. Ryan, showing a level of testosterone undreamed of in a US leader since the 1980s, refuses to back down. At the same time, he begins receiving intelligence information about China’s move against Russia. Ryan confers with his counterpart in Russia, and then the fun really begins!

The Bear And The Dragon is 100 per cent pure Clancy. It has everything, including the kitchen sink and all of the utensils. And it will last you until the next Clancy novel. It is a gem of a book from an author who has become one of our national treasures.

[1] Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011 at the BookReporter site.

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