Sea of Fire

Title:                      Sea of Fire

Author:                 Jeff Rovin

Rovin, Jeff (2003). Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Sea of Fire. New York: Berkley Books

LCCN:    2003611822

PS3553.L245 S43 2003


Date Updated:  June 23, 2015

The Op Center books all deal with the new technological threat to national security: a cyber attack.

In Sea of Fire, a half-dead Singapore pirate is plucked from the Celebes Sea in the Western Pacific, setting off alarms halfway around the world in Washington, D.C. Traces of radiation are found on the man, causing Australian officials to call in Op-Center for a top-secret investigation of nuclear disposal sites.

When an empty drum from a recent drop-off is discovered near where the pirate’s ship was destroyed, the Op-Center team comes to a terrifying conclusion: A multinational corporation hired to dispose of nuclear waste is selling it instead-to a most unlikely terrorist.

Executive Orders

Title:                      Executive Orders

Author:                  Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (1996). Executive Orders. New York: Putnam

LCCN:       96023388

PS3553.L245 E9 1996

Date Updated:      July 31, 2013

Tom Clancy makes me hurt—really hurt. I like his writing but he is so, so biased in presentation. Well, he is slanted away from me and I guess that is what hurts. I just don’t like his harping on what’s wrong with America. I will quote some from a New York Times review.

LOGLINE: The President, Congress and the Supreme Court are wiped out when a Japanese airline pilot turned terrorist crash-dives a 747 into the Capitol. The inexperienced Veep, Special Agent Jack Ryan, who had been sworn in only moments before the crash, is forced to take over the Presidency, fight the Iranians (who have launched an Ebola virus threat), declare martial law, prevent a bloody kidnapping attempt on his daughter and finally save the country.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, most of the book is about what’s wrong with America and how Jack Ryan can make it a better place (not the kind of place Oliver Stone would like). But the real problem is that Ryan has little to do here, and without his beating up Russians (The Hunt for Red October) or taking down Colombian drug lords (Clear and Present Danger), this will be a major disappointment for Clancy fans and is a DEFINITE PASS, pending of course a NEW SCRIPT. Then RECONSIDER.

So, what does Clancy have to say?

Inside every Tom Clancy novel is a thin Ian Fleming waiting to get out. Executive Orders makes the memoirs of Richard Nixon (1,120 pages) seem far more entertaining, if not as wacky. In inimitable Clancy fashion, Executive Orders would have us believe that Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford in two movies)—rogue C.I.A. agent, opponent of abortion rights, and what Oliver North always wanted to be—has temporarily become Vice President of the United States owing to a sex scandal involving his predecessor (Jack Ryan, I believe, has yet to experience an errant erection).

This of course allows Mr. Clancy, disguised as Ryan, to act out his innermost secret fantasy and become President for 874 pages. He gets not only to go after the Iranian “ragheads” (who have, incidentally, solved one problem by taking over Iraq) for launching the deadly Ebola virus against us, but also to recognize Taiwan, the better to stick it to the heirs of Mao Zedong, and along the way to turn the psychological tide on the evil Liberal Media Empire. (I must admit to wondering, What liberal media empire? In the 1970s, those tired of crime got Dirty Harry. In the 90s, when a jaded and disgusted pre-election citizenry is jumping to its feet when the White House is blown to smithereens in Independence Day, those tired of the whole exhausting media-soaked process get Jack Ryan.)

Clancy’s essential miscalculation is not allowing Jack Ryan, an action hero at heart, to stop telling others what to do as President and go out there and kick more butt, which is exactly what President Harrison Ford will do in his movie Air Force One. On this one, Clancy may for once be behind the Zeitgeist.

As usual, some of the Clancy plotting is fiendishly inventive, and he has a technically sharp command of the realistic detail, like the horrifying use of Ebola as an instrument of war rather than of nature. But the realism comes at the expense of the story’s flow, and here I must ask whether anyone actually “edits” Mr. Clancy, or for that matter whether there is any living workaholic who actually reads every cybernetic paragraph, with its obligatory expressions of grief, anger, fear and that little bit of love that in Clancy’s world can be taken to mean “responsibility.”

The book’s true spirit lies in its dedication to “Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States: The Man Who Won the War.” I am curious as to which war Mr. Clancy means– Grenada? Libya? Or the Bush wars of Panama and the Gulf? Surely I am not the only Vietnam veteran to have nightmares whenever the Tom Clancys of the world promote this reverential mythos of winning great wars, when in fact the proper analogy to our behavior as a nation comes from the backs of those magazines we read as kids, promising the 98-pound weakling that if you sent in 25 cents, you too could beat the living daylights out of the beach bully and grab the girl. Has no one noticed that in our movies and our popular culture, we have become the beach bully? Since when did Stallone the cartoon cross over and become a national symbol? How has the ideology and demagoguery of Nixon and McCarthy entered and so infected our cultural landscape?

I suspect that when Mr. Clancy celebrates Mr. Reagan’s war record, he really means the perpetual war he is fighting in his own mind against all foreign demons, be they Arabs, Chinese, the drugged veins of our own populace, or crazed Hollywood liberals. Yes, promotion of a culture of threat is and always has been a pop function, but it is being ideologized into a political reality. The trouble is, as my grandmother used to tell me, the boy cannot cry wolf every day without eventually bringing on the Big Bad Wolf.

When I read and see stuff like this perpetually coming out of Hollywood, I wonder, have I lost touch? Do the old and the young in this country, bombarded by action films and Tom Clancy novels, even remember that once upon a time patriotism was occasionally a highly suspect emotion, lending itself to vigilantism, the suspicion and murder of foreigners and plenty of local lynchings? That, as Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart might have said at their scriptwritten best, in the name of patriotism many a scoundrel has shone in passing times of terror and degeneration?

To thrive in such a climate means precisely to help create such a climate. Create the terror, then rescue the terrorized, and you will be a hero forever. In such a way does the white knight Tom Clancy (a k a Jack Ryan) save his bride (the U.S.A.) from the clutches of the Evil Arab, Oriental, Outsider, and so on.

The myth is a false one. You rescue yourself only. From your darkest nature. The bride, the other that you rescue, is also yourself, call it your feminine. The whole purpose of the theatrical exercise at the end of the day, in my opinion, is the reintegration of yourself. Thus the true Happy Ending. I’m all for it. But let’s not take our private struggle too seriously or too publicly, Clancy. And that goes for you too, Mr. Stone.

The Bear and the Dragon

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.

Red Storm Rising

Title:                  Red Storm Rising

Author:                Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (1986). Red Storm Rising. New York: Putnam

LCCN:    86009488

PS3553.L245 R4 1986


Date Updated:  March 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews says the following about this book.

The author of the best-selling sub-chaser, The Hunt for Red October, launches a bigger confrontation: the USSR takes on NATO for a deadly bout of conventional warfare. Islamic extremists sabotage a major Siberian oil field, leaving the Soviet Union faced with years of fuel shortages. The hawkish Minister of Defense convinces the Politburo to take desperate action: Soviet forces will first neutralize NATO, then invade the Persian Gulf and seize control of its oil.

To buy time for the troops to prepare, the Russians make a major arms-control initiative. But Bob Toland, an analyst for the National Security Agency, notices and reports unusual activity. Soon forces everywhere are on full alert. Teams of elite Red Army troops attack selected West German targets and a shooting war is on. A US base in Keflavik, Iceland, is shocked by a Soviet air and sea assault. The valuable post is lost, but not before a canny Air Force weatherman, Mike Edwards, and a small band of men escape and head for the barren Icelandic outback, where they radio reports of Soviet activity to satellite intelligence. The capture of Iceland not only cuts down on effective defense against subs, it also gives the Russians a handy launching spot for air raids on the convoys that are bringing supplies and soldiers across the Atlantic to Europe. Edward Morris, commander of the U.S.S. Pharris, defends the convoys and tracks shadowy subs until his ship is crippled. In Germany, tank battalions attack and counterattack. Skipper Dan McCafferty leads a pack of US subs deep into the Barents Sea, where they let loose a volley of missiles that hit bases within the Soviet Union itself. Finally, the Soviets, hard pressed, contemplate a “limited” nuclear attack, but several sane men manage to propel the crisis to a negotiated happy end.

Clancy populates both armies with intelligent and likable men, arms them with astonishingly powerful weapons (for some, the virtuosity of these high-tech arms will be the book’s greatest appeal), and succeeds in keeping the action crisp, absorbing The breadth of activity precludes the neat structure of suspense that distinguished Red October. But, still, an informative, readable, sometimes dazzling speculation on superpower war.