Well, the now famous but once well-rejected wanna-be author whose adventure The Hunt for Red October the Naval Institute took a flyer on years ago, and since then writer of thrillers that have rung more cash registers than the rest of us writers can even imagine, has again given us a gripping yarn. Once more we join Jack Ryan and his cast of modern characters in a high pressure, geo-political struggle.
Red Rabbit falls historically between Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October. Jack is in his early thirties and stationed in England by the CIA. Although classed as an analyst, he continues to show his skill and grit in action. Characters we know from later in his career first take a bow. It’s a story that fits into a convenient window of Clancy’s novelistic panorama of history. It doesn’t bring one along with the apocalyptic continuity that the last books of the Ryan series do. But, as usual, the author has studied recent history, knows fascinating details about the world’s national security establishments, and keeps coming up with terrific escapades. His characters are good. This reviewer kept his nose between the book’s pages until he finished it.
The Soviet Union is economically failing. The Polish Pope threatens to tear apart his country’s Lenin-ite shield that protects Russia from the West. A KGB technician learns of a plot to assassinate the cleric. Conscience-stricken, he decides to defect. Ryan and his friends must bring off an intelligence coup as well as try to protect the Pope. A good read.
Of course, Clancy has his drawbacks. He will go on for pages in internal monologue explaining why right is right, wrong is wrong, and villains are damned. His earnest sermonizing has consistent conservative political overtones that are his privilege, of course, but after a book or two one learns there will be no unusual dialectic and skims. His dialogue is normally snappy, bringing one back to the plot, although sometimes it too becomes explanatory and boring. I don’t suppose Clancy permits an editor near his proven-to-be-golden prose.
And he continually shifts into the points of view of a multiplicity of characters. This lets us sympathize with, or at least understand, even villains, but sometimes one loses track of the story. In early books
readers might have become confused about who to cheer for, who was the protagonist. Red Rabbit didn’t give me that problem, but then I knew most of the characters and their story weights from the sequels already read.
Clancy has exploited his well-earned fame by issuing a plethora of non-fiction, some co-authored by recently retired general officers, and all bearing on military hardware and doctrine. One wishes he would instead sit at the feet of journalists, environmentalists, minority advocates -- and bleeding-hearts generally. He might then see deeper into the world’s pains and try for a more nuanced art. Try for an American War and Peace, for example.
Of course, that diversion might kill him for adolescents like this reviewer.
© 2002 by
Dean Warren for Curled Up With a Good Book