Executive Orders (novel)

American flag is background for author’s name, book title
Clancy’s focus is America.

Within minutes after Jack Ryan is sworn in to serve as a one-year caretaker vice president, Jack Ryan finds himself President. A kamikaze attack on the Capitol has killed President Durling, the entire Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs, all but two of the Cabinet members, and most of the members of the House and Senate.

Suddenly Ryan’s “caretaking” means putting the federal government back together again. America’s enemies see the greenhorn president as an opportunity too good not to exploit.

Threats arise on all sides.

The president of Iraq is assassinated and Iran’s chief cleric assumes control of what he declares to be a United Islamic state.

China and India both create distractions.

At home, Ryan is harassed by the former vice-president, the media, and staff members who expect him to be political and presidential.

Terrorists devise a way to sneak the Ebola virus into US convention centers. They activate sleeper agents to kill the President and kidnap his children.

To follow Executive Orders, you’ll need to keep your atlas handy, but Tom Clancy is a marvelous storyteller. He packs with information worth knowing without letting it overwhelm the story.

I suspect few people under 60 will be able to follow Clancy’s story today.

That’s their loss, and America’s.

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
G. P. Putnam. ©1996. 874 p.
1996 bestseller #2; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Debt of Honor

Mountainous island silhouetted by red sun inside final O of honor
Red sun symbolizes Japan.

Jack Ryan is introduced as National Security Advisor to the President in Tom Clancy’s 1994 bestseller Debt of Honor.

Even by Clancy’s standards, this tale of a third world war is complicated. One thread involves a computer program designed to cripple America economically by destroying records of transactions on the US-based stock exchanges.

A second thread concerns a wealthy Japanese man’s desire to revenge the deaths of his family when Americans invaded the Mariana Islands in World War II.

A third thread is about an attempt by India to invade Sri Lanka.

Clancy lays all three of these fictional threads out against the very real political-military situation in the 1990s: the mutual Soviet-US nuclear missile disarmament, the reduction of America’s naval capacity, the reliance on technology as a replacement for human observation and analysis.

About page 675, when American began fighting in the Pacific Ocean, I lost track of who was where—blame the fog of war—and picked up the story as diplomats arranged peace terms.

Readers who know military lingo will enjoy the story more than the rest of us, but no one can read Clancy’s novel without learning a great deal that’s worth knowing—and acknowledging.

Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy
G. P. Putnam’s Sons. ©1994. 766 p.
1994 bestseller #2; my grade: A-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Sum of All Fears (novel)

airplane suggest bomb may be droppedThe Sum of All Fears is a hold-your-breath novel from Tom Clancy featuring Jack Ryan, Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Accustomed to Cold War hostilities, neither America and its allies nor Russia and hers are quite sure how to behave in the new, lukewarm conditions.

Ryan gets an idea for a Middle East peace plan brokered by the Vatican. The plan works, but all Ryan gets is the animosity of the President and his Secretary of Defense, who also happens to be the President’s bed mate.

Terrorists, to whom peace is unnatural and unsettling, have plans of their own.

As both the West and the Soviets have dismantled missiles with nuclear warheads, some of the nuclear material has simply disappeared. The owners haven’t publicized their losses. Nevertheless, a few men of ill-will know where the material is and how to use it for their ends.

Clancy provides plenty of excitement with a minimum of gore. He focuses on how people rise to or fall before a challenge for which they could not rehearse.

Clancy’s text is packed with jargon and technical details about intelligence procedures, aircraft, ships, submarines, weapons, and bomb building, which feels incredibly dull but is essential to the plot: Evil is not passive in this novel.

The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy
G. P. Putnam. ©1991. 798 p.
1991 bestseller #2; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Clear and Present Danger

helicopter is at the center of dust jacket
‘copter rescues trapped soldiers

Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger hit the top of The New York Times bestseller list as soon as it was published. It’s still a winner today.

Like Clancy’s earlier thrillers, Danger is a fast-moving, intricately plotted, richly detailed.

In an election year, the President authorizes his National Security Advisor, Admiral Cutter, to take all necessary action to stop the flow of drugs into the US. Cutter decides a war on drugs demands military action.

Hispanic members of the military with no dependents are selected, secretly trained, and helicoptered into Columbia.

Neither Congress nor Columbia is informed, nor are some top-ranking members of the president’s administration, including acting CIA director Jack Ryan.

When Ryan learns of the secret military action, he’s perplexed as well as angry. How far does the President’s right to act without congressional authorization go?

Clear and Present Danger is an action-packed adventure that is hard to put down. But it’s also a thoughtful novel about serious topics.

Although Danger was clearly sparked by the Reagan-era war on drugs and the Iran-Contra affair, the passage of 40 years hasn’t reduced the timeliness of the novel’s themes: free speech, executive orders, the congressional oversight role, the importance of personal integrity, and the destructiveness of drugs.

Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
Putnam. ©1989. 656 p.
1989 bestseller #1; my grade: A

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Cardinal of the Kremlin

Star-Wars style laser weapon is centerpiece of “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” book jacket.
Lasers aim to destroy

The Cardinal of the Kremlin was Tom Clancy’s fourth bestseller in a row.

It follows what by 1988 had become Clancy’s signature blend of Cold War politics, espionage, military technology, and the presence of CIA analyst Jack Ryan.

The “Cardinal” of this novel is a Colonel Mikhail Filitov, thrice awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal for service in battle; unknown to Ryan, he’s been a CIA spy for 30 years.

Ryan is in Moscow as a technical advisor for arms negotiation. There he stumbles across information that the Soviets are very close to having a working, missile-based laser system.

Far to the east on the Afghanistan-Russia border, an Afghan freedom fighter glimpses a flash of green light that proves the Soviet technology works. He passes his observation along to the CIA along with documents taken from Russians he and his men slaughtered.

Clancy runs multiple story threads simultaneously, switching the scene from one continent to another, and the focus among dozens of characters.

You can read Cardinal for relaxation, but you can’t relax and read it. That is part of its attraction. Clancy expects each reader to do his/her duty.

You won’t want to disappoint him.

The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy
G. P. Putnam. ©1988. 543 p.
1988 bestseller #1; my grade: A

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

a rifle is at center of front cover
Nothing’s so black and white.

Patriot Games is a thriller about good guys trying to stop terrorists before they can do bad things.

Jack Ryan, an ex-Marine and naval history professor at Annapolis Military Academy runs afoul of an ultra-nasty IRA splinter group while on vacation in London with his ophthalmologist-surgeon wife and four-year-old daughter.

When the disaffected IRA members stage a terrorist attack on the Prince and Princess of Wales right in front of him, Ryan responds saving their lives and making a deadly enemy.

With the British on high alert after the attack, the terrorists decide to strike in America, where Irish terrorists have never struck.

A planned visit by the royal couple to America and to their new friends, the Ryan family, offer the terrorists an ideal target.

A terrible thunderstorm just as the terrorists’ strike adds to the drama.

What makes the Patriot Games unusual is that author Tom Clancy focuses heavily on the different psychological characteristics of the good guys—U.S. military, the CIA, FBI, police, and their British counterparts—and the bad guys.

There’s nothing particularly startling about Clancy’s observations, but the personal angle makes a pleasant change from descriptions of weapon systems and intelligence analysis procedures.

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy
Putnam, ©1987. 540 p
1987 bestseller #2; my grade: B

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni