About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Monday, October 17, 2011

#82: Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive, by Tom Clancy with Grant Blackwood (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010)

"After almost a decade, Tom Clancy -- the acknowledged master of international intrigue and nonstop military action -- returns to the world he knows better than anyone: a world of chaos, caught in the crossfire of politics and power, placed on the edge of annihilation by evil men.

"But there are other men who are honor-bound to stop the bloodshed and protect their homeland-- by any means necessary ...

"It is called the Campus. It was secretly created under the administration of President Jack Ryan, its sole purpose to hunt down, locate, and eliminate terrorists and those who protect them, at will, without sanction or oversight. A self-sufficient entity, it has no official connection to the American government -- a necessity in a time when those in power consider themselves above such arcane concepts as loyalty, justice, and right or wrong.

"Covert intelligence expert Jack Ryan Jr. and his compatriots at the campus have waged this silent war in every corner of the world. Now joined by two of his father's closest allies, black ops warriors John Clark and 'Ding' Chavez, as well as Brian and Dominic Caruso and Mary Pat Foley, the campus has come up against its greatest foe: a sadistic killer known as the Emir.

"The mastermind of countless horrific attacks, the Emir has eluded capture by every law enforcement agency in the world -- a fact that the Campus is determined to change. But his greatest devastation is yet to be unleashed, as he plans a monumental single strike that will destroy the heart of America, unless the Campus can take him, dead or alive.

"On the trail of the emir, Jack Ryan Jr. will find himself following in his legendary father's footsteps on a deadly manhunt that will take him and his allies around the globe, into the shadowy arenas of political gamesmanship, and back onto U.S. soil -- in a battle to prevent the fall of the West ...

"Together for the first time, an all-star cast of Tom Clancy's characters races to ensure the nation's survival and to complete their mission, the desperate search for a madman who may be hiding in plain sight."

Opening Line:
"Light troops -- an Eleven-Bravo light infantryman, according to the United States Army's MOS (military occupational specialty) system -- are supposed to be 'pretty' spit-and-polish troops with spotless uniforms and clean-shaven faces, but First Sergeant Sam Driscoll wasn't one of those anymore, and hadn't been for some time."

My Take:
See, not all my light, entertaining reading is gender-specific!

Sigh. Yeah, it's a Clancy novel ... much like the Danielle Steel fluff I read a few weeks back, you pretty much know what you're getting into when you pick it up (though the specifics are quite a bit different). I could never get that into Jack Ryan's character, and his son doesn't interest me all that much, either, but I have had a big old book-character crush on John Clark ever since I read Without Remorse and Clear and Present Danger way back in the day, and couldn't resist the chance to read about how he and colleague/ son-in-law Domingo Chavez captured Osama bin Laden. (OK, Clancy calls his uber-bad guy Saif Rahman Yasin, dba the Emir, but he's obviously based on bin Laden -- right down to the responsibility for 9/11 and the ties to the Saudi royal family.)

As I'd expected, the complaints I've had about previous Clancy novels still hold for this one. I can never tell if Clancy himself doesn't like women or he's just giving his predominantly male readers what they want, but his stories take place in an almost exclusively masculine universe. With the exception of the no-nonsense, CIA veteran Mary Pat Foley, who plays a bit part here that would land her name just above the stunt doubles if this were made into a movie, only three female characters grace Dead or Alive's 950 pages -- two call girls, and one teenaged Indonesian terrorist. (Clark and Chavez's wives and the way-in-over-her-head National Security Advisor, none of whom actually say anything, don't count.) I'm not looking for a 50/50 split, but come on, now.

Clancy's more recent books also seem to suffer from what I think of as the J.K. Rowling problem: a tendency of famous, successful authors to decide that they don't need no stinkin' editors and will bloat their texts as much as they darned well please, TYVM. Usually, half the fun of a Clancy novel is seeing how the umpteen seemingly disconnected threads are going to come together at the end, but here the author's given us way too much of a good thing. There's the poorly-secured, former Soviet nuclear stockpile; good soldier Driscoll's being railroaded for murder by some Washington desk jockey who has the President's ear; the Indonesia as terrorist petri dish angle; the plot to blow up a Midwestern church ... ugh, I get tired and confused just trying to remember what all the ancillary story lines are. I don't mind so much if and when I can guess at an author's politics from reading his novels, but having it simultaneously flash a neon sign in my face, club me over the head, and stuff itself down my throat is a bit much.

Meh. As with several other authors, I may well read other Clancy books I haven't yet bothered with, if they present themselves ... but I think the author's Clear and Present Danger days are behind him.

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