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Dead or Alive 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Dead or Alive
I am certain that I know what occupied the most time of the creators of Tom Clancy's latest Jack Ryan book. Not the plotting, not the research, not the characterization. But instead, the discussions of how to retcon the Ryanverse to make the new novel topically relevant whilst still employing characters that have been adventuring since the days of the USSR. The result is an interesting blend of straight-up revisionism and coy omission. Jack Ryan is still a former president, but gone is any reference to how he became president or the numerous terrorist attacks prior to that time, which in any real universe would have left the USA a quivering hulk of PTSD. Denver atomic explosion out, 9/11 in. Osama bin Laden is renamed "The Emir" and al Qaeda becomes the URC, since they feature front and center in this new work.

Reading a Clancy novel has become like going to a timeshare presentation at a tropical resort in return for a discount. You will get the best vacation in the world but you will by God get lectured in the process. In the case of DoA, this means a sermon on the evils of vegetarianism or the virtues of torture every other chapter. Of course this is just Clancy solidifying his base, but his works used to appeal even more to me as well until he went so far as to paint environmentalists as mass murderers.

If you were looking for something that would not fan the flames of American fear of terrorism so expertly insufflated by Fox, look elsewhere. Where once Clancy had to stretch the American imagination outside its comfort zone to encompass scenarios like nuking the SuperBowl, now he only has to turn up an existing paranoia dial from ten to eleven. I will not say more for fear of spoiling the surprise.

For all that carping, I was reading this table-creaking volume nearly nonstop for the last two days. Clancy's talent for starting a dozen threads and nurturing them along like a cat herder until they collide spectacularly at the climax is unmatched, and all those people who think he hit it big for describing military hardware in excruciating detail are completely missing the point that he is - still - a master storyteller.


Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:22 pm
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Post Re: Dead or Alive
PeterScott wrote:
Reading a Clancy novel has become like going to a timeshare presentation at a tropical resort in return for a discount. You will get the best vacation in the world but you will by God get lectured in the process. I...but] Clancy's talent for starting a dozen threads and nurturing them along like a cat herder until they collide spectacularly at the climax is unmatched, and all those people who think he hit it big for describing military hardware in excruciating detail are completely missing the point that he is - still - a master storyteller.
I reached the "not worth bothering with" point four or five novels ago (neglecting sharecropped spinoffs).

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Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:50 pm
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Post Re: Dead or Alive
I reached the same point in the early 1990s, Beam Jockey. It's a bit sad, because his early novels ("The Hunt for Red October" and "Cardinal of the Kremlin", in particular) were well plotted, superbly researched, and a lot of fun to read. This was before he seemed to get hooked on torturing bad guys, though, and when he was still capable of recognizing that charging into a situation wasn't always the smart thing to do. I can't imagine him writing a book like "Clear and Present Danger" now. That's a pity.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:20 pm
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