Clancy, Tom: Red Storm Rising

The best 50 cents I’ve spent this year went to buy Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising at the fundraiser outside the school budget vote. This was Clancy’s second book, a brick of a WWIII story published in the late 1980s—back when someone could claim that if NATO were neutralized by a successful invasion of Germany, America wouldn’t react to an invasion of the Persian Gulf aimed at taking over the oil fields. (A catastrophic oil-field fire is the event that kicks off the novel.) When I was a kid, I read my dad’s copy and enjoyed it; now, I was able to parcel it out over a couple of weeks as bedtime reading. It was perfect for that purpose: absolutely no characters to get emotionally involved with, a story that I remembered the broad outlines of, and soothing little tactical puzzles or military info-dumping in convenient chapter-sized chunks. (Also, its politics aren’t distracting, being limited to a strong sympathy for the professional military ethos and a distaste for the political system of the USSR.) I’ve just acquired copies of The Hunt for Red October and (though I’m somewhat ashamed to admit to reading later Clancy novels) Rainbow Six, and look forward to many more weeks of soothing bedtime technobabble.


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  1. You might choke a bit on Rainbow Six. Clancy gets progressively more didactic and politically preachy, and (IMO) his characters get more cardboardy (and his villains more straw-manish), the later you get in his ouevre. If I’m remembering Rainbow Six correctly, his nasty eco-terrorists are real eye-rolling fun. But whatever you do, stay away from The Bear and the Dragon….

  2. Trent: Well, see, the reason I’m embarrased is that I’ve *read* _Rainbow Six_. The ridiculous villains were indeed ridiculous, but I recall the set-pieces about the team being likely to scratch the bedtime reading itch. I’m skipping all Jack Ryan novels after _The Hunt for Red October_–actually _Patriot Games_ might be okay, but I read them through _Executive Orders_ and have no desire to go back there.

  3. I don’t think Patriot Games counts as “after THfRO”. It’s set earlier in time, and is MUCH rougher in both style and craft. I suspect an early work, unpublishable prior to the success of tHfRO but brought out of mothballs thereafter. (There’s a name for that sort of thing, but derned if I can remember it.)

    Personally, I stopped after reading Clear and Present Danger, and haven’t ever regretted that. I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the early ones, but the handwriting was clearly on the wall, and everything I’ve heard about The Sum of All Fears et seq. makes me think I chose wisely.

  4. David, the phrase you want is “trunk novel,” I believe. I seem to have left Patriot Games in the backlog, but yeah, it was pretty bad.

    I only read half of The Sum of All Fears, skipping all the “how to build a nuclear bomb” parts. That may well have been where I stopped reading as well, except for Rainbow Six. (looks guilty)

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