At the end of "Debt of Honor" a jet airplane slams into a Joint Session of Congress, pretty much wiping out the American government and suddenly putting Jack Ryan into the Presidency. While Clancy's book was at the top of the Best Seller list someone crashed a small plane into the White House, yet I heard nothing on the news about how life was imitating art. Now, of course, this is headline news and Clancy's books are suddenly being hailed as dire prophecies that are suddenly coming true. In "Executive Action" as Islamic leader assassinates the President of Iraq, forges Iran and Iraq into the United Islamic Republic, attacks the United States with biological weapons, and invades Saudi Arabia to grab the oil fields. Suddenly Tom Clancy has become the prophet of the moment as his fiction became fact with the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Of course, Clancy has not been alone telling such tales, but the focus is certainly on his writings at this pivotal moment in history.
A few have suggested that Clancy was actually providing a blueprint for the terrorists and I seem to remember that there had never been a skyjacking until Robert Serling wrote about it in a novel. But writers just look at the world around them and find creative opportunities, which is certainly no different from what terrorists do in planning operations. However, the reason I feel compelled to reread and review "Executive Orders" is because I think that there are some important things that Clancy has to say about the moment that goes beyond terrorist attacks. First, as Jack Ryan repeatedly points out in the novel, the actions of terrorists for are fundamentalist Muslims do not reflect on the vast majority of the followers of Islam around the world. A war on terrorism is not a war on Islam, no matter what the terrorists claim, and no matter what ignorant and bigoted jerks in this country might want to believe. Second, another Jack Ryan mantra, that human agents are invaluable in trying to gather intelligence on terrorist organizations. Finding terrorists leaders is going to require human agents on the ground and not spy satellites or unmanned drones. Third, secrets are important for the government/military to respond effectively to terrorist attacks. We have the right to know, but the first thing enshrined in the Jefferson's trilogy is "life" and not freedom of the press. Besides, Congress provides oversight in such matters so the intrusive snooping of the press is unwarranted. A corollary of this, as Jack Ryan finds out repeatedly in the novel, is that you cannot trust the press to do the right thing. This particular point was made more strongly in "Debt of Honor," where news networks had to be convinced that reporting certain facts the government was trying to keep secret would result in the deaths of American military personnel (and that this was a bad thing).
"Executive Orders" is a story well told, and what is important about it today is not just what it says about what might happen in the days to come, but what it says about us as Americans. Clancy's books touch on all aspects other the current situation and not just the acts of terrorists. Reading the Jack Ryan novels should do more than engender the fear that there will be a biological attack as in "Executive Orders" or "Rainbow Six" or a nuclear device as in "The Sum Of All Fears" and "The Bear and the Dragon." The bottom line here is that when you read any of Tom Clancy's novels, do not throw out his emphasis on what is good with your fascination with what is bad.
Jack Ryan and Tom Clancy may have reached their pinnacle of achievement with this book. However, this book is definitely not the place to start the series; as a minimum, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Debt of Honor should definitely be read before this book.
Jack, due to the events detailed in Debt of Honor, suddenly finds himself President of the U.S., a position which he never aspired to and in which he feels decidedly uncomfortable. But, good former Marine that he is, he quickly buckles down to the demands of the job - a job that rapidly spawns seemingly endless problems and complications. In detailing these, Clancy weaves an incredible number of sub-plots together: an assassination of the Iraqi President and the amalgamation of that country with Iran, an attempt to kidnap his youngest daughter, a biological attack on the U.S., a heat up of the continuing dispute between the two Chinas, an attempt by the former Vice President to remove Jack from office, and multiple attacks on his integrity by the news media. This is where Clancy shines, as each of these sub-plots is probably strong enough to be a novel in its own right. They all have strong dramatic elements and are not only plausible, but frightening in just how close they are to events in the real world that have occurred since this book was written - so much so that the notion has been put forth that certain terrorist elements got the ideas for their deeds from this book and Debt of Honor.
Jack is well drawn. His reactions to situations and problems make sense for the type of man he is, and Clancy does a good job of making the reader empathize with him. Most of the other main characters are shown with enough depth to make them real, though it definitely helps if you have read the prior novels in this series, as some of the background for these characters was presented earlier, and is not re-hashed in this book. However, most of the characters are not excessively deep, and it is very clear who are the `good guys' and who are the `bad', which perhaps is a good thing in a thriller.
The battle scenes are typical Clancy, filled with a great number (quite accurate) technical details - perhaps too much so, as at times the picture of just what war is really like gets lost in all these details. Also somewhat of a detraction is the fact that the `good guys' have too easy a time of it; it seems like all their plans are precisely accomplished, with few of the screw-ups and surprises that always happen in real conflicts. Which leads to the other fault with this book - it really is too long, and a fair amount of it could have been cut without losing the impressive tapestry effect.
Some may object to the political viewpoints expressed in this novel, as they are decidedly on the right of the spectrum. But Clancy does a good job of detailing why these viewpoints should at least be given some careful thought by all Americans. Here we find good rationales behind limiting the power of the press under certain circumstances; the necessity for maintaining both a strong military and a strong intelligence network; cases where the power of the President may need to exceed the powers granted by the Constitution; when diplomacy is appropriate versus military action (and just how much diplomacy is dependent on having the military power to back up stated positions). It is just these viewpoints that elevate this book from a blockbuster adventure novel to one with substance. A quick perusal of any newspaper today will show exactly the points Clancy makes here, from the obvious `slanting' of the reporting to the need for a military that is second to none.
A vivid tale of great breadth, exciting and informational, well worth the time it takes to read.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
on September 20, 2001
I think that this is seriously one of the best books that I've ever read. The scary part is that this book starts with a plane crashing into the Capitol building, and I began to read this book on Monday, September 10th, the day before the planes crashed into the WTC and the Pentagon. That was truly bizarre. I think this book is a good read, although it did make me kind of scared to wake up in the morning, hoping that the book was not coming true.
on November 23, 2001
Tom Clancy's longtime hero, former CIA analyst Jack Ryan, has managed to assume the Presidency, Gerald Ford-style, without ever having been elected on a presidential ticket.
Unlike Ford, however, Ryan had never been elected to any public office at all. Asked by President Durling to serve as Vice President, after the previous Vice President is forced to resign in the wake of a sex scandal, Ryan reluctantly agrees to take on a largely ceremonial office. The catch for the non-politician Ryan, however, is that the Vice-Presidency is only a heartbeat away from the most burdensome job in the world, and one which Ryan shivers at the thought of undertaking.
Then the incredible happens, when a grief-striken Japanese pilot who lost family in a brief Japanese-American shooting war, mans a jumbo jet during Ryan's swearing-in ceremony and crash lands into the Capitol, thereby all but obliterating government. The President, First Lady, the entire Supreme Court, nearly all the Cabinet and most Senators and members of Congress are killed in a few calamitous moments.
This leaves Ryan, who survived by a sheer fluke, to assume an office which he frankly dreads approaching. A complete political outsider, Ryan has an excellent working knowledge of the government, but close to zero political instincts. A populist and technophile of the sort both idolized and unelected by America, Ryan must bumble through his grief and shock at the horror which has befallen his nation and attempt to lead it. His hostility toward any form of ideology that appears other than starkly pragmatic, however, is ultimately disappointing. In the guise of non-partisan vigor, Clancy has Ryan deliver a series of startlingly conservative speeches praising a flat tax and denouncing abortion rights.
If Ryan's syrupy claims to integrity are occassionally enough to set one's teeth on edge, Clancy establishes a magnificent character in "India", the Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy. Referring to her only by the name of the country she represents, Clancy cleverly harkens back to the medieval language of kings, who refer to one another by the name of their countries. India is a nearly Picassoan study in minimalism. Only a few lines here and there richly summon up the mental image of the face of Benazir Bhutto masking the mind of Indira Gandhi. India's supernaturally beautiful English conveys all at once the history of her nation, her class origins and educational background, her exquisite mendacity and diplomatic sophistication.
One masterpiece is a conversation between India and Ryan in which he attempt to secure her promise of safe passage of American vessels through the Indian ocean. India effortlessly evades Ryan's direct request a number of ways, each time protesting offense and hurt feelings on behalf of her nation. While India is written as a villain in Clancy's novel, conspiring against America, her delicious sophistication elevates her far above the supposedly well-intentioned lummox that is America. India's protests on behalf of her "sovereign nation", as Ryan attempts to shove her military around, will resonate deeply amongst Clancy's international audience, as he is surely aware.
In the meantime, America's vulnerability is a huge source of inspiration to any number of enemies, both foreign and domestic. Ryan's forte, and Clancy's as well, is in the field of international relations, and an array of hostile nations (India, China, Iran and Iraq) plan intricate attacks on the American homeland and its new President.
Clancy has a speechwriter inform Jack Ryan that his use of language, while correct and to the point, is far from poetic. Clearly, the same can be said of Tom Clancy. But what Clancy lacks in artful turns of phrase, he makes up for in scholarship. None of the attacks dreamed up by foreign powers against America are, in themselves, totally unbelieveable: it is only their sheer number and simulteneity that gives "Executive Orders" a far-fetched quality.
Tom Clancy's immense learning about weapons systems, military manoeuvers, Pentagon and CIA operations, is put to superb use. Even an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Zaire, which is quickly capitalized upon by the new United Islamic Republic (composed of former enemies Iran and Iraq), is described with striking and quite remarkable clinical accuracy. The governmental institutions he describes are entirely real. Clancy's gift is for taking the world of politics as he expertly knows it to be, and rearranging a few pieces on the chessboard to suggest fictional events evolving from familiar institutions.
A large amount of the pleasure derived from a Clancy novel comes from simply being able to follow it. The acronyms are endless, yet largely accurate and non-fictional. Clancy is the ultimate man's man, sharing his war stories in warmly confidential tones, allowing the reader the great vicarious pleasure of merely comprehending: testing each piece of data and finding most to be accurate and real.
While many readers will note a kind of "jump the shark" quality to Ryan's extraordinary assumption of the Presidency---for where else had he to go in Clancy's imaginary career trajectory?---the book has an indisputably educational quality for students of geopolitics. World leaders use subjective impressions gleaned at diplomatic receptions to decide upon military gambits. Everyone in politics and in the military has an agenda, noble or not, and all leaders use a range of discursive strategies to communicate with the public, the international community, their cabinets, and with other leaders. None of these 'voices' is entirely sincere or truthful, and some are not a bit of either.
Clancy will establish in his readers the important instinct toward looking for the ever-present subtext behind every public speech and pronoucement, and for this reason alone, at least one or two of his novels should be attempted by any serious student of politics.
on January 9, 2002
If you like Tom Clancy's style and the technothriller genre then you'll love this book. This book is filled with technical details, long dialogues by characters, and many intricate subplots, but if you could stand them in all his other works from the Jack Ryan series, then they shouldn't present too much of a problem in Executive Orders. Obviously Clancy and his fictional books are not for everybody. Clancy's writing style might annoy those who like tightly constructed prose. Also, those who like lots of grey situations (as oposed to black and white good versus evil situations), lots of emotion, or touchy-feely type of books will not like this book. But for Clancy fans this book should be a classic. The minute details on weapons, geopolitical manuverings, and suspense that are present in his other books are here as well. The satisfying triumph of good over evil is here as well. The plot of Executive Orders, like the plots of his other books, is eerily believable and at the same time, seems too far out to ever actually happen. Then again, who would've thought that 2 airplanes would be used to take out the World Trade Center Towers simeltaneously? At the end of the book I was left thinking to myself "There's no reason why these events couldn't actually occur." To me, the realism and plausability are part of Tom Clancy's magic.
For all those writers who gave the book one star for the politics, let me just say that Clancy is not the first writer to inject his politics into his novels or scripts, and he won't be the last. Nearly every Hollywood movie and t.v. show that has any social or political message (and many do have such messages) slants leftward. Why let Clancy's conservative politics stress you out?
Tom Clancy's political beliefs do take a more prominant role in this book, but they don't crowd out the story. Some of the obviouly left-of-center reviewers let Clancy's right-of-center politics destroy the book for them. If you can't handle political views that differ from your own, then this book might not be for you. But, if you're a mature person who can enjoy good stories and put politics aside, then this is still a great book. Heck, I agree with Clancy most of the time, but I still watch and enjoy the West (or "Left") Wing and Law & Order.
If I have one criticism of this book it's the length. Some of the speaches and character thoughts could have been shortened somewhat. The book would have been better if Clancy had eliminated some of the extraneous stuff. But Clancy has never been known has a tight, efficient writer. All in all, this was an excellent book.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK FOR ALL TOM CLANCY FANS
on June 3, 1997
So, you wanna be President. You could fix all the problems with the county, couldn't you. Yep, if you just had the chance. Well, here it is Mr. Smarty Pants. Well, it is if you are John Patrick Ryan. "Debt of Honor" left us (Clancy fans) in a large lurch. The President, the Supreme Court, most members of the House, Senate and Cabinet are dead. Jack Ryan, new President of the United States (or, POTUS), formerly new Vice President, has it all to do. Appoint a Supreme Court, not just one or two justices, but all of them. Arrange for the election of representatives and Senators. Maintain national defense while facing increasingly hostile international dilemmas, not to mention deadly domestic ones. All this while trying to stave off a despicable attempt to "grab the throne" by the freshly ousted former Vice President of the United States. Clancy provdes a realistic view of being POTUS. And, shows us that strength of character does, indeed, make a difference. While facing the most challenging and dangerous circumstances since the Revolutionary War, just how does the USA fare? How does she weather a storm of weapons of mass destruction? If you like Clancy's earlier works, then I will guarantee that you will enjoy and approve of the "response of the Uinted States of America"
on September 13, 2001
Just a very exciting book;however Tom Clancy worryingly seems to predict the future!! Nothing is sacred and I'm afraid life is stranger than fiction. I hope we all read Tom Clancy's books with real interest in future.
God bless America!
Our thoughts are with you all,
Fond regards from Great Britain.
on February 8, 2013
I love the plotlines and suspense and action, but the pages and pages of internal monologue were painful. Even flipping through the pages to skip those sections on my Kindle was tiring. This book could lose 100+ pages and nothing of significance would be missed.
As others have noted, the Kindle version of this book is loaded with scanning errors. Obvious OCR typos and non-words fill the book. You are constantly having to stop to try and figure out if you are reading some new word you've never seen before, or if it's a typo.
And there is a ton of missing punctuation. Many sentences are long and complex, and they may zero sense when dashes and other punctuation marks are missing. It makes the Kindle version very, very tedious to read.
on March 2, 2002
I have enjoyed Tom Clancy's novels over the years and have followed Jack Ryan's fictional career with interest. For a while, my life events got in the way of continuing my reading of the series, and I only just now read Executive Orders, well after the real events of 9/11. How eerily prescient in many ways is Mr. Clancy's world of the real one.
Jack Ryan is catapulted into the Presidency of the United States by the events at the close of Debt of Honor in which a Japanese airline pilot crashes his plane into the Capitol during an expanded joint session of Congress, wiping out most of the higher Congressional and Executive parts of government along with the Supreme Court. President Ryan is truly a citizen-statesman, not a politician, and has to gain the support of regular Americans while rebuilding the government. Add to his difficulties an attempted takeover by the ousted former vice-president, a kidnapping attempt on his younger daughter, an assassination attempt on himself, a large-scale bioterrorism attack on the US, a domestic terrorist bombing attempt, saber-rattling by China and India, and an actual war with the United Islamic Republic (the union of Iran and Iraq after the successful assassination of the Iraqi leader), and you have the usual multi-faceted Clancy plotting which keeps you glued to the book. And given the usual Clancy book length (approaching 900 pages of small font print in the hardcover edition), reading it takes a while and can lead to spousal irritation. Especially compelling are insights into the Presidency with Ryan's attempts to cope with the office and the climactic battle scenes played out over the final 100 pages or so. As usual, the good guys win, although the cost is high.
I'm a registered Democrat, but I'd vote for Jack Ryan with his honest, straightforward, decisive governing style. Whither next, Mr. Ryan? Onto The Bear and the Dragon.
on September 30, 2001
I read this book quite a while ago, but am just recently rereading many of Clancy's works. I think this book, though long, is a great read and often hard to put down. I have noticed recently that several of Clancy's books have recieved criticism (this book and Debt of Honor especially) pertaining to the attacks on September 11. I too, admit that I thought this was pretty eery, but come on guys, give Mr. Clancy a break. His job is to write fiction, not read the minds of terrorists. Trust me, the terrorists can figure out how to attack our nation by themselves, and they do not need Tom Clancy's help. Does this mean that since the news have been blabbering on about biological attack, if one really happens thats the new agencies faults? I don't think so. My only hope is that this real horror story comes to a conclusion of justice just as Executive Orders.