Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Sum of All Fears (A Jack Ryan Novel)
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on November 22, 2000
As we again face turmoil in the Middle East, this book becomes more timely than ever. The story of a nuclear warhead falling into the hands of very determined terrorists, it winds throughout the world, through characters that come to life, and terror and suspense that will surely amaze and satisfy the reader.
Almost too true to life to be a work of fiction, this book is more technical and heavily written than earlier Clancy works, but the high degree of detail and heart-stopping tension more than balances the scientific complexities in the narrative.
At times the characters a carbon copies of earlier Clancy protagonists but the brilliant use of them makes up for some of their predictability.
Ryan and crew are back with a vengance and the safety of the world are in the balance. A must read and a well and worthy effort. Not perfect, but by far, one of the finest nuclear terror novels ever written.
And keep in mind, it could all happen as soon as today.
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on January 13, 2006
Yes, I know, there is a movie called "The Sum of All Fears," but whatever it was based on, it wasn't this book. Now they even have two characters from the movie on the cover of the book, but that's misleading, because those characters don't exist in the book. One is a young rookie CIA operative named Jack Ryan; the other is his mentor, Morgan Freeman - well, he has another name in the movie, but it's the same character Freeman always plays, the all-wise, all-knowing elder statesman with no character flaws and never a lapse in judgment.

The book's main character is also named Jack Ryan, but he is a veteran analyst who has worked his way up to number two in the CIA. The top guy, who happens to have the same name as the Morgan Freeman character in the movie, is a stuffed shirt who is content to bask in the perks of his position and let Ryan run the agency, and is little more than a bit player in the book. The centerpiece of both book and movie is the bad guys setting off a nuke at the Super Bowl. But the events leading up to and following the nuclear detonation are what make the book the riveting thriller that it is, and none of that found its way into the movie.

In the book, Ryan has managed to get on the bad side of the president's girlfriend/National Security Advisor. That doesn't really figure significantly in the action until after the bomb, but along the way, in a comic-relief scene I find myself pulling the book off the shelf and rereading repeatedly over the years, we get to see the mysterious and sinister Mr. Clark morph into a marriage counselor and save the Ryans' marriage. I'd love to see a movie depiction of Clark and Chavez escorting Cathy Ryan through a bad neighborhood to a restaurant ("We can't go out, the neighborhood isn't..." "Um, safe, ma'am?") and Clark laying out the facts for her as only Clark can, but it's not to be.

Meanwhile we watch as Arab/Muslim terrorists develop a nuke from a leftover Israeli bomb from 1973 and deploy it in the U.S. Clancy was way ahead of his time: Ten years before 9/11, he depicted Muslim zealots attaching the U.S. on our soil. After 9/11, it would make a gripping and socially relevant movie. But nobody made that movie. Instead, we get a movie where the bad guys are European right-wing extemists. I guess that post-9/11 Hollywood has decided that the real danger to the U.S. lies not with Muslim zealotry but right-wing extremism. It's a shame, because Clancy provides a balanced treatment of both the sinister and positive sides in middle eastern Islam. Most of the Muslims in the book, from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia down to the old farmer who finds the Israeli bomb in his yard, are noble and peace-loving, and even the terrorists are presented not as cold-hearted automatons or wild-eyed fanatics but as caring and principled men with a misguided sense of religious duty. But I guess that's not good enough for Hollywood; we can't present the slightest hint of negativity in a Muslim character.

After the bomb goes off is when the book really kicks into gear and becomes a can't-put-down page-turner. Most of this has to do with Ryan's efforts to stop the president and his girlfriend/NSA from overreacting and kicking off mutually assured destruction with the Soviets, and Ryan draws on his wits, his experience, his extensive knowledge of our government and military operations, and his personal relationship with a thinly disguised Gorbachev to stop the countdown at the last moment. I don't even remember what Boy Ryan is up to at that stage of the movie, but by that point it's not even the same story.

My only complaint about the book is that it's too long, with too many subplots woven in. For example, near the end, a U.S. submarine gets a huge log caught in its propeller. That in itself is crucial to the plot. But to get to that point, we have interspersed through the book the cutting down of the tree, the discussion of what it will be used for, the cutting of the tree into logs, the trucking of the logs to a seaport, their loading onto a ship, the approaching storm at sea, and finally the logs getting washed overboard. But it's not enough to lose the reader's interest.
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on June 8, 1999
Believe me, the earlier ones lead up to this ("The Hunt For Red October", "Patriot Games", "Cardinal Of the Kremlin" and "Clear and Present Danger"), and the last two ("Debt Of Honor" and "Executive Orders") are downhill. Through the earlier books, Ryan was developing from an obscure CIA academic into the hero we know. After this, he falls into the Presidency and becomes the target of political enemies. But "Sum Of All Fears" is where he's at his best. He prevails against terrorists led by a leader who's dying of cancer and has nothing to lose. With the help of his beautiful brilliant physician wife (though conservative, Clancy seems determined to avoid sexism), he prevails against a Murphy Brown clone in the Cabinet who tries to torpedo both his career and his family life. Maybe it's a bit overblown when he also saves the world from an escalating nuclear crisis and a panicky president because he's personal friends with a Kremlin higher-up, but hell, he prevails there too. If you like Jack Ryan as a Yankee James Bond who uses his mind a lot and a gun hardly ever, read this book, then press <stop>.
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on February 11, 2001
I have read every Clancy book in the Ryan series and this is clearly the lowpoint. I saw some folks rating it highly and I wanted to throw my two cents in: This one contains almost endless pages on some suspected affair he's having from his wife's perspective, etc. By far the most soap opera-ish work he's done, making it hard for a regular Clancy reader to get through. The stuff on building the bomb is also protracted and uninteresting.
If you're just starting with Clancy, I'd start with Clear and Present Danger or one of the more recent one like Rainbow Six. I'd start just about anywhere else if you want the best of this excellent author.
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on May 14, 2002
Until "The Bear and the Dragon" came along, this was my least favorite Clancy novel. Unlike his earlier stuff, he takes FOREVER to get the story cooking, and it's the first one where his personal politics really start to get in the way. In a book where it takes a whole chapter for a nuclear bomb to go off, you can expect to read some fairly arcane technical trivia.
("The Bear and the Dragon" also has this in common with "Sum." They're the only ones where he tries to write sex scenes, and, well, let's just say it's not his forte. He should have learned from this novel that he doesn't do it well, and left it alone.)
This is the only Tom Clancy novel I have been unable to reread. Some of them I've read five or six times. This one I just can't make it through a second time.
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on August 12, 2002
Long ago, I read a novel called "The Hunt for Red October" and loved it. Then, somehow, I never picked up another Clancy novel until after seeing the movie "The Sum of All Fears".
Having read the movie reviews, I knew the book and movie were only vaguely related. I really enjoyed the movie, and looked forward to reading the original rendition of the story. I wasn't disappointed. I actually enjoyed the book a bit more than the movie version. It was important to read all of the intimate details of the first few nanoseconds of nuclear detonation; it was critical to the plot. And, it was fascinating from a raw nuclear physics point of view, too. The characters were well developed with all of the human attributes one might expect in real life. The plot, with all of its many threads, was woven together masterfully. Perhaps the story was a bit too ambitious; probably a hundred or more pages could have been cut. But a novel can suffer from too much polishing, too. I have to give Clancy the benefit of the doubt here.
When I turned the last page and had a chance to contemplate this story, I realized how important it is as a modern cautionary tale. I hope anyone who is in a position of military power understands the importance of simulations and drills; and keeps in mind that the knee-jerk reaction they are about to take just might be exactly the reaction hoped for by the terrorists.
The other thing that I will take away from this novel is a deeper respect for the lower-level, behind-the-scenes government employees. They are the ones doing the work for which our esteemed leaders take all of the credit. And of course, they are reviled as "beaurocrats", and generally disdained by elected officials and the media. It must really {Bite} sometimes. Well hang in there, maybe you too can save the world from nuclear annihilation.
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VINE VOICEon March 23, 2002
Particularly since September 11 2001, the thought of a nuclear weapon landing in the hands of a fanatical and irresponsible terrorist organization or 3rd world country has been a sobering and hideous thought. Sadly, it is nowadays a far more realistic scenario than it was when this book was written.
In the story, Clancy brings back his C.I.A. hero Jack Ryan for one last hurrah. In this case, it's the biggest "hurrah" of Ryan's career, as his mission is nothing short of saving the planet. Some nasty Arab terrorists have in mind to blow up the Superbowl with the efficacy of starting World War III (believing the U.S. would automatically think it was under attack by the Soviet Union and "counter-attack", which would leave the Soviet Union no choice but to.........well, you know). Ryan is the one person who stands a chance to foil the plan of the terrorists.
As is the case with other Clancy novels, the author's knowledge of military technology is uncanny. Moreover, his books point out some of the idiosyncrasies of military life, such as the general degree of animosity that exists between officers & enlisted men. Supposedly, Clancy developed a lot of his ideas on these accurate portrayals in his novels by hanging out at the bars outside of Pax River naval station & discoursing with the enlisted sailors. Nevertheless, I have difficulty believing that Clancy was never in the armed services himself. His stories are just SO real. Being a former Navy man myself, I find the degree of authenticity in his books very refreshing.
If you're a fan of Tom Clancy, military novels, or thinking about the unthinkable, here is a book for you. Is a nice combination of cloak-and-daggar C.I.A. work and military espionage. It is also worth mentioning that Congress has called into question whether or not classified information re: advanced hardware and the techniques of spy games were somehow leaked to Clancy. [For the record, Clancy claims that all information in his books may be found on the internet and in books]. Suffice to say, one does not have to worry about lack of realism being an issue when Congress finds it incumbent upon them to summon him for questioning.
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on September 26, 2001
I was re-reading this book for the second time, sitting in the customer lounge while my car was being serviced on the morning of 09/11/01. When I saw the news, I thought immediately of "Debt Of Honor" and "Executive Orders". I pray that whomever is responsible for security at some of our bigger sporting events which are coming up, will take heed to some of the "implausible" events that take place in these novels. As we've so tragically seen, maybe they're not so implausible after all.I truly love Mr. Clancy's novels, having read all of the "Jack Ryan" novels at least once. But they certainly seem to take on new light now. Perhaps those I've seen in previous, more critical (sometimes downright ugly) reviews of Mr. Clancy's work here will think twice before writing him off as a right wing fanatic. Mr. Clancy seems to have been all too aware of the threats that our country faces. Sadly, now so are we...
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on August 16, 2000
One of the best Clancy books, though it is hard to compare them all. Suddenly Jack Ryan's career doesn't look so great anymore, not all his enemies are foreigners. The crisis Ryan had was good, particularly in the cryptic remarks he used towards the end about if it wasn't for him Elliot and Fowler wouldn't be there, referring back to Clear and Present Danger, it was great. It was also really good to see another submarine adventure, where the crew aren't quite happy with their captain, and a Soviet submarine captain looking to be the best captain ever. The book was really good in the way it involved so many people and different section of the armed forces towards the end, the battle in Berlin, the sub battle in the Pacific, the carrier skirmish, truly great. And the scene at the end when Fowler wanted to do something he shouldn't have, and good old Jack Ryan was there to stop him, that was done brilliantly. It was also very interesting reading about how the terrorists made the device, a great read. Now the plot is a little far fetched, how the device fell into enemy hands, how the one guy who survived at Denver knew about the TV van, how so many military advisors were unavailable, but the scenario present at the end is terrific. If you're looking for a good reads, this is it.
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on August 3, 2004
This is by far the best Jack Ryan book I have read by Clancy. An intricate, original plot that leaves you wondering if it could actually happen. Clancy's knowledge of intelligence agencies, governments and science never ceases to amaze me. He weaves a perfect amount of information into the plot to make it seem like you're reading a textbook... but this one is exciting and has a killer plot that will make you burn through the pages. What I enjoy most about this Clancy novel was the intricacy of the characters... especially Jack Ryan. As a reader, you really get to know Jack Ryan: his faults, his worries, his qualities. His character is portrayed so well in this book. You share his pain as he goes through despair when his government turns against him and his wife accuses him of adultery. You see him fall into the depression of middle-age and alcoholism. And you see his redemtion through his closest friends and his supporting wife. Not to mention, this book really makes you think. Too bad Hollywood completely disregarded all of these qualities when deciding to make the movie. Whoever wrote the script for the movie decided to make Ryan a young CIA agent who was just entering the agency. This is obviously done in an atempt to target the younger crowd and to "Hollywoodize" the movie. Unfortunately it takes everything away from the character that Clancy created, the relationship with his wife and friends, and from the whole plot, which is so twisted in the movie, you wonder if the screenwriter even read the book. Not to mention that now it doesn't fit in with the other Jack Ryan movies (Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin in one of them and wonderfully portrayed by Harrison Ford in the other two. So where the heck does Ben Affleck fit in there?) It's too bad. The actual plot could have made a wonderful movie, and it made a wonderful book. I recommend this for everyone who is a Clancy fan, anyone who enjoyed the movie, and people who thought the movie was lacking. However, one word of advice... if you enjoy this book, don't see the movie.
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