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Showing 1-10 of 651 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,008 reviews
on September 14, 2015
Dead or Alive is a difficult book for me to review. On one hand, the book is quite entertaining and doesn't drag nearly as much as a 'typical' Clancy novel. On the other hand, the book takes all of Clancy's usual straw politics to the eleven plus has some genuinely ridiculous scenes. I'm reminded a bit of David Weber's early Honor Harrington books in how the story itself is quite good but the bad guys' beliefs are so caricatured they become a source of unintentional comedy.

The premise of Dead or Alive is that the Ryanverse's version of the 9/11 attacks were perpetuated not by Osama Bin Ladin but by a mysterious figure called the Emir. A secret clandestine agency called the Campus, named for the CIA's headquarters, was formed by President Jack Ryan (Sr.) to hunt down the figure. Now in the term of Ryan's successor, President Ed Kealty, the organization has neglected to inform the current President of their existence yet continues to hunt for the Emir.

On the surface this is an excellent premise. You have a rogue agency, divided from official channels by politics, going on a mission against a much worse foe. There's all sorts of interesting things you can do with this premise such as question what is justifiable in a war against a mass murderer and what separates such an agency from the very sort of terrorists it fights.

Dead or Alive doesn't do that.

I'm not sure whether it was Tom Clancy himself or co-author Grant Blackwood but the writing goes in a bizarre direction with the Campus. Basically, the story completely overlooks any illegality or unethical qualities to being a unlicensed death squad to focus on how awesome it is. Every single character who joins the Campus think it's a great idea and no one has even the slightest question to its morality.

This is problematic to me because the characters, themselves, include survivors of the events of Clear and Present Danger. Not to spoil the plot of C&PD but the theme was the dangers of abuse of military force by the government. Here, they abuse it by about a thousand times worse only for everyone to flat out ignore it. It's an action whose consequences are conspicuous by their nonexistence.

There's also some genuinely silly bits where Tom Clancy throws the law completely to the wind. For example, the Campus is illegal but unpunishable because President Ryan wrote one hundred blank but signed pardons for the organization to carry around. Whenever one of its members gets in trouble, they can apparently use one as a literal 'get out of jail free' card. This is... yeah.

Some long-standing fans of the Ryanverse-series have commented on continuity errors present in the book as well. The largest being the complete lack of reference to many of the disasters which occurred in previous books. Given the book is focused on 9/11, this is understandable but the inclusion of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is curious given I'm not sure who started them without George W. Bush. A man who was never president in the Ryanverse.

I could go on but there's a lot of mistakes about how the law works in the book. These often stop the narrative because they're so bizarre. A major subplot, for example, is the trial of a US Army Ranger for war crimes. The problem is that the actions he took were manifestly not war crimes and the authors seem to forget he'd be tried by a military court.

Surprisingly, the book is still enjoyable despite these factors. Dead or Alive is a wish-fulfillment fantasy about a bunch of upright spies out to wipe out an evil terrorist organization. Its premise is ridiculous but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the work as it heads to its inevitable conclusion. The use of many familiar characters from previous Ryanverse novels also contributes to the book being more enjoyable than it probably has any right to be.

Of all the characters to be fond of, I especially enjoyed the Emir. The Osama Bin Ladin substitute is a bizarre and fascinating character who seems more interested in hookers than terrorism. The idea of the world's most infamous terrorist being a complete hypocrite regarding his Islam is something that appeals to me and leads to some of the book's most humorous scenes. The fact these scenes aren't played for comedy but straight simply makes them more fun.

Really, the best thing Dead or Alive has going for it is its numerous interesting action sequences. There's hostage rescues, covert assassinations, military assaults, and a massive finale that plays like a Bond movie. I also enjoyed the return of (former) President Ryan to politics, delivering the kind of warm respectable politician we all believe Washington D.C. should be filled with but isn't.

I am iffy but overall okay with the book's primary star of Jack Ryan Junior. Basically, the literal Jack Ryan of the next generation, he's a character who wants desperately to be a covert operative as opposed to an analyst. There's no real tension whether or not he's going to achieve this goal but the question forms the majority of his character arc in the book. If you like Jack Ryan Senior, you'll like Junior since they're very similar despite their differing backgrounds.

In conclusion, Dead or Alive is a fun but poorly-researched book. What's odd is the questionable elements didn't even have to exist as there's nothing preventing the Campus from being a black ops project of the CIA or the participants being aware of their criminality in the service of a good cause. Still, the characters are enjoyable and the action is fun. Plus, I always approve of fighting Osama Bin Ladin substitutes so long as the novel avoids racism.

I recommend people check out Dead or Alive only if they have a desire to continue reading in the Clancyverse.

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on December 18, 2013
This is my first time reading a book that was really written by Clancy. But I have read other books with his name on the cover all of which were based on his video game franchise Splinter cell. In short I have been a fan since 2005 when I played Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory along with Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six Vegas. I am just one of many readers and Video gamers who will miss Clancy`s style of writing. With Clancy it's simple, you either love what he does or you don't, and if you are fan, then it's been a long time, about ten years since he has been on the Best Seller list, but once again that is where he is headed. Clancy is the master of his genre because he takes the time to learn technical aspects of what he is writing about. This means when you read Clancy you are reading the real thing. Facts are checked, scenarios are discussed with technical aspects, and nothing is left to chance or done offhandedly.

When he talks weapons, he goes into the detail that a munitions dealer would deal with. In this novel we see operators using a Knights Armament M110 Sniper System. He tells you it's the best because he has done the homework. It is facts like this that the master storyteller weaves into the tapestry of his books that many readers including myself find fascinating.

I am not going to discuss the plot in detail because that's why we read the book. Here's what you need to know. This is a big blot book which is what most of Clancy's books represent. In this case, Jack Ryan is a retired President of the United States. His son Jack Junior is running a secret independent anti-terrorist agency that his father the President started.

It is called The Campus, and it has been successful for years going after the bad guys. The current President seems to be weak on terrorism and is more concerned with guaranteeing the legal rights of the bad guys than protecting the country. You are already seeing the subplots develop.

Clancy puts us in the thick of it. We as readers are in the game. When Delta Force operators and Rangers go into the caves of Afghanistan we are with them. We breathe the odors; we hear the sounds, and we feel the tension. We find ourselves silencing our own voices because we don't want the good guys to be caught, and that is classic Clancy.

In this book there is evil in the world, and in DEAD or ALIVE, an evil man in the world is at lodge. He has wreaked havoc on the Western world. We call him the Emir, and his objective is to deal a devastating terrorist blow to the United States. The book takes you around the world while Ryan Junior, and his father's old hands John Clark and Ding Chavez join Ryan along with Brian and Dominic Caruso with Mary Foley.

It's a race for time, and for America. Will the good guys win, and where is the Emir? Is he in a cave 8,000 miles away or is he right here among us? You will have to read the book to find out and oh what an ending.

Why I Love Clancy and you will too?

Please allow me to give you a feel why Clancy was the absolute best writer in his fiction segment. It is his incessant ability to weave odd important facts into his stories, and to weave reality into the fabric of the plot:

* His description of the computer setup at the National Security Agency is without equal.

* There are 125,000 cranes in the world and currently Dubai has 30,000 of them currently building and rebuilding the city. Who knows things like this?

* Plans do not survive the first contact with the enemy.

* Laziness has consequences. If you are a sentry, if you pause, if you hesitate, if you light up a cigarette, you are DEAD.

* You don't have to like it; you just have to do it.

* The FBI Urban Tactical Training Facility is preeminent in the world. They are the best of the best. See why in the book.


This is a great read, all 848 pages of it. You start the book and you can't put it down, and in the end isn't that why we read Clancy. We just keep going until we are finished, and when we are finished we are ready for more. That is why he will be missed by so many readers out there. Read it today and see for yourself, and thank you for reading this review.
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on September 17, 2016
If you take out all the extra dry explanations this book would shave been so much better. The story is excellent but as reader I wanted to skip all the unnecessary fill that made it drag along
I'm glad I finished it
Greenery does much better with his books on the campus and Jack Ryan Jr.
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on October 11, 2014
I have long been a fan of the Jack Ryan adventures since we first met Sir Jack when he hunted the Red October. Clancy though has lost his way. And ghost writers are probably the reason why. A technique of Dumas after becoming famous was to dictate plots to others to write the stories.

Clancy used to make me believe that our heroes were diligent intelligence officers and operatives plugging away at the evidence they gathered and then deciphering the picture and solving the problem. Now, we need 300 pages to get warmed up. Then it becomes formula.

Something bad is happening, our heroes will uncover through plot devices what they need to know in order to stop the worst just in the last moments before it all goes badly. Every time, though? Why not stop it days, months, before it goes bad. Why not lose and only be able to show up too late? That would not sell the American dream that we are somehow superior which is the subplot throughout the entire work. That we are superior. That because we are superior, we have these enemies who will defeat us because we take all that for granted. That there are hundreds of ways to infiltrate our borders and do damage, but always our Ryan heroes come through and save the day.

Clancy's team writes decent suspense, but these books could be reduced in size (less air between lines) and word count. (We were told that Jack's son is following his father's professional career choices about 1000 times. Every time the plot moves a few hours ahead we have to have characters ask how they each are by each of them for the event that happened 100 pages ago, but only a few hours before...)

These are big faults of writing. To Clancy he want's to make sure all he close family inside his head are fed, have lives, remember to flush the toilet. We actually don't care about the mundane unless it adds to the story, and far too much doesn't. If it adds to the characterization we are following great, but he has given so many of his secondary characters their own novels, that each has to be treated like the primary when they are on stage, and that is not the case. Once Clancy can oversee his writers and make them understand how to really write a good, tight suspense book, we will be able to rate these outstanding, but until then, they are only slightly better than average and that is because of the earlier work that has been established.
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on December 29, 2016
This was too long, which is like most of his books. I had trouble following at times. There seemed to be to much description. Over all it was a good read.
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on June 17, 2015
Unfortunately I read a book further up the line about the campus so was familiar. This book however very nicely filled in the blank and really developed the characters. He writes with a style that fully captures the reader. I could actually feel the intensity of the action and danger and didn't want to stop reading even tho it got past midnight several days in a row. On book three now.
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on September 28, 2016
aww maybe three stars..will keep you reading.. predictable now, too many political ad inserts, loose story ends that werent used..seems mass produced
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on April 4, 2017
You really want to read these in order to avoid spoilers. I loved it.
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on April 18, 2017
Tom Clancy is a great writer!!! I love his stories
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on April 6, 2017
Sometimes got a little lost remembering who was who, but that's Clancy. A great read, in any case. The saga continues on with Jack Ryan Jr. learning the ropes
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