In his latest novel, Tom Clancy pairs up with Mark Greany to produce Threat Vector, another great installment in his techno-thriller series. Late last year these two authors released Locked On, based upon the continuing adventures of Jack Ryan Senior and Junior. The Ryans are back again in a new, high stakes cyber war, with the fate of the world in the balance. After an action packed beginning, the younger Ryan and his secret agency go to war against Chinese hackers, who are bent on destruction. I read this book through in one day, interrupted only by my job. Although I had planned to save it for an upcoming plane trip, I couldn't stop reading. It is that good. I cooled on Clancy for years, but this one has brought me back to fan status again.
I fell in love with Tom Clancy's writing with The Hunt for Red October, a book that kept millions of us on the edge of our seats. In the 1980's his books were unique for their combination of fast paced action, solid characters, geopolitical intrigue and amazingly realistic details about tech and weapons, all brought together in exciting adventures. Unfortunately, his novels haven't always been excellent, especially when he began working with co-writers. I feel a little disappointed whenever I see his name sharing the front cover with someone else. None of his co-written books have been as good as the original Clancy works, with the exception of his second novel, Red Storm Rising (co-written with Larry Bond).
Clancy's writing has been criticized because his characters lack depth. They make clear cut decisions that are either good or bad, and the storylines portray an unapologetic American patriotism that has gone out of style in some quarters. There is little ambiguity in the early novels, and some characters, especially Jack Ryan, seem to be completely good, without any faults. In later novels Clancy allows Jack some vices, perhaps in response to critics, but this effort did not satisfy them, and might have alienated some readers.
A writer has to change with the times, because the readers who loved his work in 1984 are different now, and we have different expectations. I have grown a lot older, and having read many books in the meanwhile, including an ever expanding list of techno thrillers, I admit that I am getting harder to please. Although I don't find Clancy's novels quite as wonderful as I used to, they are still very good. I recommend this one, but I couldn't quite give it five stars.
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