DEAD OR ALIVE by Tom Clancy


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Good guys versus sneering terrorists, yet again: classic Clancy, a blend of stick-figure storytelling, rightist op-ed and tech manual for death-dealing gadgets.

The most interesting figure, and the only one who has even a layer or two of skin by way of characterization, appears first in Clancy’s (The Hunt for Red October, 1984, etc.) latest. Sam Driscoll is a tough-as-nails sergeant, a Ranger, now bearded and lanky-haired, ready for action at the caves of Tora Bora hunting you-know-who. When a few mujahedeen get wasted along the way, Kealty, the namby-pamby and probably illegitimate president who has succeeded President Jack Ryan—who probably should have a trademark symbol accompanying his name—gets all weepy, while politically correct military lawyers come over all legal-like about the rules of engagement. Ryan, for his part, gets ticked (“This idiot Kealty doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. What’s worse, he doesn’t care”). Meanwhile his namesake, Jack Jr., springs into action at what one supposes to be the mark-two successor to the CIA, a super-secret agency known as The Campus, “which was officially out of all the loops, which was sort of the point.” And why out of the loop? Well, obviously, because liberal presidents like Kealty (fill in whatever name you wish) are loyal only to themselves, not to the country—and bad timing for that, since, well, after all, “Islamic fundamentalists had declared war on America and her allies.” The baddest of ’em all, the Emir, thinks he’s Saladin—and, of course, it’s up to the likes of Ryan Jr. and Driscoll and the other heroes of the piece to mount a crusade against him. The infantile vision of politics aside, much of the book reads like a Pentagon white paper (“Of all the feasibility studies the URC had done in the early stages of Lotus, the most troubling and nebulous question had involved the facility’s on-site security, an issue that neither the DOE nor NRC had publicly addressed”). There are some nifty explosions, though.

If reality were a comic book or a Stallone script, this would be a useful road map. As it is, it’ll be gobbled up like a Happy Meal, Ronald Reagan’s “perfect yarn” franchised into neatly packaged commodity.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-15723-3
Page count: 848pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2011


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