Jerome's Reviews > Executive Orders

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
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May 07, 12

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.
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