In the early 1980's, long before he was President or head of the CIA, before he fought terrorist attacks on the Super Bowl or the White House, even before a submarine named Red October made its perilous way across the Atlantic, Jack Ryan was a historian, teacher, and recent ex-Marine temporarily living in England while researching a book. A series of deadly encounters with an IRA splinter group brought him to the attention of the CIA's deputy director, Vice Admiral James Greer -- as well as his counterpart in the British SIS, Sir Basil Charleston -- and when Gree asked Jack if he wanted to come aboard as a freelance analyst, he was quick to accept. The opportunity was irresistible, and he was sure he could fit it in with the rest of his work. 1
Red Rabbit is Tom Clancy's latest offering (2002) in the Jack Ryan series. The twist to this book is everything happens in the past compared to the last book, The Bear and the Dragon. The premise to the book is there is a Polish Pope who passes a letter to Warsaw offering an ultimatium; either stop the repression or he would resign and return to Poland. This is something that cannot be allowed to happen, in fact it would upset everything one person had tried to establish. Yuriy Andropov is the chairman of the KGB and has developed his power base to be the next chairman of the Soviet Union. (Remember the story takes place in the early 80's, so we all have to remember the first "axis of evil.") If things happen in Warsaw, chances of Andropov becoming chairman appears to be slim. The conflict is set, something has to be done, will the great Jack Ryan know what to do?
One of the more enjoyable parts of this book is learning about the past lives of some of other characters we come to know and love throughout the rest of the books. While most people think Ryan is the primary character in the book, in fact, Mary Pat and Ed Foley play a more important role allowing us to learn a lot more about this couple. As readers, we learn more about Mary Pat's background, the reasons she became a spy and some of the other events in the couple's life.
However, many people agree the book is slow moving, it takes almost 200 pages to get moving, how many people will wade through a book before the action starts? Clancy interjects some political commentary by talking about the actor president and how thoughtful the President is in making decisions. Another problem with the book is the way it represents the Politburo. USA Today in its book review says: "his Soviet characters are wooden. The Politburo acts like Mafia thugs, without any of The Sopranos ' style."2
A quick search through both Barnes and Nobles.com and Amazon.com reveals how the customers thought about the book and I tend to agree with them. Throughout both sites, the highest review is 3 stars out 5, not that good. The book seems dry and dull, no action, the only shot that takes place occurs 602 compared to the normally high impact/high action movies we are used to with Clancy. USA Today book reviews sums it up:
When Ryan isn't learning how to be a spy, he writes history books. As Clancy puts it, "His language was literate — he'd learned his grammar from priests and nuns for the most part, and his word mechanics were serviceable — but not particularly elegant." Clancy could be describing his own writing; workman-like, but never elegant."3
I suggest heading to your local library
first and read it there, if you like it purchase the book.
1. Taken from Jacket Cover of Red Rabbit, Tom Clancy, Penguin Putnam Inc, New York, 2002