Don't read it. Like his idiological antipole Stephen King, Tom Clancy's work has degraded steadily and continuously over the years to the point where this fetid pile of shit gets released and millions of dolts, myself included, buy it just out of intertia. Well no more, I say. The line is drawn here. No more Clancy for me.

Why did I hate it, you ask? Well, there are three things that really bugged me.

  1. The characters are all the same
    You know how in some pulp novels, all the bad guys seem to have exactly the same viewpoint and philosophy? (A good example, by no meanse exhaustive, is anything written by Ayn Rand). Well, Rainbow Six is the first book I've read in which this condition is applied instead to the good guys. Every single hero in the book feels exactly the same way about every issue. They're not even one-dimensional...they actually have to share the persona of one one-dimensional character. Although the various terrorists we meet are also cut-out characters, at least they are distinct: Each group has different approaches to its craft, and different motives for its actions. Only one character in the book has any substantial depth, and he's a bad guy.
  2. His evil movement is a pretty silly choice.
    After taking care of the standard bad guys--Communists, Iranians, Drug Lords, Irish Insurgents, and the Japanese (Hmm, we still don't have one for the Chinese yet...)--Clancy has turned his eye towards environmentalists as his new bad guys. Yes, it turns out that if the Sierra Club isn't doing enough for you, you can always join the group that plans to save the world by releasing a devestating virus that will wipe out all but a couple million people on earth. And, in the same vein as his earlier novels, every single subscriber to the beliefs of environmentalism is portrayed as sympathetic to the cause. Clancy writes as though all he got all his information on Greenpeace from conversations with Naval officers.
  3. He has a strange obsession with exploding heads.
    You can't turn five pages without coming across a description of someone's head exploding as a bullet passes through it. In a kind of survey of the phenomenon, Clancy composes an ode to the Platonic Idea of the exploding head by describing it from all perspectives; from the perspective of the trigger man, from the perspective of the victim, from the perspective of the head as an object, from the perspective of the bullet, from the perspective of the witnesses, in every tense and time frame. Even the potential of exploding heads is explored ("Had Ding been firing at a real terrorist instead of a target, his brains would be all over the wall.")
After reading this book, I thought it sucked so hard, I actually went to the library and checked out a Clancy book I had enjoyed before, Clear and Present Danger, to see if this sucking was a new thing for Clancy, or if he had always sucked this hard, and I had never noticed. My conclusion: Clancy sucked back then too, but it was in the mechanics of writing and story development that he had since polished as his actual storytelling skills had degraded.

My advice: Stay away from this book, and everything else Clancy has written after The Sum of All Fears, which I thought was pretty good.