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31 December 2013

Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney: Threat Vector

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Best "Tom Clancy" Jack Ryan novel for some time
This is the penultimate Jack Ryan novel signed off by Tom Clancy before his untimely death in October 2013. I say signed off because it is clear that for many years Clancy had relied on a stable of co-authors to write most of his books - and Mark Greaney is the best of them all and should be given most of the credit for this book. "Threat Vector" takes us back to the classic days of "Clancy's" writing style and plots for politico/espionage/covert ops thrillers based loosely on actual and imaginary relations between the US and the rest of the world.

Jack Ryan, Senior, is President again and his son, Jack, Junior, is working as an analyst with The Campus, small off-record self-financing covert operations group set up with Ryan, Sr's. blessing. While Jack is at heart an analyst he is being trained as a covert operator by Ryan's old chums, including John Clark and Domingo Chavez.

This time the Ryans are involved with trying to destroy plans for world domination by China. This starts as a world changing cyber war with The Campus tracking down Chinese hackers who are bent on destruction of the modern world which depends so much on computers. Clancy (or should I say Greaney) have taken a big step forward in setting up a believable situation where a few key Chinese computer nerds can threaten to bring the world to its knees.

The plot also features political and military leaders of the Chinese Communist Party jockeying for position to either keep China the most powerful economy in the world or make it the most powerful military country in the world by conventional and cyber warfare. The start of their conventional war by declaring all of the South China Sea to be Chinese territory has a lot of similarities to what is happening with the dispute over ownership of islands with the Japanese.

The cyber background is believable, the covert ops exciting and the military descriptions more than adequate to maintain the Clancy image. Greaney and his military and computer advisers have put together a contemporary Jack Ryan adrenaline-packed page-turning adventure. After "Executive Action" I kept away from Clancy's work because it was running out of steam, both in plots and the writing. I didn't enjoy the first Greaney collaboration with "Locked On" but I am pleased that I decided to read this book.

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