Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy

I finished reading Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy. Like John Grisham, I am embarrassed by the number of Tom Clancy books I have read. Beitzel got me started on the Jack Ryan books in the 1980's. Over the last twenty five years, I have read 13 of the Jack Ryan books plus Red Storming Rising. Additionally, I have read 11 Op-Center, 8 Net Force, 7 Power Plays and 2 Splinter Cell Books. While this later group of books has Clancy's name on them, they were ghost written by several other authors. In total, this means that I have read 42 books with Tom Clancy's name on the cover.

I also have to admit that I was looking forward to the new Jack Ryan book. Through the 1980's and early 1990's, I enjoyed the series immensely.

When I read that the book was ghostwritten by Grant Blackwood, I started to have a number of concerns. The other series were ghostwritten or written by other authors and I eventually gave up on all of those.

Due to my familiarity with the characters and the story lines from the series, I enjoyed Dead or Alive, but the book has some real problems. Too many of the covert operations that are run in the book are just too clean and fast. Characters jet half across the world into a foreign country, accomplish an extraordinary task almost effortlessly and rush home. The real world is much more complicated.

Additionally, too much of the book just seems too formulaic.  While the Jack Ryan books of the 80's and 90's seemed to have some fresh ideas, Dead or Alive feels like a rehash of things that we have seen repeatedly in other vehicles.

Finally, while it has been a while since I read the earlier books, the prose does not seem as tight as Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games. After twenty plus years, the most recent Grisham books feel like they were written by Grisham. This book does not feel like it was written by Clancy.

Overall, I grade the book as a B-. Amazon lets users rate books from 1 to 5 stars. The current ratings on Amazon fall all the way across the spectrum with more people giving it one star than those giving it five stars.

The book clearly sets up the next book in the series. And yes, I will read the next book.

Jack and a couple of the books in his class started reading the Clancy Jack Ryan books this year. So far, Jack has read Hunt for Red October and Without Remorse. He is currently reading Patriot Games.

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