I'm reading Tom Clancy's 'Dead or Alive' now. It had gotten 2.5-star reviews on Amazon, and so I wasn't expecting much. But it has the return of Jack Ryan after eleven years off, and so I wanted to read it for that much at least. Some of the books in that series were really good, and some of the movies, too. But this one is a plod and a half. Clancy farmed out the actual writing to someone named Grant Blackwood, who (according to the jacket) is also a ghostwriter for Clive Cussler. Cussler's books (007 meets Indiana Jones) have always been farcical, sort of like Saturday morning cartoons, and so his ghostwriter is not a choice I'd expect for Clancy. Blackwood tries to imitate Clancy's writing style, and captures maybe 70% of it but misses the parts that are actually interesting. Gawd, the descriptive sections go on forever as the characters grimly reflect on their grim careers and the grim state of the world in general, grimly. It can take 3 pages for someone to sit down and order tea while he grimly reflects. Apparently this is an attempt at character development. At one point a plane blows up over the ocean. Awhile later, we meet a couple of fishermen, father and son. We read about how the son is more interested in girls than fishing, and always has those damned earbuds in his ears listening to stupid pop music while the world goes to hell. The father grimly reflects that at least the wife packed them a good lunch. That's mostly what women do in Clancy's books. They pack lunches and suitcases for their men. Oh, sure, there's Andrea the Secret Service agent and Mary Pat the CIA analyst, but they hover around the periphery while the men do the Important Stuff. Oh, and Jack Ryan's daughter? She whines over dinner about how they shouldn't be eating the poor cows. The men dismiss her by pointing out her leather shoes. Sometimes this Green stuff can get out of hand when there's a man's work to be done. Ha! They sure put the little lady in her place! Ha! Ha! Anyway, the fishing boat bumps into the plane's black box. That was the entire function of the fishing boat scenario. Good thing we learned about the earbud kid who we'll never meet again, and the lunch-packing-wife back home. Jeez.And Jack Ryan? He sits at home and frets and grumbles, and reflects grimly about that damned Democrat in the White House. Maybe someday they'll get Bin Laden, but it won't happen under a Democrat administration, because Democrats are too busy playing corrupt politics to worry about national security. It's going to take a conservative to bring down Bin Laden. Right? Clancy's descent into mediocrity reminds me of Micheal Crichton's 'State of Fear' from a few years ago. OMG, it's bad. And he's written some good books. 'State of Fear' is about some enviro-terrorists trying to stage a disaster and make it look like global warming caused it. I forget the details, but the main character is some enviro-wimp who stumbles around in a daze and his female co-worker thinks he's a wimpy idiot. Then another, stronger, more manly character comes along to set him straight. The manly man recites pages of data (as manly men apparently do in conversation) that disprove global warming, and he also does manly stuff in the field, and slowly changes the wimp's mind. Before you know it, the wimpy guy becomes more manly as he realizes that protecting the environment is for wimps, and his female co-worker starts to find him attractive. No, seriously. And then maybe some stuff blows up. I forget. Time for some new reading.
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