The Bear and the Dragon
By Tom Clancy Putnam, 1,028 pages, $39.99 REVIEWED BY
Over the years, Tom Clancy fans have followed Jack Ryan through the bowels of a Russian submarine, across the jungles of Columbia and into the White House. In the Bear and the Dragon, Ryan, fresh from a landslide presidential victory, is already fed up with politics and longs for his simple, albeit adventurous, days as a CIA analyst. But rest assured, a massive international crisis is just around the corner.
In Clancy's 11th solo novel, downtrodden Russia discovers massive oil and gold deposits. China looks longingly at the Russian windfall as a solution to its desperate finances. Washington gets wind of China's intention to invade Russia through the efforts of a young spy who will do anything for his country (which leads to Clancy's most explicit foray into Harlequin-like encounters). Soon, Ryan and his posse are bending over backwards to discourage China, even by welcoming Russia into NATO.
Clancy is the master of techno-thrillers. He uses military acronyms as often as possible and spares no detail, whether describing a cluster bomb or a telephone. But it seems as though his arsenal is getting bare. Stealthy submarine-stalking has given way to droning trade negotiations. Realistic? Sure. Entertaining? Not really.
Clancy must regret having made Ryan President. Rather than jump into the fray and duck bullets as he once did, Ryan is relegated to sitting at his desk. The man who once chased IRA terrorists and dodged Colombian hit men now runs screaming from domestic issues.
Take away the right-wing Republican banter and cut-out characters and we're left with an extremely predictable story. Although a great deal of Clancy's appeal lies in his methodical stage-setting, this story has too much set-up and not enough payoff, except for a spectacular scene involving the anti-terrorist Rainbow Six team. There are flashes of Clancy magic, but the book is so predictable, slow and macho that readers will no longer find themselves staying up to finish the next chapter.
Andre Demers is a freelance writer in Montreal.