Once again, Tom Clancy manages to add new twists to the alternate U.S. history he initiated in The Hunt for Red October
. In The Sum of All Fears
, the centre of conflict is that perpetual hot spot, the Middle East, where a nuclear weapon falls into the hands of terrorists just as peace finally seems possible. Clancy realistically paints an almost unthinkable scenario--the bomb is planted on American soil in the midst of an escalation in tension with the Soviet Union; the terrorists hope to rekindle cold war animosity and prevent reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Despite such a dramatic story line, Clancy doesn't neglect the individuals who drive his tale. Jack Ryan's problems are as much domestic as they are part of the international crisis that is the ostensible narrative: National Security Director Elizabeth Elliot has the president's ear, and she has convinced him that Ryan's ethics are questionable. She hints at marital infidelity and an insider-trading scandal. Of course, both accusations are false, but her arguments have enough evidence behind them (some photographs of an innocent embrace with a friend for example) to cause a strain in the Ryans' marriage and a flurry of media attention. While "Mr Clark" tracks the terrorists, he also provides some needed intelligence to heal the Ryan family.
The Sum of All Fears is the stuff of nightmares but contains enough verisimilitude to terrify sober minds. Ryan has developed into a complex protagonist, just as Clancy's writing has matured. Ryan is plagued by stress and self-doubts that test even his dauntless moral compass and make him a more interesting subject for readers' attention. Those fascinated by military hardware, from nuclear submarines to atomic weapons, will find almost enough here to start their own army. And Clancy's understanding of international politics seems chillingly correct. --Patrick O'Kelley
From the reviews of The Sum of All Fears:
‘Another classic Clancy. His most successful book… assures his place at the forefront of modern thriller writers.’
‘Clancy’s best book since The Hunt for Red October – a whiz-bang page-turner.’
New York Times