on 15 September 2003
Unfortunately Teeth of the Tiger can only be described as another downward step on the alarmingly declining career of Tom Clancy. Much shorter than most of his earlier work, this novel still takes an age to really get going and much of the book seems to be used as little more than a platform for the author’s own political (very right wing) agenda.
The story is based on the highly improbable premise that America’s secret new spy agency will employ, purely by coincidence, Jack Ryan’s son and two of his cousins. Little effort is made in the development of these characters and some of the dialogue between them is excruciatingly, painfully, embarrassingly bad with…
“Bet your bippy bro. You?”
“Hang a big roger on that.”
…typical of the sort of rubbish perpetrated in this book.
The plot is one of Islamic terrorists attacking America and an unofficial new agency which executes them without reference to judge or jury. This is far from ambitious compared with Clancy’s earlier work and the entire novel comes across as being a very transparent attempt to articulate and justify his own, obviously extreme, ideas. The action scenes are neither original nor particularly exciting and the story frequently becomes lost in meaningless descriptions of car journeys and other unnecessary digressions.
As a former Clancy fan I take no pleasure in dismissing this book as dull, repetitive flag waving rubbish. Much the same can be said of Clancy’s last few books such as Red Rabbit, The Bear and the Dragon and Rainbow Six and it is amazing to think how far this author has declined from his peak with classics like Red Storm Rising and The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
The last novel that Tom Clancy presented to readers was not well received. With,” Teeth of the Tiger”, we are again presented with a young Jack Ryan but this time it is a new generation and not a work that is a prequel to previous books. This book ends abruptly and does so at a point that would normally mark the half way mark in terms of length of one of Mr. Clancy’s works. This book is not a sweeping complete tale; it is clearly one in a series. This work borrows from, “Clear and Present Danger”, “Without Remorse”, and finally, “Rainbow Six”.
The concepts of sanctioned action outside of nearly any governmental oversight, the drug trade and finally forms of revenge were all explored in the other works that I mentioned. The new twist here has to do with populating the events with Jack Ryan Jr. and two of his first cousins. There is nothing here readers have not been exposed to before and have enjoyed. Mr. Clancy brings great authenticity to the organizations he creates here just as he always does in his work. What is missing this time is the very deft hand he has always been when it comes to the gadgets and weapons systems he presented. His books read as though he had unique access to information, one work even included a satellite photo that caused a bit of an uproar. His very first book was said to have caused consternation in the Navy due to the remarkable and correct detail he offered readers This book’s events largely take place in the world of cyberspace and Mr. Clancy clearly is not as comfortable with this and related subjects.
I have read all of his stand-alone novels and as a reader from the very first work I would like to see new novels and complete works like those he presented in the past. When you see this book you will immediately note how slender a volume it is for this author. At 430 pages it is comparatively brief, and with the introduction of Ryan Jr. it appears much of Jack Sr.’s career is going to be explored once again. Placing the next generation of the Ryan family in the loop does not constitute a new novel. In this instance the book read like a re-tread and is not a major new work by Mr. Clancy. If fans are not enamored by this work it will mark the second tale in a row that has disappointed his readers.
Tom Clancy and Jack Ryan hit the ceiling with "Executive Orders," which was Clancy's ninth novel and the seventh Jack Ryan techno-thriller. That particular novel ended with the character, now President of the United States, declaring his intention to run for and be elected to the office that he gained through a tragic twist of fate. We learn in "The Teeth of the Tiger" that Ryan was elected with a plurality surpassed only by George Washington, but I was disappointed that the next Jack Ryan novel, "The Bear and the Dragon," had skipped over the election, because I was really looking forward to Tom Clancy's take on the circus that is American presidential politics and was anticipating Ryan carving up his political opponent in a debate the same way I enjoyed watching Jed Bartlett do on "The West Wing." But this was not to be.
It is clear now in retrospect that since "Executive Orders" Clancy has seriously lost momentum. "Rainbow Six" was a John Clark novel that originally indicated Clancy was taking a break from Jack Ryan again. But "The Bear and the Dragon" showed that Clancy no longer knew what to do with Jack Ryan. On the one hand the story, with China and Russia going to war, was again upping the ante for what was at stake, but the family element, always a strong component in these books, was essentially gone. Clancy tried to reset his character, taking Jack Ryan back to the early days in "Red Rabbit" and dealing with a real event: the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. It was the mission more than the time frame that made that particular book seem different and I had to wonder if events in the real world had moved so far beyond the Cold War that existed when Clancy began writing that the fictional world he had created was collapsing because of external forces.
That idea gains credence in "The Teeth of the Tiger," where September 11th has happened, but we have no idea how it fits into the Clancy chronology. The opening chapters of this novel reminded me of the opening credits of "Aliens3" where everything you liked about the previous story was jettisoned. Jack Ryan is now retired, as are most of the major supporting characters we have come to know, and one of them is dead. You will be shocked by who is now POTUS and a bit miffed that there is no explanation for how that particular abomination took place. On the one hand, clearly Clancy is trying to clear the table, whether to start over or to get back to the basics will be your call when you finished reading the novel. But while none of the familiar characters appear, they still get talked about a lot.
Our hero is now John Patrick Ryan, Jr., although he is actually one of a trio of youngsters at the heart of this story. The others are his cousins, Dominic and Brian Caruso, a rookie FBI agent and a Marine captain just back from Afghanistan, who have caught the eye of the people at "The Campus." What this novel is about, in terms of contemporary geopolitics, is Tom Clancy's solution to the Brave New World of terrorism. When anybody with an automatic weapon and the willingness to die can cause serious damage, the old rules no longer apply. Set up by President Ryan before he left office, "The Campus" operates outside the system, free of government restrictions and Congressional oversight. Its mission is to identify and locate terrorist threats and to eliminate them.
The result of this next generation of Clancy heroes is best described as "Jack Ryan Lite," as history repeats itself and another Jack Ryan proves himself to be a natural in the field of intelligence with a knack for getting his hands dirty. This new trio certainly talks a lot more (and way too much in public), especially the two brothers (fraternal twins), who endlessly debate things in the way those chatty FBI agents and Marine officers tend to do. Junior, as he is usually called, never interacts with any of his family besides his cousins, which is a conscious but artificial choice by Clancy (Has the author been shying off this element since his divorce and remarriage? You decide). The other thing missing are the wonderful backstories that Clancy used to work in for characters (e.g., the whole Red Wegener bit from "Clear and Present Danger"), which is one reason that "The Teeth of the Tiger" does not have the heft of its predecessors.
Of course, when you are not dealing with a nuclear explosion, biochemical warfare, or military invasions, a series of "minor" terrorist attacks and a handful of assassinations seems almost trivial. But this is the world in which we now live and the one in which Tom Clancy clearly wants his next generation of characters to do their job. I do not fault the idea, but the execution is not up to Clancy's standards and again I see the need for an editor to step in and make him clean up his writing. Characters are saying the same things over and over again in only slightly different ways. Most importantly, "The Teeth of the Tiger" fails the ultimate test of a Clancy book. From time to time I will pick up "Patriot Games" or "Executive Orders" and reread my favorite parts. But like "The Bear and the Dragon," this latest Clancy novel is going up on the shelf and is probably not coming back down again, which is the most damming critique I can offer.
Okay, so Ryan Senior is alive and well, but it looks like Clancy has foresaken his hero for good. I had looked forward to this book intensely; after the wonderful Executive Orders, news on Jack Ryan has been thin on the ground. Red Rabbit delved back into his past, but I, and I suspect most Clancy fans, had been looking forward to a new Ryan story. After all there was a lot of material to play with, such as the winning of the election and how he coped with being President. The film 'Airforce One' was to my mind an example of a Ryan as President story which Clancy must have wished he had written.
The Teeth of the Tiger, however, does none of that, and dispenses with Ryan Sr in a few easy sentences. He is now retired from the presidency and the hero of the story, Jack Jr, has no contact with him at all. The shock of attacks both chemical (Executive Orders) and nuclear (The Sum of All Fears) is replaced with minor terrorist attacks and assassinations. Although the book works averagely well if you ignore all of Clancy's other work, the overall feeling is one of being let down. And what is there left for Junior to do that his dad hasn't already achieved?
It could be that Clancy feels he can't tackle major crises and catastrophes anymore; after all, Debt of Honour could well have inspired the September 11 attacks. If that is the case, then he deserves our sympathy.
A disappointment, and if this and Red Rabbit are anything to go by then maybe Jack Ryan Jr's career should be nipped in the bud and Clancy, like Ryan Sr, should decide that it's time to call it a day.
on 18 March 2004
I used to devour Tom Clancy books avidly when they came out but gradually the standard slipped and then I started reading the reviews of his most recent books and I just stopped buying. Someone didn't notice this fact and I got given The Teeth Of The Tiger as a Christmas present. I finally got around to reading it and really, really wish that I hadn't bothered.
This is a truly dreadful book. It is thinner than many of Clancy's previous offerings (no bad thing in itself) but even then it is too long for the material it contains. Clancy seems to have come up with one basic idea and stretched it out over 400 pages - and then the book just ends leaving a feeling of "Is that it?". I am sure that there will be a sequel (maybe there already is but I couldn't be bothered to find out) and it will carry on the story, but in Clancy's early days the plot of The Teeth Of The Tiger would have fitted into the first 20% of one of his books and then the story would have taken off from there.
Of course a good book can have a slow plot development, but the writing has to be good to sustain it. And here it isn't. Outrageous coincidences, a ponderous and predictable plot and above all a set of stereotyped characters who spend ages (or at least it felt like it to this reader)worrying about their consciences only for the good old "let's kick ass" attitude to suface and sweep away all of the doubts. We also get treated to a quick culinary tour of major European cities (was the book an excuse for a tax deductable holiday in Europe I wonder?) but, as before, Clancy still hasn't managed to understand the rituals of the British pub, so even that jars.
But above everything is the fact that this book is deadly dull and boring. Rather than read it do something more exiting - like watching paint dry.
on 15 August 2004
I can't remmember the last time I was this dissapointed with a book. It's nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to 9/11 and I wouldnt be surprised if Clancy wrote the entire book on 9/12 while watching CNN. It's racist, offensive and contains nothing that makes his earlier books so enjoyable. The plot is EXACTLY the same as red rabbit! A Ryan being introduced to the intelligance community and then jaunting around Europe. But the line that most annoyed me is when of our 'hero`s' uses the line "what have we ever done to them?" when viewing the carnage at the mall. I'm not condoning terrorist actions but this clown seems to think that the US sends marines all over the world to feed the hungry and clothe the poor! I pray to God that rather than this being Clancy`s personal view that he is instead trying to tell us how ignorant Americans are; but I wouldn't bet on it. Petty, boring and anti everything non-american; avoid this as you would do the black death.
on 19 January 2006
I have read many clancy novels and whilst never scaling literary heights,this drops to a new low.Every plot twist and poor character has been used in a rehash of previous novels.Please if you have any sense at all,avoid this 'book'.I stuck with it just to see if it could get any worse and it did.Poor wafer thin,one dimensional characters went on a stereotypical jaunt around europe,offing the bad guys.Thats as good as it gets.For he first time ever i contemplated burning a book.AVOID!!
What is going on with Tom Clancy? I haven't read "Red Rabbit" yet but judging by the reviews I don't think I'll bother. His first five books were excellent but this is absolute, complete, rubbish. The story is so thin as to be almost transparent, based around a whole bunch of unlikely coincidences. The characters have no real development, and two brothers who end each sentence with "bro" and use phrases like "Bet your bippy, bro" and "Hang a big rodger on that" become increasingly annoying to the point of severe irritation the more you read on. The book also ends (nowhere?) where one of the earlier books would have just started getting going - it's like he was in a rush to finish writing it. Having said all this, I did find it hard to put down after I got to the last third of the book, but overall it was a disappointment and relief to finish it - know what I mean 'bro?
on 15 September 2003
Make no mistake - as an avid Clancy fan I still found this book a good read. Clancy is, for the most part, still in a different league for details and well constructed plots.
But.......I was left, ultimately, feeling disapointed on 2 counts. (1) whilst good, and definately better than Red Rabbit, it is no where near as good as the Jack Ryan and Clark novels; and (2) it's a bit short: the book seems to come to an end at an unnatural point, just as things are getting more interesting; this book is half the thickness of previous Clancy epics and I was left wondering if the original book had been split in two for the benefit of sales and profit. Probably just me being cynical!
To sum up: still good, but could be so much better. Lets hope Clancy returns to his own high standards with his next book.
on 17 March 2004
This book lacks the tension of the hunt for red October or the grand vision of red storm rising, what we're left with is a much more insular and simplistic book. Unlike in previous novels there is no complexity to the characters at all. The good guys are all American heroes, to an extent this part is fair enough and is usually the case in adventure type novels but most disappointingly the bad guys (invariably Arab) have no redeeming features whatsoever. The storyline is also fairly obvious, but I don't want to discus that in case I spoil it for someone.
Politically there is quite a lot of scary stuff here, it is obvious that the book was written while very angry at terrorism and it shows Mr Clancy's frustration with civil rights, political oversight of the intelligence services, the free press and anything else that stands between his heroes and their goal of murdering any Arabs they don't like.
On the plus side, Mr Clancy seems, as usual, to have a very good grasp of what it feels like to be one of these agents and his descriptions of combat are first rate.
If you're a die hard Clancy fan, you'll buy this book anyway and probably enjoy quite a lot of it. Just don't expect it to be up to his earlier standards.
If you haven't read anything by Tom Clancy before I'd recommend 'Hunt for red October', 'Red storm rising' and 'Rainbow Six'. They obviously aren't as topical as this one but they make up for it by being far superior books.