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Ponderous Islamic Terror Plots Amid Antiterrorist Attempts to Save the Day
on 29 December 2010
"For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness." -- Psalm 38:4-5 (NKJV)
Dead or Alive pits the Emir and his global terror network against the United States, with only the hope that the secret group, The Campus, can act in time to avoid horror. If that plot sounds familiar, you've read some variation on it several times in the last decade by other authors. What's different here? Authors Tom Clancy and Grant Blackwood work in the major surviving characters from the earlier Jack Ryan novels. Although the names are familiar and friendly to the memory, the characters themselves are more similar in name than in reality. So if you think you are going to enjoy a vintage Jack Ryan thriller, think again.
If that puts you off, realize that you'll be disappointed if you are looking for the old zing in this series. It's just not there. You'll probably grade the book as one or two stars, as a poor imitation of "the prior characters and stories."
If you can put that feeling aside and focus on the book itself, it's about a two-and-a-half star effort that's mainly marred by taking forever to develop over the 950 pages in my edition. The strength of the slow development is that your curiosity will grow about what the terror plot involves, but I doubt if you'll be intrigued. If you enjoy learning how to run a terror network over the Internet, the book becomes a little more interesting. If you want to gain a little paranoia about American vulnerability to terrorists, the book is decent in that regard.
The test for me with such a "thriller" is whether I can put it down in the middle for a few days and feel relaxed about not knowing what's coming next. I did such laying aside with no problem.
The book opens on a high point, as an Army Ranger team strikes into the cave network along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border seeking to capture a potentially high-value terror suspect. They come across something quite unsuspected, which begins to slowly reveal a mystery in motion. Terror cells are described in action, moving towards undefined objectives with great remorselessness. Treasure those parts of the book. What's coming isn't nearly as fast-paced and interesting.
What's the nicest thing I can say about the book? It's definitely better than The Bear and The Dragon.
What's the worst thing I can say? The Kindle version is overpriced.
Should you read it? You'll probably enjoy the trip if your expectations aren't set by the best of the prior Jack Ryan books.