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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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"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.
22 comments| 29 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 December 2010
In the 90's Clancy was huge, his books were huge and it seemed he could do no wrong. It was probably wrong to think such a srata of books would remain contemporary forever.

For many, Clancy went off the boil and in some cases the later books were poor by his standards. This new novel, co-written by someone I confes i have never heard of, is moving that quality line back towards where it once was. OK, so it's not Clear & Present Danger or Executive Orders, but it is better than some of the later offerings.

In places, you might be able to spot the Clancy chapters and this makes the book a little patchy but the characters are old friends and the plot in well put together. At 600+ pages it is a 'shorter' Clancy, but the fact that I finished this in under a week means it held my interest and was clearly a good read.
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on 22 February 2011
First off I'm a big Tom Clancy fan. I guess that is why I'm so disappointed with this book. Although the plot is decent, if not a little cliche these days, the writing is absolutely atrocious. If you are not a stickler for detail you may not even notice it, but for those that know and love/d Tom Clancy for his realism and attention to detail you will find neither here. Some errors are truly pathetic for a professional author, such as numerous misspellings an improper grammar or vocabulary usage. Others are just errors in accuracy (such as the statement that the Shia are the minority in Iraq, when in fact they are the majority), which would not be a major issue if this wasn't Tom Clancy. I realize that Grant Blackwood co-authored, but in the end it is Clancy's name that is in bold print. Whether the literary and grammatical errors were vomited from Clancy's pen or Blackwood's is irrelevant, I would hope that Mr. Clancy would have at least read the final draft before he signed his name to it.

Over the past decade Clancy fans have already had to be wary of the myriad of "created by Tom Clancy" books, which were actually authored by unknowns. We used to wait with baited breath for the rare releases of novels actually written by Clancy. Unfortunately, it seems even the original is no longer up to par. I regret to say that it seems obvious that Clancy has now completely sold out for money and forgotten all about his artistic integrity. I think its time Clancy either holsters his pen, or goes back to writing his own books. Oh, and since he has so much money now he might want to spring for a decent editor. Shame on you Tom
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on 19 December 2010
This book is a direct sequel to Teeth of the Tiger, Clancy's last lack lustre entry in the Jack Ryan world. That book introduced Jack Jr, the other members of The Campus and the hunt for the Emir. This book centres on the hunt but thankfully is a return to the Clancy of old.

One of the main differences, is this book welcomes back some old characters, with the most focus on Clark and Chavez. This is a welcome relief as the new characters seem a bit under developed even by the end of this book.

Like most Clancy books this starts slowly with a number of (seemingly unrelated) plot lines before wrapping them all together in an exciting climax. This book seemed to start even slowly than most, and is quite tough going for the first half. However, the pace really picks up in the second half.

Overall, this isn't as good as some of the early Ryan entries, but it's certainly worth a read.
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on 11 February 2011
Difficult to believe that Tom Clancy was involved in this book at all! I never did find out what the book was really about - the characters
had the old familier names but the dialogue was so long winded that I juust gave up half the time. They were obviously supposed to be looking for someone call the Emir but they never ezplained why or what he was supposed to have done. About every 50 pages a little action but not in the same league as Rainbow Six!
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on 21 July 2014
I know what to expect from these latest Clancy books and that is all Americas enemies are from Arab states and that all the heroes are whiter than white with a moral code that puts everyone to shame and never miss. It's a very old fashioned way of writing with other writers showing depth to characters, but saying that if you want a good read that you cannot take seriously then this is just what you need.
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on 2 April 2013
Like all Clancy books, this starts slowly, with a very detailed back story, but it is worth it in the end. A good read, if you can get through the first couple of hundred pages, you will be rewarded with a gripping storyline, which continues the Ryan fun and games, bringing back a lot of the old characters and continuing the development of the "Campus". Fast paced, it is not of the same quality as the classic Ryan books, which could not be put down. Still, if you are a fan of the Ryan series, then it is worth reading.
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on 19 May 2012
I loved the Jack Ryan original series...I read executive orders 4 times, and some of the scenes in those books are the best action sequences I have ever read. I had really high hopes for this book - old characters, and a great threat to civilization. This book is a real mixed bag however, and I think clearly shows two authors (I suspect one with Mr Clancy occasionally contributing) not talking too much, with different ideas for plot development. I think had they had a strong editor to take 1/3 off the book length, it could have been a good book, but it is too slow to get anywhere, and some pretty big plot threads sometimes seem to go nowhere, like Jack Ryan Snr. You can quite easily read this missing out whole chapters. The opening sequence with the rangers is superb, but the rest of the book slowly drifts off. I don't think he has done enough to justify buying book three of this series. This is a real shame for me.
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on 14 December 2011
At the end of Clancy's first 'Jack Ryan Jr' book 'Teeth of the Tiger' the stage was set for a really exciting new series of stories. I waited with baited breath.... and waited.... and waited. Alas Tom Clancy was busying himself with video games and his various book franchises to which he attached his name. It took until 2010 for this follow up to be published. Except I was horrified to see it wasn't a Tom Clancy novel, it was ghost written. Presumably Clancy had thought up a plot and couldn't be bothered to go through the chore of writing... The result was utter tedium. All of the spirit of his own books was gone... Message to Mr. Clancy - get back to writing your own books, or you will be losing legions of fans
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on 1 January 2011
I bought this book thinking it was Tom Clancy novel. Who is Grant Blackwood that i have paid good money to read. How much was written by him? Is this a new style? Clancy does concept and Blackwood does the bit in the middle i.e. the words. I bought the 950 page edition. First mistake. Double spaced lines and larger font. Check out The Sum Of All Fears or Executive Orders for word density! This "Clancy" novel is a bit like a Jack Higgins book, lots of paper, double spaced lines, and a weak plot. The Campus, a sort of unofficial washington boy scout unit with co-opted friends capture bin Ladin. Their activities are illegal, espionage against america is ok as is murder if their leader believes it is in the best interest of whatever he believes in. Another reviewer suggested that there is a touch of the Tea Party about this book. I think that is correct and Clancy is now even more right wing that he was before. The Clancy detail/touch whatever you call it is missing, the plot pogo sticks from one delinked sub plot to another, and not very good plots either. I gave up at page 650 and read the end. It is now two inches of expensive space on a shelf. No more sub-contracted Clancy for me.
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