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3.1 out of 5 stars
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3.1 out of 5 stars
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on 13 May 2017
Good read, but wish I'd gone for hard back
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on 7 March 2017
good read
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on 4 January 2002
As a fan of Tom Clancy I am always compelled to read "his" books. However Tom is now becoming tiring, the plot is inevitable lacking in substance and surprise, the technology always works and the characters lack any sparkle. Clancy books are becoming James Bond, Dirk Pitt affairs which are not the audience they are aimed at? This book lacks intrigue and interest and by the end was tiresome and only completed because I had read the first 600 pages. It is time to ditch Jack Ryan (predictable all American hero) and go back to what made Clancy good (see Red O, Red Storm Rising) or use what could be interesting plots (Russia v China in Siberia) with realistic characters.
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on 31 December 2009
I'm a Tom Clancy fan. Despite the cardboard characters, the unconvincing dialogue, the political sermonizing, and the fascination with gadgetry (usually of the lethal sort) his book have something. The man can tell a story. When he starts to build to the climax he holds your attention, and the climax is usually riveting. Get past the first, rather slow section, in a Tom Clancy novel and you're probably hooked on the rest of it. But not here.
What went wrong? "The Bear and the Dragon" has all the bad things, and too few of the good ones. It's too long, there are great lengths of text that could have come out, the politics and action are way over the top. And worst of all, the climax is badly written, unconvincing, and lacks the immediacy and mind's-eye descriptiveness of previous books.
Not only that but the characters - most of whom we have met in previous novels - have failed to develop. Some have actually regressed, and that includes the central figure Jack Ryan, whose behaviour at the end is both illogical and (in the worst sense) un-Presidential. And Clancy acts as if he has just discovered the "F" word and uses far, far too much, putting it in the mouths of characters, make and female, quite indiscriminately. The effect is to annoy and the final result rather childish.
The whole book has a tired and formulaic feel. I would have given it two-and-a-half stars, that's because, under it all, it is a Tom Clancy. What a pity it didn't receive some firm and good editing on its way to publication.
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on 6 September 2002
After a slow and confusing start the story romped along and kept me going to the end. Much better than Rainbow Six and I would recommend it for that car/bus/plane journey.
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on 27 August 2000
Alright, so it's OK. And that's the way most novels are, just OK. The problem arises because this is Tom Clancy and he's supposed to be way better than merely OK. He's supposed to be the very best. And in the past, he lived up to that expectation. Now, I have to wonder. I don't think The Bear and the Dragon is a bad book; as I said, it's OK. Maybe a better description would be dull.
I discovered Clancy and the entire Technothriller genre quite by accident while wandering through my local library in North Toronto eight years ago. Picked up a copy of The Sum of All Fears. Terrific! Read, Patriot Games. Good. The Hunt for Red October. Good. The Cardinal of the Kremlin. Fabulous. Pretty soon, I'd read everything Clancy had written. He was always good and when he was really on his game, nobody could touch him. Stephen Coonts, Larry Bond, et al . . . were mere pretenders to the throne. They lacked the complex plotting and rush of believable action Clancy unleashed in every novel. Unfortunately, I think it all started to change around the time of Debt of Honor...
...And now we have The Bear and the Dragon. Boring. Not as bad as Rainbow Six, but not by much either. Ryan has a unique role in this one. In essence, he complains: "Why can't the President do anything? Why do I have to live like this? Woe is me?" Jack. Shut up! You sound like a broken record. Ryan's entire purpose in this book appears to be giving speeches. And I do mean speeches (or more accurately polemics)...this is a thriller, not Atlas Shrugged! ...when I'm reading light entertainment, I don't want to be hammered over the head with partisan philosophy. Wether I'm in agreement with the sentiments or not is irrelevant. If I want cogent arguments for or against particular issues I'll read The New Republic or National Review. I simply don't want to get nagged at one way or the other in a Technothriller. Whenever Ryan appears the story stops. Again, I don't care about the specifics you're arguing. Please do them in an op-ed piece or write nonfiction. Just leave them out of your fiction!
I could go on. The Chinese attacking Russia and taking over Siberia? I don't care how demoralized the ex-Red Army is, the Rodina is sacred! Did you not say so yourself repeatedly in The Cardinal of the Kremlin? The Russians would use nuclear weapons before they would ever allow the dismemberment of their nation by a traditional enemy. The Chinese are not that ill-informed. And do you really have to refer to them constantly as Chinks, slant-eyes and Klingons? There is a troubling racist theme that predominates throughout the book. I didn't care for it at all.
When I first started reading your novels, I tried to get through the books of your competitors. It didn't work. Tom, they lacked your style and panache. Other than your books, I don't read Technothrillers any more. This is what makes your latest one so unsatisfying. Even in the midst of The Bear and the Dragon, the old Tom shines through on occasion. Your prose in the midst of the Russian/Chinese battle works. In fact, the entire last third of the novel is much better than the first two. I hope you remember what you felt when you were writing The Hunt for Red October as a regular working guy from Maryland. You weren't Tom Clancy, famous millionaire then. You were just a burgeoning writer with a story to tell. A great story to tell. I hope you find another one.
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on 6 November 2001
The Ryan series is patchy at best, and some of Clancy's most enjoyable work hasn't even featured his most popular character (Red Storm Rising, the pretty much Ryan-less Rainbow Six). However, ever since *becoming president* any residual appeal has pretty much evaporated. Bear and the Dragon takes us into Jack Ryans second term in office, as he faces the prospect of a showdown's between the east's biggest and oldest rivals. The result is entirely disappointing.
Executive Orders was tolerable but got bogged down with Clancy's turgid handling of domestic policy and saddled with a pathetically anticlimatic ending. Bear and the Dragon continues this trend adding an utterly predictable plot and racial stereotyping that is actively scary. The depiction of the Chinese as aliens (referred to throughout, in fact, as 'Klingons') makes Rising Sun's handling of Japan look enlightened
However, Clancy has committed a worse crime in producing a 'thriller' that is in no way thrilling. The plot is signposted from 50 pages in (but takes a further 550 to actually get going), the 'whodunnit' subplot is utterly predictable and the 'climax' less satisfying than any other Clancy book. This is compounded by an inability to effectively handle highly emotional scenes, giving the pivotal moment in the plot a cringingly mawkish feel rather than any sense of pathos. Even the return of old favourites John Clark and Ding Chavez seems tacked on and gimmicky. Clancy is largely just going through the motions- as an earlier review said, he continues writing until reaching his requisite 3 ½ inches. He can still write big battle scenes, but I felt pretty cheated with only a tiny fraction of the book having any action, and the rest doing little to advance the plot.
I should declare personal bias- I am not of the same political persuasion as Mr Clancy, nor of the same nationality, but I have greatly enjoyed his work in the past. However, I do not believe, on the basis of this book, that I will be reading any of his work in the future.
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on 23 November 2000
I bought the latest Clancy/Ryan novel because I have always been a Clancy fan, and the idea of the clash between Russia and China in Siberia is an interesting, and increasingly plausible scenario. Ultimately though I was dissapointed with this novel, and Clancy's work has shown distinct deterioration in quality since Debt of Honour.
Increasingly Clancy's novels are becoming more a vehicle for his own political views, and less an entertaining read. Clancy manages to get every element of the right wing conservative political philosophy in the novel - maybe he should run for the Republican ticket in 2004! To me a novel should not be a medium to impose one's own political views on the rest of the world - that's rather selfish of the author.
The book is very long, and the first 700 pages drags on and on and on...yet it is easy to know where it is all heading. Russia is an economic mess after 70 years of communism. It discovers a big oil and gold reserve in Siberia, and needs US assistance to exploit it. President Ryan turns this opportunity into an excuse to bring Russia into NATO - a very unlikely prospect in the real world - just in time to deal with a plot by the 'Evil Empire Mark II' - the Chinese - to try and grab the oil and gold themselves.
The 'good guys' - the Americans and the Russians are cardboard cutout characters. Ryan has become the 'perfect Republican President we would all like'. He is a man of honor, truth and justice - with perhaps one failing of liking to smoke. Forget sacrificing principles to get into power, and stay in power - Ryan never does anything wrong and is purely concerned about doing good in the world. His advisors are equally virtuous and decent people - Washington is Camelot once again. The Russians are portrayed as honourable warriors having put the past behind them. Their politicians are carbon copies of Ryan - their soldiers are all carbon copies of American military officers. A nice vision - but neither the US or Russia is really like this. Politicans are corrupt, principles are negotiable, doing good is optional. Soldiers whilst having a sense of duty and honour can make mistakes, can be afraid, can be corrupted.
Clancy paints the Chinese as one dimensional, bumbling bad guys - so over the top in fact that China could be the Third Reich reincarnated. The political leadership are portrayed as purely evil in every respect, and totally 'stupid' in their ability to assess the intentions or policies of the outside world. Yet the real world suggests that the Chinese Government are in fact far more intelligent and formidable as a potential opponent than Clancy would have us believe. An intelligent, calculating adversary is for me far more interesting than a bunch of stupid dictators, and the Chinese are not stupid.
Likewise when the action finally does begin, Clancy portray's the Chinese armed forces as equally as 'stupid' as the political leadership. Clearly Clancy has ignored the reality of current Chinese military planning which is based around exploiting US military weaknesses via assymetric response. Instead, the PLA blindly charge into the sights of US and Russian armed forces, with the US easily winning purely through reliance on superior military technology. There are zero or minimal casualties on the US side - real wars in the future are not likely to be that way, especially given that the Chinese did learn the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War and the 1999 Kosovo Conflict, and have developed their military strategy around denying the US an easy, cost free victory. Clancy clearly is an advocate of the Revolution in Military Affairs, and paints a picture of the US forces as reluctant warriors who always win because they are after all the 'good guys' and because they have the 'silver bullet' of advanced tech. In this assertion, Clancy completely ignores (or maybe he is ignorant of?) the on-going debate about the true value of advanced military technology in future war. It will not be as one sided as Clancy would have us believe.
The novel reaches a climax in dealing with the issue of use of weapons of mass destruction. Clancy portrays a future in which the US and Russia have eliminated virtually all of their nuclear capabilities - also highly unlikely - and here Clancy manages to make it clear that he is an advocate of National Missile Defense. I am too...but not at the expense of maintaining a nuclear deterrent. Clancy provides an 'easy test' for an NMD capability and thus does not have to face the question of what happens if hundreds or thousands of warheads are inbound. He ignores the reality that the Chinese are planning to upgrade their capability from the 20 or so old liquid fueled ICBMs they currently have to maybe several hundred mobile solid fueled ICBMs - because this clearly would fly in the face of his distaste for maintaining an effective nuclear deterrent in a period when the WMD threat is increasing - not decreasing.
Ultimately the perfect President Jack Ryan, and some good old American technological know how saves the day, in China the young educated capitalist students rise up and the evil dictators and Chinese communism are banished to the ashheap of history. Predictable, unimaginative, boring. The Americans and the Russians walk off into the sunset together, having saved the world for democracy, and we all wait for the next novel.
I have nothing against a conservative world view. Were I an American (I'm not - I'm Australian) I would probably vote Republican rather than Democrat. But having or portraying a realistic world view is vital - and in The Bear and the Dragon, Clancy portrays a completely unrealistic perspective of how America should be, what it should be doing, and how it might defeat future security challenges. Clancy's novel is way too black and white - when in fact the world of international security is always shades of gray.
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on 28 September 2000
Having snapped up all Tom Clancy's previous books, I eagerly awaited this one and bought it at the first opportunity to enjoy on holiday. After a few hundred pages, I found myself plodding through it dutifully, reluctant to put £20 worth of hardcover in the bin where I felt it belonged. About page 700 the military plot began to roll, and for a few hours I was enthralled by the kind of writing for which Tom Clancy became famous.
What is wrong with this book? For my taste, the author has overreached by tackling characterisation, extensive dialogue and political philosophy. While his opinions are as good as anyone else's, the resulting book bored, annoyed and upset me. I was bored because of the lack of a tight, suspensful plot. I was annoyed by the dialogue that seemed modelled on Nixon's White House tapes and the clumsy depiction of a US President who seems completely unqualified for the post. Although I am not a prude or a bigot, I was upset by the bad language and what I perceived as racial stereotyping.
In conclusion, I have always enjoyed Tom Clancy's books because I felt that he was a superb storyteller, with an unequalled grasp of military detail and the ability to tell a story from many concurrent viewpoints. An important part of his art seemed to be that even the "black hats" always had believable ideals and convictions. In "The Bear and the Dragon", I feel that Jack Ryan has succumbed to the Peter Principle - he has been promoted far beyond his level of competence. This book could have been about half the length, and if the right parts were cut, I think I would have enjoyed it much more.
I don't know if I will be buying any more books by Tom Clancy. I certainly won't buy any more in hard cover - my criterion of a favourite author.
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on 23 February 2006
This book was sooo disappointing. I hoped it might be Red Storm Rising in the east as China and Russia go to war, but it just does not deliver.

Firstly, it badly needs editing. Clancy's personal politics come through as he lectures the reader constantly about abortion through the characters. Yes, I understand its part of the plot but Clancy was about as subtle as a sledgehammer! Its just too long anyway. If I recall Red Storm rising set the plot in about 100 pages before the action began, this takes 700 and when we get to the action its just not that great!

Secondly, its just so American and stereotypical, the Russians are good but dumb, the Chinese are evil, the Americans are heroes, etc. Plus where are all the Allies; the Taiwanese, South Koreans, Australians, Japanese, etc? Some like the British and Germans rate a mention somewhere but thats it.

Thirdly he missed out on some many possibilties. I thought the Chinese would attack/besiege Vladvistock, then the US Marines, with maybe Japanese assistance as a nice irony could come to the rescue? Chinese commandoes could have attacked the Trans-Siberian Railway? The CIA could have stirred up Tibet and/or Inner Mongolia as well as democracy activists in China. Taiwan could have played a part but they werent even mentioned! It was just so limited.

Dont read this book, read Red Storm Rising again, when Clancy could write a great story, 1 star because I cant zero.
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