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This story is set in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series. By the chronology of that series it is the first book, but should NOT be read first. In order to appreciate its finer points, readers should be familiar with CIA operative John Clark and his behind-the-scenes role. This is John Clark's backstory.

John Clark was once John Kelly, a Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran. He sails, dives and enjoys life. When his girlfriend is killed by drug dealers, John is devastated. His anguish turns to rage as he learns about the trafficking in drugs and human lives in his city, unnoticed by John and almost everyone else. He puts his combat skills back to work as he stalks and kills violent criminals. He also begins working for the Federal government on very similar missions. It becomes increasingly likely that his two lives will collide.

This is an excellent book which explains much about the skills, attitudes and loyalties John Clark demonstrates throughout the Jack Ryan series. Several familiar faces appear briefly in the story, making intriguing connections. Well-read Tom Clancy fans will enjoy these revelations, but they are not necessary to follow the story. The story itself is a good one, but has some very disturbing events and implications. Not for the squeamish.
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on 30 April 2011
This was my first Clancy novel as I deliberately decided to go in order of the series' chronological timeline (as opposed to release date). Primarily it's a story about the early life of CIA man John Clark. He is a thirtyish former marine who becomes embroiled in two adjoining plots at the same time, a rescue mission of POW's in Vietnam and a private vendetta against some east coast drug dealers. The latter I found to be much more gripping than the former.

For several reasons the standout aspect of the book is the character of Pamela, although to explain why would be to give the plot away. It's also really fun how Clark goes about hunting down the drug dealers. Clancy manages to make it a very exciting process whilst still keeping events very realistic, a difficult balance to achieve.

The one major criticism I have is with the torture sequence. I found it to be completely over the top. I even ended up sympathising with the tortured, which can't have been the idea. That pulled the book down a peg for me but overall this is still an engaging thriller. Recommended.
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on 21 July 2001
An amazing view of one man's fight against those that destroyed him emotionally. One rare time Kelly/Snake/Clark/Klerk alows his emotions to affect civillians. No matter how horrifying murder may seem, you find yourself supporting, not condoning his actions due to Clancys endless talent. Can't get much better than this!
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on 25 February 2005
Without Remorse is set in 1970, and tells of John Kelly ex-Navy SEAL Vietnam veteran, and soon to be known as CIA agent John Clark. This book tells us of how he came to the CIA. 6 months after his wife dies, he meets a young woman whom he falls in love with who turns out to have been a prostitute working for a drugs ring which consists of some major sickos. One night, she is spotted along with Kelly and after a chase, Kelly is shot and left for dead, while she is taken away to be gang-raped and tortured to death. Kelly recovers and vows revenge. While he's bumping off drug dealers and pimps, the CIA and Pentagon are planning a major rescue operation in North Vietnam, and they need Kelly's help to do this. So now he has two missions to fulfill. When the rescue mission goes tits-up thanks to a slimy Washington aide, he returns to the States only to find that the police are now beginning to suspect what he's been up to on the streets of Baltimore. Kelly is forced to tell his CIA superiors what he's been up to, and amazingly, they agree to help him if he comes to work for them, helping him to stage his own death after he's killed all the bad guys, and become John Clark.
Now this was a real surprise when I read this. Despite obvious inspirations (Death Wish, Rambo) the atmosphere and tension, and a more complicated action hero than Kersey and Rambo, makes it far better than many amateur attempts at revenge-thrillers.
The only real flaws are the length (did it really have to be this long) and one sub-plot too many (like the POW scenes, which, although not boring, seem a little superfluous and unnecessary). However, its far easier to get into and much more pacier than some of Clancy's other books.
I would rank this alongside RSR and CAPD as among the author's best.
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on 31 March 2011
The story of John Clarks ascention into the CIA via a shadowy world of prostitution, drugs, murder and war. I noticed some reviewers noting the plot is a little slow, but I couldn't disagree more. The characters are built up well and you begin to feel real empathy with Clark / Kelly as he goes through the deaths of two loved ones and failed missions in his professional life. Many Jack Ryan novels are a little cheesy and stink of propaganda, but this tackles the horrors of life and warfare superbly (the plot revolves around vietnam - team America can't win them all!). The hero is not clean as a wistle like many of Clancy's protagonists. Tom Clancy is renouned for his techno-thriller genre but he weaves real emotion into this story alongside his superb technical knowledge. Fans of the Jack Ryan series will find links to well known characters twisted into the plot, we even meet Jacks father the police officer.
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on 27 February 2001
This is the first clancy novel that I read, and I believe it to be his best. True, the characters are stereotypes, but then, that is what is one of teh charms of the novel. It is a typical Clancy novel, but with more of a human edge than his others - a great read, and one that I will be doing again soon.
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on 25 October 2004
A dark-hued story that gives the history of John Clark, a constant character in the Jack Ryan series. Clark, an ex-SEAL, loses a girl friend to drug dealers and, as the title says, without remorse, proceeds to use his Vietnam-acquired talents to murder the entire drug gang. One of these is basically tortured to death in a particularly unpleasant way, so perhaps those of squeamish dispositions should ask someone to stick those pages together for them. Clancy doesn't exult in the deaths of the drug dealers, but brings out the moral ambiguity of Clark's position (which Clark doesn't share - to him, it falls into the same category as exterminating vermin). A mission back to Vietnam and its aftermath allows him to escape the legal consequences of his actions and begin a new life. Pacily and well-written, with Clancy's famous eye for detail, the book is long and (WARNING!) almost impossible to put down once picked up.
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on 15 August 2003
In 'Without Remorse', the character of John Kelly (John Clark) is created. A stalwart of the later Jack Ryan stories, this is the only story devoted entirely to Kelly, which is a great shame as this is by far the best Clancy novel. 'Without Remorse' tells the story of Kelly after the death of his wife as he falls for a young runaway. Her subsequent death leads him into a battle with drug gangs, pitting his lethal training against the amoral drug dealers. The pace slows slightly about half way through but soon picks up again towards a rewarding climax. If ever a book was begging to be turned into a film, this is it.
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on 7 February 2001
I disagree with some comments that this is guilty of clunky charecterisations. Granted, the female characters lapse into clear stereotypes but then characters typically ARE stereotypes when in stories of fiction (The hero, the villain, the damsel). This is not deep philosophy, rather an intense reading experience for those of the DVD and action movie generation. If a sort of rollercoaster-ride novel is what you are looking for, this is it, if not- Go read stuff like Homer or Playto for original heroic myth. You will find similar stereotypes there. Its a read of action/thriller. Not really one of the political works.
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on 8 May 2000
Tom Clancy did a very good job in the way that he showed how even strong military men have side of them that needs to be cared for. John Kelly proves that when something important is taken away - not only once, but twice - that there isn't anything to stop the rage. Without Remorse is the best book I have read yet. I recommed it to everyone.
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