Random Review: Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney

This review contains no spoilers.

Book Name: Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect
Author: Mark Greaney
Series: #10 in the ongoing series featuring “Jack Ryan”
Publisher(s): Putnam Adult
Format(s): Hardcover/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Release Date: December 2, 2014

Rating: 9/10

Officially Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect is Mark Greaney’s second solo effort in the “Jack Ryan” universe created by Tom Clancy, but after reading Support and Defend (you can see my review of the book right here) and now Full Force and Effect something is becoming apparent: Greaney likely wrote most of the last few “Jack Ryan” books on his own. It would be easy to mimic Clancy’s style in a book that doesn’t contain all the main players like Support and Defend did, but to write so similarly to the style Clancy used recently after no Clancy books for years and to hit the nail on the head so cleanly one can only conclude that the last three “Jack Ryan” novels, Locked On, Threat Vector, and Command Authority shouldn’t be listed as “with” Mark Greaney but instead “by” Mark Greaney.

And as a huge Clancy fan, I’m OK with that.

Full Force and Effect is a solid story, with all the plot twists and well written suspense sequences that readers expect from the series. The “in your face” bad guys are North Korean, but like Clancy before him Greaney has a “behind the scenes” guy that turns out to be the real issue for the good guys. Like Greaney did in Support and Defend none of the bad guys are “super villains”. Every one of them does things logically for their own reasons and are totally believable. I’m a big fan of antagonists doing things that make sense, and so far Greaney is batting 1.000 on that.

I did originally have an issue with the way Greaney portrayed the John Clark character in Full Force and Effect. Greaney didn’t really have Clark being as intense as Clancy wrote the character. It annoyed me because Clark is one of my favorite characters in the series and in Full Force and Effect there wasn’t any real attempt to give Clark that edge he used to have. After discussing the book with friends I brought that point up, and it was then that I realized I missed the obvious: with Clark getting older and with the events in his recent past Clark really isn’t that edgy guy anymore. Even though he still goes into the field he’s made the complete transition from operative to instructor. The end of Full Force and Effect supports that theory because eventually Clark really gives it to one of the antagonists like the “old days”. Now I’m looking forward to see what Greaney does with Clark.

Pet peeve alert: There are a couple scenes where motorcycles play a role. Why do authors just presume everyone knows how to ride one? It’s one of those things I just chuckle at when reading a book. I’d love to read a story where the bad guy doesn’t get away because he doesn’t know how to change gears. Or stop. I would probably laugh hard at that.

So I’m now convinced the “Jack Ryan” universe is safe in Mark Greaney’s hands. Of course now I feel compelled to pick up Greaney’s other books. I’m sure he won’t be unhappy about that.

Random Review: Tom Clancy Support and Defend by Mark Greaney

This review does not contain spoilers.

Book Name: Tom Clancy Support and Defend
Author: Mark Greaney
Series: Nominally first book in the Campus series
Publisher(s): Putnam Adult
Format(s): Hardcover/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Rating: 9/10

When Tom Clancy passed last October there were questions if his series would continue under a different writer. Clancy’s latest collaborator Mark Greaney was an obvious choice to do so if the Clancy estate was interested, so it was no surprise Greaney was pegged to continue the saga of Jack Ryan. How will Greaney do taking over Clancy’s most famous character? Well, considering most credit Greaney for Clancy finally getting his fastball back it should be easy for him even though he’s now fully writing them under his own name. But for now we don’t officially know the answer because in Tom Clancy Support and Defend Ryan does not appear and there are only brief mentions of him.

The main character in the book is Dominic Caruso, the nephew of now President Jack Ryan and operative for “The Campus”, an quasi-civilian organization that uses information “borrowed” the usual suspects of US intelligence and acts on it in ways government agencies are not generally allowed to. Technically Caruso is an FBI agent, although he’s not assigned any duties and information about him is hard to come by. Caruso’s twin brother Brian was killed off in Dead or Alive, and the effects of that are still causing Dom issues. The assassination of a friend and his family, which almost kills Dom too, only adds to his mental anguish.

Unlike many thriller writers Greaney doesn’t treat his character like a super hero, performing death defying acts one after another. Greaney instead treats the Caruso character like he is, a well trained operative that knows when he has to take chances and when he should lay low. That’s how Clancy generally used Jack Ryan, and Greaney has obviously learned that lesson.

The plot of Support and Defend, while simple, is very Clancy-esque. It’s a standard bad guy vs good guy story, with a couple of twists and turns to keep the reader involved but not enough to make a convoluted plot that’s hard to follow. Like Clancy, Greaney has every character acting as they logically would without the sudden gimmicky actions other authors use to drastically change directions in the story.

The “bad guy” in the story is Ethan Ross, who works for the National Security Council and is giving secrets over to an organization of whistleblowers. As in every Clancy plot there’s a “badder guy”, and in this case it’s Iranian Mohammed Mobasheri, who infiltrates the whistleblower organization in an attempt to get an “inside man” to download sensitive intelligence data. Greaney does not treat Mobasheri like a caricature, nor does Greaney go out of his way to make him evil. He writes Mobasheri as a guy just doing the job he was assigned, and to me that adds significant credibility to the story.

Support and Defend is well plotted, well written, and a very good read. Greaney has taken the first step in Clancy’s shoes without tripping. Hopefully that’s going to become a trend.

Some random book thoughts for January 2014

I’d been hoping to get to completing a few posts I stared over the last month or so, but other commitments and the pesky holiday season got in the way. It’s amazing that I get a lot of time off from work between Christmas and New Year’s and still manage to not have enough hours to get anything I want done. So with the remnants of a raging snowstorm taking place outside my window here’s a look at my book thoughts for January.

As I mentioned last month the book I had just stated was Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David as I waited for an opening my schedule to grab Clancy’s new tome. For those unfamiliar with Peter David’s work, to call him “odd” would neither be a negative nor an insult. His sarcastic wit and dry sense of humor spring forth in everything he writes, and Sir Apropos of Nothing is full of both. His take on the fantasy genre is exactly what you’d expect from him, and the plot twist at the end is unexpected and extremely humorous, fitting the book perfectly.

Finally, after several failed attempts I was able to pick up what might be the final Tom Clancy written “Jack Ryan” novel, Command Authority. It’s a shame that Clancy passed when he did–not that any time is a good time–because in this book he finally got his fastball back and Command Authority was reminiscent of his earlier Ryan books. It was fast paced without the action being forced, and didn’t rely on gimmicks nor phony plot twists to keep the story going. It was vintage Clancy. I’m hoping Mark Greaney, who co-wrote the book, will be able to continue the “Jack Ryan” series as he seems to have a good feel for the characters. It won’t be the same though.

Up next was The Woad to Wuin, the sequel to Sir Apropos of Nothing, and while it was a good book David missed the mark on a lot of stuff. He was poking fun at sequels, and the opening chapter is an absolutely great take off of The Lord of the Rings that is legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, the rest of the book misses the mark a little. There are some scenes that will make you chuckle, but about a third of the way through the book takes a wild turn and just stumbles after itself from that point forward. The ending is predictable. The Woad to Wuin suffers from what a lot of other books do; the author sets the bar so high in the first book it’s almost impossible to reach it in the second book. And in The Woad to Wuin, David doesn’t. It’s still good enough to recommend though, just make sure you’ve read Sir Apropos of Nothing first.

The next two books I read were Sanctus and The Key by Simon Toyne. I grabbed them both because I’m a sucker for the “Church is hiding something” genre that has popped up since The Da Vinci Code was a big hit. In Sanctus Toyne follows most of the formula, although in his story the main location is a mountain called “The Citadel” in the fictional City-State of Ruin in South Eastern Turkey, as opposed to puicking real sites and then assigning fictional meanings to their locations. For most of Sanctus Toyne really doesn’t do anything new, he just tells the well know story of “they’re hiding something and we’re going to find out what it is” a little differently than others. The key, no pun intended, is what the “Sacrament” the Sancti of the Citadel are hiding. That truly is what makes Toyne’s story different.

The Key is a direct sequel of Sanctus, picking up just days after the events at the end of the first book take place. The Key follows the standard formula a lot closer than the first book, but that’s mostly because of the paths Toyne has set for his main characters. There’s a third book, called The Tower, which is not in paperback yet but I am anxiously waiting for its release.

Just before the new year kicked off I started The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron, so undoubtedly I’ll have more on that book next time.

Other then the Clancy book I didn’t buy anything else in the month of December as I decided, as I usually do, to generally avoid stores at all costs. On New Year’s Day I did swing by the book store are picked up The King’s Deception by Steve Berry and Empire and Honor by W.E.B. Griffin. Neither of those will be on the to-read shelf very long. As for new stuff coming out, I’m going to take a look at Dragon’s Wild by Robert Asprin. Other than that I didn’t see anything that was a “must buy”, but I do always seem to find something.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for December 2013

So off we go on December’s book thoughts…

After a couple of starts and stops (some of which I described last month) I finally had time to restart King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels. It’s the conclusion of the “King Rolen’s Kin” series and picks up right where the third book, The Usurper, ends. It was three years between the release dates of the books and it was worth the wait. The ending is almost anticlimactic, with the final battle between the two main protagonists taking less than a single page. Looking back on the entire story the “winner” really doesn’t win anything he wants, which is what the four book series is ultimately about. Daniels ties up most of the lose ends of the story very well, although it wouldn’t take much for a new series taking place afterward to emerge. One can only hope…

Next up was Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari. It’s the continuation of the story they started in Dead Six, and while it contained much of the same flavor as the first book it was nowhere near as good. It was a no better than the average action-adventure story, and when you consider how good Correia’s other series are it really missed its mark. The plot was little more than an excuse to write about multiple killings by the heroes and brought absolutely nothing new to the table. To be blunt, I expected better from Correia.

Having finished Swords of Exodus I was looking for something quick to read while I waited for Tom Clancy’s final book, Command Authority, to come out (more on that below), so I grabbed Devil’s Bargain by Tony Daniel off the to-read shelf. It’s one of those Star Trek Original Series pulp-style novels so I knew it would be nothing but light reading. I laughed throughout the book, which is not a good thing considering it wasn’t written to be a comedic novel. It pretty much hit on every Star Trek cliché you could come up with: it mentioned Khan, it had Spock mind-melding with the Horta multiple times, and of course Captain Kirk having sex with a beautiful if only marginally alien woman. The only thing missing was Scotty yelling that The Enterprise “cannea take much more of this”, although I’m betting the original draft of the story contained that as there are two places where that would have fit perfectly. It could have been worse, I guess.

The book I just stated today was Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David, because after looking at my schedule for the upcoming week or so I don’t know when I’ll make it to grab the new Clancy tome. That’s the only book I know of that I’ll be buying this month, although one never knows what I might find. In November I finally grabbed The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, but still have not picked up Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron). That one might get pushed off into the new year.

Other books I picked up last month were Himmler’s War and Rising Son by Robert Conroy, and A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin. I also bought a couple omnibus editions and The Ninth Circle by R.M. Meluch, which are the books of his “Tour of the Merrimack” series. The to-read shelf is started to grow wildly again. I guess I could pick worse things than books to be addicted to.

Until next time…

Some thoughts about Tom Clancy

A few friends mentioned to me over the last couple of days that they were surprised that I’ve made no mention on the passing of Tom Clancy, who is one of my all-time favorite writers. Truth be told, I did start a couple postings about his death but each time I discarded it because the words really weren’t coming in a way that I’d liked. After a couple paragraphs it would sound like I though he was some god-like persona who was the greatest writer ever or that I was so distraught that I could never go on. Both, as you may have guessed, are far from the truth.

Clancy was a very good writer who wrote some of the best action/thrillers of the last thirty years or so. But he was no Hemmingway, Twain, nor Dickens. He was simply a good author of good books who will be missed by his readers.

By all accounts Clancy was more than a little full of himself, and that was OK. That sort of arrogance drove him to write better stories and to take on other venues that authors traditionally didn’t venture in to. Those other opportunities were one of the reasons Clancy took a seven year break from publishing novels. Between 2003’s The Teeth of the Tiger and Dead or Alive (with Grant Blackwood) in 2010 fans learned to live without Clancy mashing out a novel every couple years or so. With Command Authority coming out in December readers will have to face again the likelihood of no more Clancy stories.