'Against All Enemies': A Tom Clancy summer
The big news for the Tom Clancy brotherhood was the return of the Jack Ryans, father and son, last December in "Dead or Alive" -- until then, the Ryan saga hadn’t made an appearance since 2003’s "The Teeth of the Tiger." It was easy to assume that, with a seven-year gap, Clancy was just slowing down.
That assumption is wrong. This month comes another thriller rivalled only by the Yellow Pages in size and chock full of espionage and treachery, "Against All Enemies." Where Clancy had been helped with "Dead or Alive" by Grant Blackwood, Clancy is aided in this new one, which introduces us to hero Maxwell Moore, by Peter Telep (though Clancy’s is the only face you’ll see on the book’s dust jacket.)
Co-authors and with-authors are nothing new -- they're a routine part of the James Paterson brand (he employs multiple co-scriveners to keep his varied heroes in action). Clancy's hardly the only one: You see the same thing with other biggies in the mystery and thriller genres -- for instance, Clive Cussler and Mary Higgins Clark have made co-writers a family affair, sharing the bylines of some of their books with their children. Come to think of it, didn't the great master of 19th century doorstoppers, Alexander Dumas, have a co-writer of some kind? If that's the case, then Clancy and everyone else are in very good company.
"Against All Enemies" centers around the world of Moore, a former Navy SEAL and CIA paramilitary operations officer. The book opens with a devastating attack off the coast of Pakistan. A U.S. ship carrying a Taliban prisoner finds itself suddenly under attack in a scene that's signature Clancy:
"A flare burst overhead, peeling back the night and drawing deep shadows across the decks of both patrol boats. Moore looked across the sea and saw it, a thousand meters out, rising up out of the waves, a nightmare with imposing black sail and dull black decks fully awash as she breached, her bow pointed at them."
A rocket attack destroys the ship, and Moore's the sole survivor. What drives him, like many heroes in Clancy's books, is revenge: In looking for the cell responsible for the attack, however, Moore stumbles into deeper, stranger conspiracies, including an unexpected alliance between a drug cartel on the U.S.-Mexico border and Taliban fighters who have been charged by their leaders to "bring the jihad back to the United States."
Of course "Against All Enemies" doesn’t have that Cold War-era mystique that Clancy's earlier books possess -- like Le Carre, Clancy in his own way is still seeking his footing in the contemporary world of terrorism, tribal menace, provincial thugs and shadow groups. But there are still plenty of bits of what his fans have always enjoyed most -- the gadgetry. After Moore plants a GPS beacon on a van containing hostages, he turns to his smartphone:
"He activated his smartphone's camera and thumbed on the ARS (augmented reality system) app that would turn the phone into a computer-enhanced imaging device by superimposing wire frames over the images and displaying data boxes that indicated the size and range of various structures and targets within his field of view."
Can you hear me now?
"Against All Enemies" gives Clancy fans ideal reading for the summer months. At 756 pages, though, I'd make one recommendation to those wanting to travel light: Read it as an e-book instead.
-- Nick Owchar
Photo: Author Tom Clancy. Credit: Kathy Willens / Associated Press