Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tom Clancy's Dead or Alive

Frankly speaking, Dead or Alive, a 950-page Tom Clancy's latest techno-thriller, does not meet my expectation. Its originality is not as creative as that of The Hunt for Red October (1987). Its tempo is not as tense as that of Clear and Present Danger (1989), and its story is way far from attractive than that of Rainbow Six (1998). Maybe the one would be adapted to a movie. In that case, with able screenplay alternation and some fancy computer-aided techniques, it may still be worth as a box office attraction.

The story is about The Campus, a clandestine American counter-terrorism organization founded by Jack Ryan when he was in the White House. There is no law whatsoever that regulates the establishment and operation of this organization, so it can virtually do anything without answering any questions raised by the elected members of the congress. Ryan's son is becoming a field agent of it with the old timers like John Clark, Ding Chavez, and Mary Pat Foley as his mentor, and so are his cousins Dominick and Brian Caruso. The bad guy in the story is The Emir, an Islamic extremist who is plotting and coordinating attacks on Americans deadlier than nine-eleven. Of course, the good guys of The Campus are trying desperately hard to stop him. That's it.

Tom Clancy worked on this book with Grant Blackwood, a U.S. Navy veteran who spent some years as an operations specialist and pilot rescue swimmer on a guided missile frigate. He is an author himself and a coauthor with Clive Cussler, another American adventure novelist. However, there is little illustrations about naval operations in Dead or Alive except some scenes about stopping terrorist aboard a cargo ship.

"All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," said British political philosopher Edmund Burke more than two centuries ago. His words are again quoted in the book.(p. 270) The intention of this quotation is obvious; however, is it justifiable for the good guys to stop the bad elements using any means deemed necessary above or beyond the law? The existence of The Campus sure leaves the readers to ponder.

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