Chain of Command

Recommendation: It’s not the best thriller I’ve ever read, not by a long shot

Where to read: I mean, it is raining and miserable

Read with: Bud Light

In brief: I was sort of ok with this, and then they mixed up David and Richard Attenborough and I now hate everything. That said, having read several of the original Tom Clancy novels, the comparative lack of fascist Republican agenda is refreshing.

The blurb says it all really:

America is under attack from within. Patients in hospitals, clinics, and at home are dying when the drugs they need for survival turn out to be ineffective copies. A corrupt pharmaceutical billionaire has spent millions supporting radical groups while using the chaos they engender to cover his money-making schemes, but for a man with such towering ambitions, the only real goal is power.

To get that, he’ll have to eliminate the only impediment in his path — Jack Ryan. The question is, how do you attack the most closely guarded man in the world?

For a man who has built his fortune on underhanded dealings and misdirection, the answer is as simple as it is shocking:

He’ll have to kidnap the First Lady.

There are many problems here, one of which is that I have personally been involved in bigger M&A deals than the one our villainous billionaire is worried Jack Ryan will ruin. And I can say with absolute confidence that murdering and/or kidnapping an inconvenient person was never even vaguely contemplated. The other gripes I have (other than the aforementioned “Attenborough Affair”) are that it is xenophobic as hell and seems to be suggesting that antibiotic resistance is not, in fact, antibiotic resistance and is instead the result of patients being given ineffective generics manufactured in India.

Needless to say, the plot is utterly absurd and, in true Clancy fashion, ludicrously convoluted. As Kirkus point out ‘wouldn’t stopping the drug bill have been lots easier using the tried-and-true method of buying off a few U.S. senators?’ Well indeed.

I will admit here that this was not the only Jack Ryan I read on my little holiday thriller binge – I also picked up Debt of Honour and Executive Orders (which I did not and will not finish) and was horrified. Debt of Honour managed to keep my interest because it has a quite interesting financial markets based sub-plot. The resolution of that sub-plot is absurd but it is still vaguely readable. Executive Orders, on the other hand, is a Reaganite fever dream and one of the worst things I have ever read. The only slightly amusing thing is that it features a heroic Republican President imposing harsh travel bans and public health orders to stop the spread of an infectious disease. Otherwise, it was so blatantly propagandist and racist I really could not bring myself to battle through.

My point is, if you have been made curious by the excellent Jack Ryan TV show and are inclined to pick up the books, maybe read one that was not actually written by Clancy (or that is set before Ryan becomes President at least).

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