Tag Archives: Clancy

Ryanverse Update

You probably didn’t hear it first here, but Tom Clancy is dead. He died yesterday, October 1st, which is kind of appropriate given that his first novel featuring Jack Ryan and what would become the Ryanverse was The Hunt for Red October.

How does one summarize Tom Clancy? I think that an analysis of the Ryan-Ethic might make an interesting masters-level thesis. A summary of the Ryan-Ethic might be that real men protect women and children and that is all that real men do. Real men make money so they can protect their women and children. Real men are cops/military officers/spies to protect their women and children. The world is full of nasties and men must protect their women and children. There is a Roman Catholic spin put upon this, but that is a basic summary. Because all Clancy’s men are driven by the Ryan-Ethic, they are all pretty similar and flat. The women are beautiful, talented, and smart, but in need of protection. The children are cute, talented, and smart, but in need of protection. Women and children use their talents and smarts in the arts or other fields. Men use their smarts to protect women and children.

I should stop. I used to like the series, that is why I’ve read most of the books. I have not read the most recent offerings, and am not sure that I will. I don’t think they stray from the path described above. The first book, The Hunt for Red October, does not preach the Ryan-Ethic in the same way the later books do, though I may be mis-remembering that. On my last library purge, I thought about dumping all my Clancy books. I didn’t quite do it, I kept four: The Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot GamesDebt of Honor, and Executive Orders. Maybe I’ll re-read them soon in memory of Clancy. Then maybe I’ll be able to dump them.

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Getting Rid of Books

It is like cutting off your arm sometimes, but it has to be done. I have too many books and no room for more shelves. Many of my shelves are double stacked. Something’s gotta give. I’m moving, and that also means getting rid of books. I’m pausing in the middle of the heartbreaking process of shelf-purging (Amom hates the purge word, sounds too much like bodily functions I think) to reflect on how I’ve been making decisions.

1. If I’m not going to read it again, it goes. I’ve been pretty severe with my fiction collection. I have collections of many of the works of some authors, and I decided I was going to select the ones I really liked from each author and keep those. Also, if I’ve recently decided not to re-read an author because I now think he/she is a waste of time, I am trying to get rid of all of that author’s works. Example: Tom Clancy. I recently re-read a Clancy book and thought this is a waste of time and shelf space. I found, though, when it came right down to it, there were four Clancy books I couldn’t yet put in the garage sale box. I think I’ll be ok eventually with dumping them, I need another day or so to make sure. The books I’m having a hard time with are the four I think I’ve re-read most often: Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot GamesDebt of Honor, and Executive Orders. I think that those four are the heart of the Jack Ryan set.

2. If I haven’t read it yet and I’ve moved it more than once, I need to consider carefully whether I should give up on this book and let it go. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction, but I’m more generous with the non-fiction because I’ve only begun a serious reading schedule in the last couple of years, and I’ve collected a lot of non-fiction to read — which is, of course, why I need a serious reading schedule. I do dump both fiction and non-fiction if I think I’ll never actually read the book.

3. Some books have sentimental value. I picked up an autobiography of Dick Francis to garage sale today. I like Dick Francis, he wrote interesting mysteries, but I haven’t yet read his autobiography, and I’m not sure it is up there in my list of really interesting things to read. I opened the book and found it was inscribed to my ADad from his sister, my aunt Nan. I’m keeping the book. I only have a few like this. I have a Byron collection inscribed as a wedding present to my great grandmother and some school books that belonged to my AMom and aunts.

4. Doubles. Ergh. I hate it when I find that a book so interests me that I acquire it twice. Oh well, one copy can go.

I’ve filled four boxes so far in this iteration of the purge. I had one box of books I knew I had to get rid of that’s been lurking since the spring, not quite making it out the door. I’m sure there are more boxes to be filled yet. I don’t know if I’ve any other criteria than above. What criteria do you use when getting rid of books?



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Literary indigestion

You know how sometimes you have a craving for food that you know in your head isn’t that good, and is terrible for you? Maybe KFC is an example, or you might have another. Then you give into the craving and regret it. Blech. There was the promise of a treat but the indigestion makes the whole thing just not worth it. And you hope you remember this well enough to resist in the future.
I have that kind of thing going with Tom Clancy novels. As noted in my previous post I got sucked into re-reading Rainbow Six because of the Olympic tie-in. Like most Clancy books R6 is badly overwritten, and thus needs at least a good edit. It is also full of boring internal dialogue in which Clancy basically preaches to his readers. The message in this particular version of the sermon is terrorists are dumb, soldiers are smart family men, and environmentalists are crazy crazy people.
I decided I was done with new Clancy books after the first post 9-11 book, The Teeth of the Tiger. Now I also think I am done with old Clancy books too. I thought maybe there was something to examine in the version of Catholicism portrayed in the books, but I feel like that any writing about Clancy books might be the literary equivalent of Fast Food Nation or whatever that book is called.
I like spy thrillers though. Any suggestions for some more literary attempts at this genre?

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Clancy passes Bechdel Test

I’m re-reading a large Tom Clancy thriller because it has an olympic tie-in and I’m sort of a sucker for the Jack Ryan thrillers. These are NOT feminist books by any stretch of the imagination, and I think one could argue successfully that these books are anti-feminist in many ways.

But. Rainbow Six passes the Bechdel Test. WHAT? Yup, it does. In case you haven’t read Rainbow Six, let me just assure you that it is a typical Clancy thriller about spies and guns and terrorists and shooting people dead without a trial. The main characters are all men. The two main characters are familiar to people who read the Ryanverse books — John Clark and his son-in-law, Domingo Chavez. Back to how this book passes the Bechdel test.

1. There are at least two named women characters. There are far more than two named women characters in this book, but for now we’ll just mention Sandy Clark and Patricia Chavez, her daughter.

2. Who talk to each other. Sandy and Patricia do talk to each other in a dinner scene where both of their husbands are also present.

3. About something other than a man. Yes. Yes, they do talk to each other about work. Sandy is an ER nurse and Patricia is a medical doctor doing an OB/GYN residency.

This scene is a weird little slice of domesticity in the book. I’m not sure what its purpose is exactly, except to emotionally set up the next operation that John and Domingo have to go on, which involves rescuing children.

To be (slightly) fair, there are also named women who play a more central role in the plot, but none of these talk to other women, only to men. I am only half-way through this re-read, so if this changes I will let you know.

If Tom Clancy can pass the Bechdel test, surely it shows that this is a very minimal standard. Yet, there are many books and movies that don’t pass the test, meaning they really ignore half the world’s population in the stories. Things that make you go hmmm.

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Books and the Olympics

I am an Olympic junkie. I remember being fascinated by the Montreal games, those are the first I remember. Then the summer games of my high school days were tainted by boycotts (Moscow, Los Angeles), so I focused on the winter games, especially figure skating. The summer games in 1988 in Seoul are the ones I remember first as an adult, the first time I went looking for a place to watch the 100 m final. Of course Seoul was also the Ben Johnson thing for Canadians, and we prefer not to remember that, the rush of the win, and the deflation of the drug test. I was in teacher’s college that fall (the games were in September) and we talked about how to debrief that kind of news story in the classroom. The best setting for the summer was Barcelona, in my humble opinion. The visuals during the diving competition with the city in the background were spectacular, and the tennis on clay courts was terrific. Today the Queen declared the London 2012 Olympics open. I wish I was there.

It was interesting that books, particularly children’s fantasy books, were referenced during the opening ceremonies, Peter Pan and the Harry Potter books were obviously referenced in some way or another. J.K. Rowling appeared and read aloud. I thought I saw glimpses of Alice in Wonderland characters, but am not totally sure. Oh, and Mary Poppins also put in an appearance.

Do you connect books with the Olympics? I am dog sitting for the next couple of weeks, and before I left my house this morning, I picked up Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy, a story that involves the Sydney Olympics. I thought it might make thematic reading for the games. I’m not sure I’ll actually get to it as I’ve got lots of other books on the go, but just in case. What about you? Which books (if any) do you connect with the Olympics and why?

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Sequels, Series, or Sets

can be for Sequels, Series, or Sets. So many choiceS

I like reading sets of books that have overlapping characters. There are a various ways that sets relate to one another. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels all have overlapping characters, and I think that there is some character development over time, but each novel tells a separate episode in the story and has a clear ending. Some of the “Ryanverse” novels don’t have Jack Ryan as the main character — but all the novels in this set tell stories set in Clancy’s alternate universe. The later books also refer to events in the history of the Ryanverse, so it is easier on the reader to have some knowledge of that history, though it isn’t strictly necessary.

Sometimes a “series” is actually all one book. I would say that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually all one book. Similarly, George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice books are very closely linked and I think they just make up one long story. Sets don’t always do this — see on Clancy above. At the moment, I’m reading a trilogy by Robertson Davies, commonly referred to as the Deptford trilogy. The three novels that make up this trilogy have overlapping characters, but they stand on their own as individual works. Though I’m reading the three novels bound together in one volume, I don’t think that these books cry out to be bound together as much as The Lord of the Rings does.

Then there is the mystery series. In a mystery series, the detectives stay the same, but the cases change. There is usually some kind of personal development in the detective from book to book, but the main point of each book is the case, not the detective. Oh wait, maybe part of the point is the detective and his or her personal story as well.

What series or sets do you read? Do you always need to rush out and get the sequel? Do tell.

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Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse

If I’d had a smartphone and been on a social network Sept 11, 2001 I’d have tweeted something like “I feel like I’m in a #TomClancy novel.” (Yes, I know, smartphones and social networks didn’t exist in 2001, but go with me here.) Fans of Clancy’s will know that the novel that most came to life that Tuesday was Debt of Honor. (I won’t tell you how the book was so similar to 9/11 in the way it ends because when I was reading it for the first time, someone told me the ending. And I was quite annoyed. But that is another story.) Clancy’s books featuring Jack Ryan somehow managed to capture a little twist on the present and near future all through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 9/11, the one Ryan book to be published didn’t have the same edge. As history actually unfolded and both collided with and diverged from Clancy’s imagined world, the Ryanverse couldn’t keep up. Clancy has begun a new series featuring Jack Ryan Jr., who was born in Patriot Games, but I wasn’t impressed by the first of this set published in 2003. Possibly the next will be better if Clancy took the time to integrate the reality of our world and the crazy way it collided with his imagined world in 2001.

The first of the Ryanverse books, published in 1984 (ancient history!), is The Hunt for Red October. I listed Red October as the Clancy book I’ve read more than 3 times, but I’ve actually read many of the Ryanverse books 3 or more times. Debt of Honor is the one I’ve read most often (5 times). I’ve only read Red Rabbit, Teeth of the Tiger (both post 9/11 publications), and Without Remorse once. (My friend the Biologist likes Without Remorse the best and is always shocked when I say I haven’t re-read it.) Red October is actually the book that hooked me on Clancy, thus I thought it would be best to list it as representative. Plus, I first read it long before I started keeping track of my reading in 1993, so I don’t know how many times I’ve read it.

I’m not sure I think Clancy is great literature. I’ve re-read his books a few times, and I think they do interesting things. He builds a very believable parallel universe populated with characters that are consistent through the 12 books. This is very impressive and difficult to do. He does some interesting things with ethics and ethical arguments. Jack Ryan is Roman Catholic and so the ethics of the books are very Catholic. The problem is that the ethical lectures in Clancy are too obviously ethical lectures, handily placed in the mouths of characters. Better to show not tell, or so I’ve heard. I think someone could do an interesting thesis on Catholic ethics in the Ryanverse. Clancy tries hard not to be anti-women. I’m afraid he just doesn’t make it there. His female characters are interesting, but ultimately they always need the protection of the men in their lives. Sigh.

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Other Books I’ve re-read

It might sound like I’ve only read and re-read two books — Possession (which isn’t about demons by the way) and An Experiment in Criticism (which isn’t about science). In fact I’ve read many other books, and also re-read lots of those other books. For your Friday reading, here is a list of Some Books I’ve Read 3 or More Times (other than the two already mentioned).

Some Books I’ve Read 3 Times (or more)

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

<Eek, I just noticed I’ve read Possession 9 times since 2004. That might explain why I keep talking about it.>

4. Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (Just in case you thought you spotted a pattern developing above!)

5. Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton

6. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

7. Proof by Dick Francis

8. The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (IMHO the best of Grisham’s oeuvre so far)

9. About A Boy by Nick Hornby

10. Children of Men by P.D. James

11. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

12. All 7 of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis

13. Killing the Shadows by Val McDermid

14. Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels

15. Take and Read: Spiritual Reading An Annotated List by Eugene Peterson

16. Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

17. 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost

18. In A Dry Season by Peter Robinson

19. All the Harry Potter books except book 7, which I’ve only read twice so far. By J.K. Rowling

20. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

21. How To Read Slowly by James W. Sire

22. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

23. The Twilight of Courage by Brock and Brodie Thoene

24. The Ice House by Minette Walters

25. Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner

You may notice that this list is alphabetical by author’s last name. I made it by running through the database I have of Books I Have Read. I’m a little obsessive about keeping track of all the books I read cover-to-cover. And how many times I’ve read them. And when. I might have a problem.

I did notice that the first six of my repeat reads all had movie versions. I got a little worried — though I do know that when a movie version of a book I like comes out, I go and see it. Then I re-read the book, usually to get the movie out of my head. Not all of my repeats have movie versions though, so that is not the only reason I read things more than once. I usually re-read to revisit an imaginary world. Why do you re-read? Or why not?

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