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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Teeth of the Tiger

****½ The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy. Action/adventure.

amateur book trailer

I used to read all of Tom Clancy's books until I got annoyed by the Op-Center series, and bored by Into the Storm and Every Man a Tiger (which were interesting, but dry as dust) and quit reading them altogether. Then I found this in the bargain bin, and remembered why I liked his books so much.

And wow. I checked Amazon reviews to refresh my memory (it's been 3 weeks since I read this), and there are 800 reviews with an average of 2 stars. I always gets very curious when I have such a complete difference of opinion, so I read through a few pages of the reviews. The negative ones seem to focus on two things: 1) it's not like real life, and 2) the series has moved on to the next generation. News flash: Tom Clancy books have never been overly realistic. Except probably for the nonfiction. You can pick apart dozens of things from The Hunt for Red October that would never happen in real life--that's why it's fun to read. And I applaud long-running series that move on to the next generation. Otherwise, you end up with a hero that never ages, or increasingly improbable scenarios that even I won't swallow.

So, now that I'm satisfied that I didn't miss anything, on with the review.

The Teeth of the Tiger is about an ultra-clandestine government agency set up by then-president Jack Ryan. It's such a new agency that so far, all it's done is make money (it's self-funding, mostly by quasi-legal insider trading) and collect intelligence hacked from the alphabet-soup agencies. And now they're training their first operatives: twin brothers Dominic and Brian Caruso, respectively an FBI agent and a Marine officer.... and Jack Ryan's nephews.

They get a slightly accelerated course when a routine training exercise crosses paths with an actual terrorist operation in a suburban mall.

Meanwhile, Jack Ryan, Jr., a few years younger than his cousins, has used his brains and figured out the existence of the agency, and basically applies for a job.

Interspersed with the training thread and the Jack Jr. thread is the terrorists' plot.

Maybe it's because I've just been in an action mood lately, but while I did notice a few drawbacks: the twins call each other Aldo and Enzo for no good reason, except perhaps as something to trip up readers; Brian dithers for far too long about whether or not he can kill terrorists in cold blood; and there's quite a bit of repetition; they didn't bug me all that much because I loved the story otherwise.

I found the idea of a combination of stock market traders and assassin/spies irresistible. And I loved watching the development of the agency, even--or perhaps especially--the doubts and missteps. It was new, they weren't sure how it would work, but they were willing and eager to try, and that excitement was passed on to this reader, at least.

I also found the three cousins to be fairly reasonably characterized. Even Brian's crisis of conscience made sense with his character, and my irritation with him was mitigated by the fact that his brother was also irritated with him. The twins were youngish and excitement-seeking, which explains some of their less logical decisions, like renting a Porsche instead of taking an anonymous train on their mission in Europe. Jack, Jr. had grown up privileged in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, who he admires, so it's understandable that he has that sense of duty, and yet he wants to make his own mark, and to prove himself.

And, oh, yes, I did have to ignore a bit of political b.s. with which I'd have taken exception if I hadn't expected it. I find Clancy a little naive, politically (no shades of gray), but that works pretty well in an action novel. I think I'll have to see which of his books I've missed in the interim and check them out.


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