Friday, September 23, 2016

Tom Clancy Commander in Chief: Powerfully Entertaining Read

Book Review: Tom Clancy Commander in Chief by Mark Greaney
Version: Public Library

The next novel in Mark Greaney's Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan series is Commander in Chief. When you look at the Russia of Vladimir Putin, you see a vivid reflection in the plot behind this spellbinding 2015 novel.

In this story, the Russian president is named Valeri Volodin. He has many ambitions, but many of his plans have failed, thanks to world economic sanctions and the dropping price of oil. The Russian economy is in free fall and the oligarchs who support him aren't happy - aren't happy enough to consider deposing him. This calls for drastic actions on his part.

Volodin begins a series of bold underhanded attacks around the world planned to boost the price of oil. Of course, they are made to look like the actions of others, but the United States has an inkling who is really behind them. And U.S. President Jack Ryan and independently his son, Jack Ryan, Jr., who works for a CIA-tied security consulting firm, work to figure out all the twists and turns and conflicts behind the actions to prevent more world chaos.

Knowing he hasn't much time to please the oligarchs who have threatened him, Volodin decides to hedge his bets by trying to secretly move his multi-billions in cash to offshore accounts. He hires a hedge fund manager he can trust and who doesn't work for the other oligarchs to move his money quickly and quietly, sending along his most trusted security agent to make sure his money stays his. But Jack Ryan, Jr., and a host of other security consultant characters, track them down with the goal of boxing in Volodin while they can still track his money.

The biggest contest, however, is a chess match Volodin has set up in Eastern Europe between members of NATO, as he threatens to invade Lithuania and Poland, recognizing the unwillingness of NATO members in Western Europe to defend its newest members against a battle they refuse to accept is certain to happen. And President Ryan must decide whether to commit U.S. troops alone in defense of NATO allies or give in to Volodin's misadventure. Jack Ryan, Jr., and his colleagues are sent in as intelligence assets, putting their lives further at risk, too.

Commander in Chief is detailed, well written, and suspenseful. The characters are well drawn and the scenes are vivid. As a political thriller, it's a top notch read and in today's geopolitical world, it's totally believable. If you've read Greaney's Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect, which preceded this novel, you will know what a powerfully entertaining read this novel is, too. I'm happy to say that I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect: Relevant Riveting Read

Book Review: Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney
Version: Public Library

Tom Clancy novels have a habit of ringing true to the events of the day. As I read Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect, the North Koreans were testing more ICBMs and nuclear weapons, and here these very actions were appearing in the words I was reading in this excellent novel from October 2015, written by author Mark Greaney. (Note: Tom Clancy passed away in 2013.)

The main plot is a young North Korean dictator who wants to exert power and enhance his own prestige by building a bigger, better nuclear missile program. To do so, he must break through world economic sanctions and blockages of ships delivering parts, and he needs a new source of income to afford it all. His Chinese neighbors help him discover a wealth of rare earth minerals buried in the North Korean fields, and the dictator moves heaven and earth to extract it and refine it, with the help of a North Korean intelligence leader and a new minerals management official - both under threat of death by attack of hungry dogs, including their families, if they fail. U.S. President Jack Ryan knows he must thwart this effort at any cost to protect the U.S. West Coast from North Korean missile attack, and with the help of the CIA and a private consulting company of ex-CIA agents, including the president's son, they expose the dictator's scheme and foil the dictator.

This is one among several Tom Clancy novels in the familiar theme of CIA analysts and operatives living a life of danger preventing world chaos and imminent danger to American interests. They are good quick reads, well paced, and thoroughly believable owing to their detail and how closely they track to current events. In this case, it was a Tom Clancy franchise novel written by author Mark Greaney.

It isn't one of those thoughtful, feel-good books or even something you will leave thinking a great deal about afterwards. But it is a relevant, riveting read that, given free time, you can knock off quickly. I enjoyed what is likely a very good look at life inside North Korea and the thrill of the chase.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nominations for the National Book Awards Announced

Nominations for the 2016 National Book Awards were just announced. There are four categories, with 10 nominees listed for each category:

  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Poetry
  • Young People's Literature

Winners will be announced on November 16. Congratulations to all the nominees. See the complete list at the National Book Foundation site here.