Power is delightful, and absolute power should be absolutely delightful--but not when you're the most powerful man on earth and the place is ticking like a time bomb. Jack Ryan, CIA warrior turned U.S. president, is the man in the hot seat, and in this vast thriller he's up to his nostrils in crazed Asian warlords, Russian thugs, nukes that won't stay put, and authentic, up-to-the-nanosecond technology as complex as the characters' motives are simple. Quick, do you know how to reprogram the software in an Aegis missile seekerhead? Well, if you're Jack Ryan, you'd better find someone who does, or an incoming ballistic may rain fallout on your parade. Bad for reelection prospects. "You know, I don't really like this job very much," Ryan complains to his aide Arnie van Damm, who replies, "Ain't supposed to be fun, Jack."
But you bet The Bear and the Dragon is fun--over 1,000 swift pages' worth. In the opening scene, a hand-launched RPG rocket nearly blows up Russia's intelligence chief in his armored Mercedes, and Ryan's clever spooks report that the guy who got the rocket in his face instead was the hoodlum "Rasputin" Avseyenko, who used to run the KGB's "Sparrow School" of female prostitute spies. Soon after, two apparent assassins are found handcuffed together afloat in St. Petersburg's Neva River, their bloated faces resembling Pokémon toys.
The stakes go higher as the mystery deepens: oil and gold are discovered in huge quantities in Siberia, and the evil Chinese Minister Without Portfolio Zhang Han San gazes northward with lust. The laid-off elite of the Soviet Army figure in the brewing troubles, as do the new generation of Tiananmen Square dissidents, Zhang's wily, Danielle Steel-addicted executive secretary Lian Ming, and Chester Nomuri, a hip, Internet-porn-addicted CIA agent posing in China as a Japanese computer salesman. He e-mails his CIA boss, Mary Pat "the Cowgirl" Foley, that he intends to seduce Ming with Dream Angels perfume and scarlet Victoria's Secret lingerie ordered from the catalog--strictly for God and country, of course. Soon Ming is calling him "Master Sausage" instead of "Comrade," but can anybody master Ming?
The plot is over the top, with devastating subplots erupting all over the globe and lurid characters scaring the wits out of each other every few pages, but Clancy finds time to insert hard-boiled little lessons on the vileness of Communism, the infuriating intrusions of the press on presidential power, the sexual perversions of Mao, the poor quality of Russian pistol silencers ("garbage, cans loaded with steel wool that self-destructed after less than ten shots"), the folly of cutting a man's throat with a knife ("they flop around and make noise when you do that"), and similar topics. Naturally, the book bristles like a battlefield with intriguingly intricate military hardware.
When you've got a Tom Clancy novel in hand, who needs action movies? --Tim Appelo--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
lacked depth and focus, September 7, 2003 Reviewer: Ryan Cragun from Cincinnati, Ohio United States Summary: I listened to this book on CD, which might explain why I don't have all of the details and didn't find the book too convincing. Jack Ryan, now President of the U.S., finds himself in the midst of a major crisis as a failed assassination on the head of the Soviet SVR (formerly the KGB) is closely followed by the announcements of the discovery of gold and oil in Russian controlled Siberia as well as an increase in troop movements on China's northern border. Ryan's associates, along with the help of a number of well located spies and CIA agents, including John Clark, accurately predict what China is doing, step-by-step, and are constantly ahead of them. Though the Russian army stationed in Siberia is out-manned and out-gunned, with the help of emergency troops, propaganda, and spy planes sent in by the U.S., they are able to essentially cut off and then destroy the army China has sent into Siberia to claim the newly found gold and oil. At the same time, Ryan's associates are also able to foil a plot on his own life and the story ends with the leadership of China being transformed from a despotic communism to democracy. Jack Ryan wins again. My Comments: As noted above, I listened to this book on CD. Apparently the paperback book has over 1,000 pages. I think most of my criticisms might be addressed by the fact that the version I listened to was abridged. So, you may want to read the book instead of listening to the CDs after you read what I have to say. The first problem with this novel is that it tries to present an epic-sized battle with massive troop movements in a 'world-war' type scenario, but doesn't really get into the thick of it. There are a few chapters from the perspective of the leaders of the different forces on the ground, but they are so sparse that you really don't get a feel for what is going on. There is also a lot of intrigue going on in the FBI, CIA, SVR, and the leaderships of all of the countries involved (Russia, the U.S., and China), but the coverage of all of this is very shallow - you don't really get a sense that the author has a clue what he's taling about. This may be because the CD version is abridged, but there just wasn't any real development of the war and everything that would go into. Another problem was that this novel, despite supposedly being another in the Jack Ryan series, spends all of about 30 minutes actually following Jack Ryan. I didn't feel like Ryan was the focus of the story at all. Perhaps, as noted numerous times now, this is taken care of in the actual novel, but I was definitely not impressed with the treatment of Ryan. As for the rest of the characters, the only one that really sees any development is the Japanese spy who develops a relationship with a secretary of one of the leaders of the Chinese government. I actually felt like I knew him better than the rest of the characters in the novel. Overall, this may be a good novel, but definitely not in this format. I think I'd like to read the novel to really compare the two, but I definitely wouldn't recommend this version. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition